Saturday, May 13, 2006

Right Redefines To Make Right

Saturday's Washington Post contains a column written by Richard A. Falkenrath, a Brookings Institute clown (I mean scholar) and former deputy homeland security adviser for President Bush, entitled The Right Call on Phone Records.

Evidently the author is employing "right" in a partisan sense because, aside from the fact that he's written a rush to judgement before enough has been revealed for any thinking person to decide on the NSA program's legalities, Falkenrath commits one of the most grievous sins that any writer can do:

Falkenrath distorts language to score points.

From Falkenrath's column:

On Thursday, USA Today reported that three U.S. telecommunications companies have been voluntarily providing the National Security Agency with anonymized domestic telephone records -- that is, records stripped of individually identifiable data, such as names and place of residence.


Last Thursday, Leslie Cauley reported in her USA Today article, NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls, that, according to sources, "Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program."

"But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information," Cauley noted.

Falkenrath probably spent hours trying to figure out how he could soft peddle this story by using the word "anonymous" to describe the data obtained by the government.

He knew he couldn't use "anonymized" to describe just the phone numbers themselves so he finagled it by linking it with the term "individually identifiable."

Perhaps Falkenrath is trying to say that the numbers are "anonymized" since the names aren't attached to the number, and since many people may use the same telephone line there is no way for the NSA to know who was on the call.

But that doesn't make any sense since the only information the phone companies would have without monitoring the calls would be the name of the person who pays the telephone bill, so there is no way for them to "anonymize" the data in that way.

Making something "anonymous" makes it untraceable and unverifiable.

To put it plainly, Falkenrath is lying through his teeth when he characterizes this data as "anonymized" and if he possessed any real character he'd make himself anonymous and keep his irrationally partisan prevarications to himself.


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