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Lincoln's Surveillance State

Soulskill posted 1 year,16 days | from the abraham-lincoln-terrorist-hunter dept.

United States 343

An anonymous reader writes "The N.S.A.'s program is indeed alarming — but not, from a historical perspective, unprecedented. And history suggests that we should worry less about the surveillance itself and more about when the war in whose name the surveillance is being conducted will end. In 1862, after President Abraham Lincoln appointed him secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton penned a letter to the president requesting sweeping powers, which would include total control of the telegraph lines. By rerouting those lines through his office, Stanton would keep tabs on vast amounts of communication, journalistic, governmental and personal. On the back of Stanton's letter Lincoln scribbled his approval: 'The Secretary of War has my authority to exercise his discretion in the matter within mentioned.'"

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343 comments

Random Fact of the Day (-1, Offtopic)

RFOTD Bot (2975169) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205911)

Population of Europe is 739.2 billion, over twice of the US population.

Re:Random Fact of the Day (-1, Offtopic)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205957)

739.2 billion would be more than two thousand times the US population.

Re:Random Fact of the Day (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206283)

...which is, in fact, over twice the population of the United States.

Re:Random Fact of the Day (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206413)

Did you count cockroaches?

Re:Random Fact of the Day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205959)

The population of the entire planet is about 1% of that.

Continent more populous than nation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206001)

News Channel 2 is tracking this developing story and will have more at 11.

It was wrong. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205915)

It was just as wrong then as this is now. Of course, people back then couldn't even dream of having such advanced surveillance technology.

Re:It was wrong. (5, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206059)

Today is different. Is not just surveillace on a small portion of the people of US. We are talking about basically everyone in US, plus most of the rest of the world population, intruding in places/people that have diplomatic immunity, and hacking/sabotaging foreing companies and institutions, while claiming that hacking are acts of war. But i suppose that i could compare the Everest with a pebble, saying that is just a bit bigger.

Re:It was wrong. (5, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206191)

It was just as wrong then as this is now.

It is 1862.

Fort Sumter surrendered in 1861. Washington DC borders on Virgina facing off against the Confederate capital a bare 100 miles away. You are an idiot if you don't secure the only means of communication in the world that moves reliably at speeds greater than a normal walking pace,

Re:It was wrong. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206267)

It was just as wrong then as this is now.

It is 1862.

Fort Sumter surrendered in 1861. Washington DC borders on Virgina facing off against the Confederate capital a bare 100 miles away. You are an idiot if you don't secure the only means of communication in the world that moves reliably at speeds greater than a normal walking pace,

That is, of course, the other pernicious implication of any civil war comparisons: from the perspective of the US Government, the civil war actually was most of the emergencies and exigencies that people like to invoke when demanding expanded powers. At no time since the revolutionary war(which actually might have ended fairly quietly, had the rebels lost, with a bunch of executions of notable rebels, followed by pragmatic write-off of the rest and a canada-like trajectory) had things looked nearly so dire. Even the world wars were basically Europe's problem, with us intervening at arm's length as our interests dictated, and the Cold War could have gone hot and really fucked up everybody's day; but unless it actually did, things were mostly quiet.

Anybody who, implicitly or explicitly, asserts anything even close to contemporary threats of Civil War gravity needs a smack with the cluebat.

Re:It was wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206323)

You appear to be confusing "secure" with "monitor." Those are not necessarily the same thing.

Re:It was wrong. (0)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206227)

It was just as wrong then as this is now. Of course, people back then couldn't even dream of having such advanced surveillance technology.

It was also barely comparable: 'total control of the telegraph lines', even the legal right to steam open and inspect all the mail you can handle, was complete chickenshit with the material culture of 1862, compared to access to internet, telephone, and mail-stream access along with the computers to actually make sense of it all.

That's the thing, while abuses-in-law are never good, the kicker is always what you can do, not what you are allowed to do. Hell, God-King-Pharoh-Somebody-Who-Makes-The-Nile-Flood probably had the legal right to unlimited surveillance and rewriting of his subjects' thoughts, since only by his divinity did they exist; but so what? His actual capabilities were only slightly greater than "Go to highest window in palace, look out and squint."

Re:It was wrong. (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206377)

Even then it was a huge amount of access. Ie, they had the capability of snooping on every single telegraph line. There may not have been that many of them but that meant that it was easier to snoop them all. Probably they had it easier than today's government.. Ie, have a team of 50 soldiers back then and you could monitor nearly every line, but today you have to filter things out because there is far too much activity.

I think a lot of people forgot just how far the Lincoln administration went away from constitutional limits. Then again it was civil war so in hindsight it's easy to forgive a lot of it. Compared to Lincoln though, Nixon only participated in petty shenanigans.

Except, in that case there was an actual war (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205919)

With an actual conclusion eventually reached. An ambiguous war on terror doesn't really have any sort of end date, unless we can somehow wipe out terror on Earth.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205931)

Except, in that case there was an actual war

And that made it okay? No, of course not; freedom is more important than security. We shouldn't allow freedoms to be sacrificed just because there's a 'true' war.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (2, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205979)

In the case of that war, yes, it was okay. It makes sense to temporarily allow the government to read your telegrams in order to permanently secure the freedom of four million slaves.

It was a temporary and partial loss of freedom in order to help win a far more fundamental freedom for others. The NSA spying, by contrast, seems to be permanent and of negligible benefit.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (5, Insightful)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206043)

In the case of that war, yes, it was okay.

No, it wasn't.

It was a temporary and partial loss of freedom in order to help win a far more fundamental freedom for others.

Don't harm innocent people (in this case, by taking away their freedoms) in order to defeat the bad guys; cowards do that.

Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail (1, Informative)

drnb (2434720) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206167)

In the case of that war, yes, it was okay.

No, it wasn't.

It was a temporary and partial loss of freedom in order to help win a far more fundamental freedom for others.

Don't harm innocent people (in this case, by taking away their freedoms) in order to defeat the bad guys; cowards do that.

"Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail."
Henry L. Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War during the Pearl Harbor attack and the former U.S. Secretary of State who in 1929 shut down the office in the U.S. State Department responsible for breaking codes to read messages sent between embassies of other countries and their capitals.

Stimson's naivety seems alive and well.

Re:Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206311)

Stimson's naivety seems alive and well.

Cowardice is as well.

Telegraphs were not private ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206211)

Don't harm innocent people (in this case, by taking away their freedoms) ...

Reading a telegraph was harm in Lincoln's day? A message that by its very nature was read by miscellaneous strangers in the course of its creation and receipt?

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206237)

I was merely responding to "It was a temporary and partial loss of freedom in order to help win a far more fundamental freedom for others." I think such a mentality is poisonous, so I replied. I don't care about semantics.

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (0)

drnb (2434720) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206355)

I was merely responding to "It was a temporary and partial loss of freedom in order to help win a far more fundamental freedom for others." I think such a mentality is poisonous, so I replied. I don't care about semantics.

Actually it seems you don't care about reality, context nor proportionality. The world is not black and white, its gray. Wartime privacy is a gray topic, the cost of too much principals are human lives? Where do we yield a little on our principles, at one life, at a thousand lives, at a million lives, or never? Our principals are our suicide pact?

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (0)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206383)

Actually it seems you don't care about reality

That would be rather odd if I didn't. I merely have different priorities than you.

The world is not black and white, its gray.

Well, that would depend on who you ask. It would also depend on the topic.

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206297)

The intent of the reading is important. In this day and age electronic mails are read by "miscellaneous strangers" in creation, transmission, and receipt. Those strangers happen to be computational devices with less agency than humans but the parsing still happens. The part to take notice of is the intent under which the messages are read and the disenfranchisement that could "reasonable" come about due to the reading.

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206369)

Did something about "in Lincoln's day" confuse you?

Re:Telegraphs were not private ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206451)

Did something about "in Lincoln's day" confuse you?

Did something about "comparing it to today" confuse YOU?

Pompous ass.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206081)

Just a nit.

For the north, the war wasn't about slavery and the north certainly wasn't fighting to free four million slaves. The north was fighting to prevent the south from leaving. That's all. For the north, the war wasn't some moral crusade to free slaves - it was simply to prevent the south from leaving. (For the south, on the other hand, the notion to leave the union was driven by slavery although nearly everyone who fought in the war was not a slave owner - less than 2% of southern soldiers were part of families that owned slaves). There were a number of northern states that continued to support and allow slavery during and after the civil war until the 14th amendment was passed.

Lincoln essentially weaponized abolitionism. He used abolitionism as a strategic tool to help defeat the south by depriving them of their economic and logistical infrastructure. Painting the Union as moral crusaders freeing the slaves is revisionism at its best, and it's every bit as wrong-headed and dishonest as painting the southern motivation as purely states rights.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206137)

As you said:

For the south, on the other hand, the notion to leave the union was driven by slavery

That part's right. Now, why did the South feel it was necessary to leave the union to preserve slavery? It was because the North was fighting to end slavery. The North was going to end slavery through peaceful means, and the South tried to secede to avoid that, which is what led to the war.

The simple fact is that, had the North lost, or not fought, millions of people would have been doomed to a life of slavery. It was a war worth fighting, and very different from this War on Terror nonsense we have now.

Re: Except, in that case there was an actual war (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206359)

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (0)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205991)

Losing a war equals losing your freedom. To fail to do what is necessary to win means that while you maintain your purity everything you were fighting for is lost. It's a conundrum but really survival is primary. After survival you can turn to other matters. In this modern day case I don't think things are as dire as they were when Bobby Lee was roaming at will up and down the Shenandoah Valley. Back then the people in DC could hear the canon and see the bloody bodies being brought in to hospitals. Under those circumstances I think maybe desire to survive would naturally overcome a reluctance to violate privacy.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206037)

Losing a war equals losing your freedom.

Fighting and losing while keeping your principles is far better than being a sniveling coward.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Jstlook (1193309) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206139)

Tell that to Truman.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Motard (1553251) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206143)

Dead people lose the capability of holding principles. If you're in a fight to the death and you allow your principles to cause your death, you've forfeited your life, your principles, and any hope of getting either back.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206263)

Dead people lose the capability of holding principles.

And? At least they weren't cowards until the very end. People show their true colors in discussions like these; they make it known what they truly care about, and it often isn't freedom.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Motard (1553251) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206463)

It would be foolish to confuse prudence with cowardice.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (0, Troll)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206197)

Hah! You're killing me. You'd let everything you care about perish rather than eavesdrop on people? If you had been president during the civil war there would be a large country between the US and Mexico today. Eavesdropping on people is one of the least of the compromises President Lincoln made.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206245)

Hah! You're killing me.

People of your mentality are killing something much more important.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (-1)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206391)

It seems people of my mentality might tend to survive whereas people of your mentality are going to go down with a stiff upper lip. Congratulations on your foolish pride.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (0)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206399)

The government thanks you for your assistance.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (0)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206437)

I like to be helpful.

A Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery (1)

drnb (2434720) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206301)

Losing a war equals losing your freedom.

Fighting and losing while keeping your principles is far better than being a sniveling coward.

In the real world brave men do things in wartime they know to be wrong, things against their principles, so that they and others may live in peace, freedom and once again according to their principles at a future date.

You sound like a naive sheltered fool who has no clue what bravery is, merely a Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery.

""The Constitution is not a suicide pact" is a phrase in American political and legal discourse. The phrase expresses the belief that constitutional restrictions on governmental power must be balanced against the need for survival of the state and its people. It is most often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, as a response to charges that he was violating the United States Constitution by suspending habeas corpus during the American Civil War."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Constitution_is_not_a_suicide_pact [wikipedia.org]

Re:A Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206345)

In the real world brave men do things in wartime they know to be wrong, things against their principles, so that they and others may live in peace, freedom and once again according to their principles at a future date.

Your definition of "brave" must differ from mine.

You sound like a naive sheltered fool who has no clue what bravery is, merely a Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery.

You sound like the sort of person who's only slightly less bad than those who support nonsense such as the TSA. It is thanks to those with your mentality (as well as apathy) that such abuses are even happening. Congratulations.

Re:A Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery (1)

drnb (2434720) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206429)

You sound like the sort of person who's only slightly less bad than those who support nonsense such as the TSA. It is thanks to those with your mentality (as well as apathy) that such abuses are even happening. Congratulations.

Actually I'm the sort who has read his grandfather's letters during WW2. Nearly every letter was censored. A violation of his and my grandmother's privacy? Yes. A temporary wartime necessity? Yes. In contrast my father's letters to my mother are uncensored, he served during peacetime.

Re:A Sansa-like romantic fantasy of bravery (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206471)

Well, I'm sure the TSA is happy that people like you exist; you help give them a sense of legitimacy whether or not you specifically support them.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205993)

Except, in that case there was an actual war

And that made it okay? No, of course not; freedom is more important than security. We shouldn't allow freedoms to be sacrificed just because there's a 'true' war.

No, but it did make things like the suspension of habeas corpus constitutional, albeit still wrong. You can't suspend habeas corpus for any old war, you have to have an invasion or an insurrection (so says the Constitution). The War on Terror is neither.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (5, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206049)

It's not hard to wipe out terror. I mean what, did you think people just sat down on a Friday afternoon and said, hey I'm bored, let's blow up a building? Let's strap a vest packed with fertiliser based explosives to our chests and go take a last ride on a bus?

Terrorism is created when people are cornered and feel they have no other option, vastly outgunned and outmanned. Oh there's a great hue and cry that the dishonourable terrorists aren't standing there getting mown down on a field of battle like proper upstanding folk, but they chose to win rather that die. It was the same in Ireland, the same in the Middle East, the same in Vietnam, the same everywhere some farmer puts down his plough and picks up a sword after his last child steps on a mine. If you want to stop terrorism stop going out there fucking with other countries. Simples!

This is not a type of war any advanced country can win. Find another way to live or accept the price. Leave them alone and let them stand or fall on their own merits.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (-1)

Mashiki (184564) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206185)

It's not hard to wipe out terror. I mean what, did you think people just sat down on a Friday afternoon and said, hey I'm bored, let's blow up a building? Let's strap a vest packed with fertiliser based explosives to our chests and go take a last ride on a bus?

Well...yeah. Ever wonder why the greatest explosions of violence in the middle east are after friday prayers where the islamofascist imam's are chanting "death to the jews, death to america, and death to west." Along with "death to any sect but ours..."

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206339)

Yeah, first you need to provide a source for your Friday night firefight comment, because I'm betting you have nothing whatosever to back up your fifth day civil disturbance theory, and second nothing you've said contradicts what I've said. Nothing.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (2)

Motard (1553251) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206337)

Unfortunately, it isn't quite that simple. We (the U.S.) left Afghanistan alone until they were invaded by the Soviet Union. Then we gave them weapons which would help them to get their country back. We they did, we left them alone to sort out the aftermath for themselves.

We left Iraq alone (and even helped them in some ways). Then they invaded Kuwait and we had to kick him out. bin Laden hated us for this. Not because we were interfering, but because *he* wanted to do it (and to take over Iraq). When Saudi Arabia opted for our help instead of bin Laden and his mujahedeen, bin Laden became enraged and became the enemy of the U.S., the Saudis, and pretty much the rest of the world. That began the long string of events leading up to 9/11.

You are correct when you say that terrorism is created when people are cornered and feel they are vastly outgunned and outmanned. But in the modern world there is usually a reason for that. It gets much more complicated than that, but suffice it to say that it would be a mistake to suppose an automatic equivalence .between one outgunned and outmanned person and another.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206393)

True enough. Nonetheless look up what happened to Iran, or read Smedley Butler's famous speech. The US has been writing cheques it can't cash for a long time now. So have China, Russia, the UK, most European imperial-aspirant powers, and the bill has only just begun to come due; not my desire but the inevitable turn of the world. Even Joe six pack has to reap what he sows, in the end.

They have my sympathy but not my pity.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

Culture20 (968837) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206133)

And the war was a civil war. The enemy was Us, or related to Us by blood. Not so today.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

White Flame (1074973) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206159)

Granting powers to someone at "his discretion" has nothing to do with limiting those powers to wartime.

Re:Except, in that case there was an actual war (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206271)

With an actual conclusion eventually reached. An ambiguous war on terror doesn't really have any sort of end date, unless we can somehow wipe out terror on Earth.

Let's check with Strategic Air Command... they aren't what they were in their heyday; but they might still be up to the task.

The America I believed in never existed (5, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205933)

Do I really need to say anything more?

Re:The America I believed in never existed (2)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44205999)

Kind of like when you found out there wasn't really a Santa Claus?

Re:The America I believed in never existed (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206061)

That's why I'm a progressive. The America that the conservatives want never existed. But, the America that the progressives want at least is theoretically possible to some degree.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206095)

If we're realistic, we'll never get there either. But we can push as far as we can in that direction, rest and recover, then push again. That's the history of the progressive movement- massive wins for a few years/a decade until society has had enough change, then a period where society pushes back. Happened in the 1910s, happened in the 1930s, happened in the 1960s. We're in the push phase now.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206427)

Really. And because Lincoln did this, his agents were able to intercept that giant mechanical spider. God help us if that fell into the South's hands.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206103)

Values shouldn't be chosen based on a pragmatic look at what's realistically possible - they should be derived from a conviction regarding what is right and just.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

artor3 (1344997) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206203)

What if I think it's right and just to build the best society that's realistically possible?

Re:The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206439)

Just a grunt in a bind in his homeland
Taking orders from a very very bad man
Just yer average Dieter, Helmut, or a Bertrand
I can waste him 'cause I never never shook his hand
          Killed by a hero
          What are we supposed to do?

Just a loser with a girlfriend getting fat and
Participation in a very very bad plan
In a nation where the bastards are the unplanned
We can waste it 'cause it's such a teeny tiny hand
          Killed by procedure
          What are we supposed to do

(And Cornelius says) Ape shall never kill ape
I say wouldn't that be great?
But some apes, they just gotta go
We kill the ones that we don't know

Not a nobody, an actual American
Beaten silly by another Jody Foster fan
Spend a fortune to debate the moral conflict and
He's protected through it's obvious he killed a man

        Killed by the system
        What are we supposed to do?

(And Cornelius says) Ape shall never kill ape
I say wouldn't that be great?
But some apes, they just gotta go
We kill the ones that we don't know

--Ape Shall Never Kill Ape by the Vandals

It's a pleasing idea to think that you can firmly plant your principles in things that are right and just, but moral certainty is an illusion. When it comes to weighing one life against another, or just weighing one kind of right against another kind of right, which ever choice you make, someone's getting fucked over. The fact that you feel confident that you've chosen the best person to fuck over is a pretty crummy consolation prize, so don't go around acting so high and mighty.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206127)

Huh? Since "theoretically possible" doesn't mean desirable, surely this isn't the reason.

Re: The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206161)

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206169)

That's why I'm a progressive. The America that the conservatives want never existed. But, the America that the progressives want at least is theoretically possible to some degree.

Yeah, but we already HAD the Soviet Union, and it was worse. Why would you ever want it?

Re:The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206195)

The America progressives want is just, fair, free, democratic, and optimal. And Continuously Improving for all.

The America that the conservatives want did exist, minus electronics, from around 1860 to 1920 or 1940. The era of the capitalist barons. Coal barons, railroad barons, cattle barons, and others. Now we have the era of the corporatist barons.

End corporate domination!

Re:The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206367)

a good deal of American Proggressives dream of their America that never existed, see lincoln, FDR, and JFK worship.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (2)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206101)

Which America, exactly, did you believe in?

The America I believe in matches close to Winston Churchill's description, "Americans always do the right thing, after all other possibilities are exhausted."

It was an America built of immigrants who wanted to stick it to the man, or the king; but thought carefully about what a free government should look like.

It is an America that says, "all men are created equal," but compromised and enshrined slavery in the constitution.

It is an America founded by cowards and courage, flawed people full of weaknesses, who, despite their weaknesses, managed to accomplish something great.

It is an America populated by those of different opinions, but joined in a belief that we can all live together in peace and freedom, and who try to get better if we can.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206207)

The America I believe in matches close to Winston Churchill's description, "Americans always do the right thing, after all other possibilities are exhausted."

1. go to youtube
2. search for any long presentation on politics by Noam Chomsky
3. disregard any of his personal opinions, just listen to his history lecture
4. come tell me with a straight face that "Americans always do the right thing, after all other possibilities are exhausted."

Alternatively, for a quicker argument, replace 1 - 3 by "1. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Obama".

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206123)

The cultures of a lot of countries support the brainwashing of children with blind patriotism, just as religion does with faith. To believe in a cause without good reason (or even fake reasons) makes it much more prone to succeed (as in maintaining itself, or growing). The problem is people that are trained to behave this way are susceptible to being mislead (how many Americans died because of Bush's lies about WMDs on Iraq? how many kids could have been saved from being molested if the Catholic church didn't protect the priests that were known to be sexual abusers?)

Slowly, people are starting to see the benefits of being skeptical, and of raising children capable of thinking by themselves. But unfortunately not (by far) nearly as close as needed to make a significant difference on society.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206205)

Next you'll tell us the Brady Bunch is fake.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206217)

To be fair, if it were wartime and the country was on the brink of an internal war, then it would make sense to endorse what Lincoln did - don't be so harsh on America.

The New York Times has plummeted in my opinion. Just look at their number 1 emailed article, about the Australian PM who started out very popular with everyone (men+women). After she had 3 years and broke promises and proved inept as a politician, men AND women turned against her in droves ... and supposedly it was misogyny (and amnesia - because the men forgot who they voted for last time) and all of the Australian men who said "ooh, look, she's got a big bum" (reality check: does that really sound like men to say that???). Just for the record, the article was written by a feminist.

What does this tell you? NYT aims for populist articles, regardless of FACT. I wouldn't sweat too many tears, and I certainly wouldn't use this to judge America.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206375)

Wow. All the mud-slinging and opinions-as-fact arguments in this story, and then this comes out. I particularly like this part:

I wouldn't sweat too many tears, and I certainly wouldn't use this to judge America.

Wise counsel, indeed.

Re:The America I believed in never existed (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206275)

Do I really need to say anything more?

Yes. To say it's "not without precident" is just wrong. It's a stupid thing to say, and you should feel bad for saying it.We're in the information age, not some pre-industrial, largely agricultural-based society. It'd be like saying "Ghenghis Khan once gave an order to intercept carrier pidgeons of his enemies, so it's not without precident." And in terms of the amount of difference between the two societies... pre-industrial America was closer to Ghenghis Khan's world than ours is today.

And what's this crap about "the america you believed in", anyway? You think because a few government agencies decide to abuse their power the entire country is hopelessly broken and we should just give up and say the american dream is dead? What kind of bullshit self-defeatist attitude is that?

Our founding fathers said the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, which is a far different attitude than "Hey, I can't get the bottle of ketchup open, I guess I'll just have to starve now." Please! If the america you "believe in" is to exist, it's going to take more than just wishing really hard.

Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205941)

Let us not get ourselves fooled by Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship, let us ask ourselves what would Benjamin Franklin would have written?

Re:Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship (2)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206045)

Let us not get ourselves fooled by Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship, let us ask ourselves what would Benjamin Franklin would have written?

The great thing about presidents and founding fathers is: there are so many of them, you can always find one that agrees with you.

Re:Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206421)

And you can always find flaws so you can tear them down to satisfy your minuscule issues of the modern day, living in the world they built for you.

Re:Lincoln's twisted silver penmanship (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206481)

There is just one Founding Father who matters: John Hancock.

Why is he the only one that actually matters? There are two reasons:

1) He signed his name the most prominently on the Declaration of Independence.

2) His name has two of the most important words of all time in it: hand and cock .

Those two facts render him as the only Founding Father with any real importance.

Figures. Waiting for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205961)

"It's happened before" is only one step beyond "But X did it first!" and is still every bit as much of a fallacy as far as excuses go.

The fact that such massive surveillance was performed in the past is disappointing but changes nothing, it's still bullshit and shouldn't be happening.

but but but (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44205967)

You can't tell facts about Lincoln or you are a racist. ( even tho he was a mentally unstable power hungry bastard...)

Re:but but but (2)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206017)

I think you've confused Nixon with Lincoln.

Re:but but but (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206065)

Or possibly GWB.

Re:but but but (1)

amiga3D (567632) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206209)

I've heard GWB described as many things but never power hungry. He had enough faults as it was, no need to add more.

Re: but but but (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206305)

Look, if it upsets you that much, post your address and we'll be glad to mail you a hanky. A nice pink one to go with your politics.

Re: but but but (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206231)

He would have been an even greater president had he lived, given that he didn't merely intend to end slavery, but had every intention of giving the negroes the bum's rush out of the country [mrlincolnandfreedom.org] , which would have made for a much more pleasant country, all the way around. A cryin' shame about his assassination, that.

And while THIS story makes the rounds.. (0)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206013)

It is pretty quiet out and about with the latest greatest Executive Order about the federal govt being able to take over ALL communications.

enjoy
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/06/executive-order-assignment-national-security-and-emergency-preparedness-

Latest and greatest? (1)

loosescrews (1916996) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206063)

That is exactly a year old. You are as bad as the editors.

Re:Latest and greatest? (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206087)

you are correct sir or madam as the case may be.. my apologies and acceptance of being modded into oblivion..

Re:And while THIS story makes the rounds.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206097)

That is not about being able to take over all communications. You either did not read it, or you are a fool.

And Lincoln tried other things as well (2)

aitikin (909209) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206089)

He also suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus, which was later overturned. Lincoln was a great president, but he wasn't perfect (and anyone who says that anyone is perfect has more issues that I care to deal with). I'm sorry, but why should the attempted "wire-tapping" of the average citizen surprise anyone in this case?

the civil war had an end. the GWOT doesnt (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206269)

lincoln understood, at least, that at some point the war would end and things would 'go back to normal'.

obama, bush, the congress, etc, do not, apparently, believe in 'normal'

HAIL ABRAHAM LINCOLN! HAIL BRADLEY MANNING! (2)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206091)

HEED THE WORDS OF THE GREAT RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEON TROTSKY "Lincoln’s significance lies in his not hesitating before the most severe means once they were found to be necessary in achieving a great historic aim posed by the development of a young nation. The question lies not even in which of the warring camps caused or itself suffered the greatest number of victims. History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!"

Re:HAIL ABRAHAM LINCOLN! HAIL BRADLEY MANNING! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206445)

Among Trotsky's great errors were helping to found the Soviet state and pursue communism. You can see why this was an error below.

The Soviet Story (2008) [youtube.com]
A Portrait of Stalin: Secret Police [youtube.com]

aka the ends justify the means (5, Insightful)

nadaou (535365) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206163)

And history suggests that we should worry less about the
surveillance itself and more about when the war in whose name the
surveillance is being conducted will end.

In other words, the ends justify the means, and historical
precedence makes it ok to do commit whatever crime you like.

I wonder if the author feels the same about the WWII internment
camps for Japanese? We won that war, so it's all ok, we can do that
again, right?

Or the way the Native Indians were treated? We eventually grew a
great nation on the land so that was all ok too, and we are
justified in doing the same in future for other lofty goals?

We define our nation by the society that we create through our
actions. Don't try to feed us this apologist bullshit two days after
the 4th, we have it in our power to be better than this.

It was necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206179)

To keep the vampires from attacking America.

Re: It was necessary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206385)

Too late. We already have more Jews than Israel.

Learning from the "best" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206193)

So Obama is like his hero, Lincoln, after all

glad iam not Jewish (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206221)

select * from NSA_DB where ethnicity="Jewish" AND occupation="money changer"

would of made things much simpler 50 years ago, good to know that next time it will a lot easier, if you want

Re: glad iam not Jewish (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206425)

slashdot accepts NSA submissions now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 days | (#44206247)

look, this is 100% horse shit. the idea that telegraph lines, which were used by a tiny percentage of the population, are somehow equivalent of intercepting every last cell phone, web browse, email, tweet, etc, and creating a massive trillion dollar database of it all, is ridiculous.

second of all, the law was different. there was such a thing called 'peace time' and during that time, things that were OK during war were no longer considered OK. also there was no such thing as an espionage act, there was only treason, and people understood that there was a difference in spirit, between spying and criticizing your own governments actions, which is fundamental to a democracy (lincoln also did not cancel the election).

there has never been this much data

the collection has never been this comprehensive

the amount of taxpayer money spent on it has never been this high

the legal attacks on free speech have never been this broad and this harsh

A little off topic (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,16 days | (#44206313)

A little off topic, but pertinent all the same. The events as of late have had me wondering: if the majority of the American people are driven to revolt in similar fashion to the Arab spring type revolts (that our government overall praises), would our own military fire on us if ordered?

A couple of years ago, I may have very well modded this question down.
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