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February 13, 2003

Safire: The Vast Middle Ground (And Some Extremists) Ain't So Bad

Posted by Mike on February 13, 2003 7:18 AM

Columnist William Safire, who sounded an early alarm regarding the Information Awareness Office's intent to catalog everything about everybody to achieve a state of "Total Information Awareness," says despite being accused of fanaticism by the likes of the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, there's a consensus building against the overreach of the Bush administration:

"Those of us on the flapdoodle fringe - from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum on the right to People for the American Way on the left - found wide and deep bipartisan agreement in the usually contentious Congress. An amendment to the budget bill by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, co-sponsored by Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, put a bit in the mouth of the Pentagon's runaway horse.

"The Wyden amendment held up funding for the Total Information Awareness penetration of the American home until the administration (1) explained it in detail to Congress, including its impact on civil liberties, and (2) barred any deployment of the technology against U.S. citizens without prior Congressional approval. One hundred senators voted in favor."

Which seems to make the score 1-1, considering the obscene ease with which the Patriot Act flew through congress. And that makes Patriot Act II a tiebreaker. It also undermines a little of my pessimism, but not much... Poindexter's past disdain for pesky things like congressional oversight was probably a highlighted bullet on his resumé when he applied for the IAO job.

Meanwhile, local Fox affiliates are running features of frightened suburban moms teaching their children to make disaster preparedness kits in case of terrorist strikes on Beaverton, and reporters are stalking PDX to give the travelling yeomanry a chance to speak out with gratitude for our national alert system.

(WIRED has a warmed-over Reuters item on the Wyden amendment, too.)