Tom Toles by Tom Toles

Tom Toles

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  1. dtroutma

    dtroutma GoComics PRO Member said, almost 3 years ago

    J.. Edgar Hoover was doing the same thing with about this level of technology! Joe McCarthy also liked the practice. T’ain’t new folks!!

  2. ConserveGov

    ConserveGov said, almost 3 years ago


    They were tracking every phone call made by Americans?
    How about all personal mail?
    Sorry Barry Jr, but your guy has taken things to a whole new unprecedented level.

  3. Doughfoot

    Doughfoot said, almost 3 years ago

    What is interesting to me is the strange question of what “know” means. A record is automatically kept by the phone company, say, of every phone call I make. That data (which does NOT include a recording of the actual conversations, just the fact the call was made and its duration) is stored on a computer. No human being at the phone company ever examines that record, it is just one of millions automatically gathered; no human being can be said to know what calls I made: but it is possible for them to find out. Does that mean the “phone company” knows, even if no human being at the phone company knows? Now the NSA keeps those records, too. No human being at the NSA has ever looked at my records, say, but we now say that the NSA knows, or even more absurdly, the president knows. Presumably because the president could ask for, and get that data. Do we say that I “know” everything online because I can at any moment look up anything that is online?

    The NSA snooping is at an unprecedented level, as Con Gov says, but at a far less intrusive and more impersonal level. J Edgar targets you because he doesn’t like you ideas, and has an agent tap your phone and bug your hotel room. The NSA does something much less intrusive, but does it across the board. With J Edgar going after Martin Luther King, it was personal and used against him: with the NSA it is IMpersonal and only potentially a problem: is automatically keeping a record a problem if no one EVER looks at it, no human being ever sees it? Is it worse to be effected by a government policy impersonally that effects everyone equally, or to be targeted for intense scrutiny because of your politics? No one seems to object to this sort of attention being given to persons who are “under suspicion” as terrorists, even if they have not been proven to be and are therefore innocent. We’re perfectly happy to see the privacy of the other guy being compromised, but horrified at the thought of our good, honest, law-abiding selves suffering the same treatment, even at the most subterranean level.

  4. Doughfoot

    Doughfoot said, almost 3 years ago


    This entire program was implemented during Bush’s term, and has been strongly defended by Dick Cheney.

    So, while you have every right to complain about Obama not finding out about or ending this sort of thing, it is dishonest to pretend that the program is Obama’s doing, or that it was not a conservative administration that began it, or conservatives who defend it. Not your kind of conservatives, you say? Well, as you are quick to blame all liberals for what any self-identified liberal does, you can hardly complain about all conservatives being blamed for what any self-identified conservative does. And Dick Cheney was chosen by the GOP as one of their standard bearers.

    But then, I don’t suppose we can expect honesty or consistency from you. It does not appear to be ideology, per se, that drives you, only hatred. (It must be horribly uncomfortable inside your skin.) I am sorry to say that some commentors on my side of the fence are just as bad. But I am also glad to observe that most are not, and are willing to blame Obama for his errors, and praise Bush for his virtues. Bush had virtues, it is true. His attitude on immigration, for example was (and I suppose is) ahead a lot of people in his party.

  5. mikefive

    mikefive said, almost 3 years ago


    “This entire program was implemented during Bush’s term, and has been strongly defended by Dick Cheney. "

    The current program was implemented by Carter then expanded by Bush and Obama. If you really want to stretch who could be guilty a little, you could go clear back to Johnson.

  6. Respectful Troll

    Respectful Troll said, almost 3 years ago

    The intent of ‘data mining’ has been around since the 50s. The technology enabling the quality of data mining we see today has improved exponentially with technology.
    It would be nice to see an actual will to make appropriate changes. But I fear that each administration will take this type of thing to another level.

  7. mikefive

    mikefive said, almost 3 years ago

    Data mining. Euphemism for traffic analysis.

  8. motivemagus

    motivemagus said, almost 3 years ago

    I know a guy who was an editor of a newspaper back during days of Hoover who was pretty certain he was being wiretapped.
    From then on, he answered the phone: “F@#$ Hoover!”

  9. Doughfoot

    Doughfoot said, almost 3 years ago

    Actually, you’ve got both the quotation and the idea wrong. We all give up some freedom for security at times. We surrender the freedom to drive at any speed we like on the highway, so that we may have the security of traveling on roads where we do not have to deal danger of reckless drivers. Individually, we give up a little liberty of movement for the sake of safety when we put on a seat belt. Collectively, in WWII we gave up many liberties for the sake of safety that victory represented (just think of the draft). Franklin’s actual words, in 1755, were more sensible:

    “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    Nothing there about “will not have.” And those words “essential” and “a little temporary” are necessary to the idea. Try reversing them, and see what you get: “Those who would give up a little temporary liberty to purchase essential safety …” Well, that is what we do every time we limit our actions for the sake of safety.

    The question is, how essential is the liberty are we giving up, and how little, or how temporary, is the safety we are gaining?

    The actual words of Franklin were right. The bogus paraphrase is not.

    Further, Franklin was actually talking about the liberty of the people’s representatives to carry out the people’s wishes and to tax the elite for the common good, and not be bought off instead by a one-off gift from them.

    Here’s an historical analysis by Benjamin Wittes of the context in which Franklin wrote:

    "The words appear originally in a 1755 letter that Franklin is presumed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor during the French and Indian War. The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the Assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the Assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family, which ruled Pennsylvania from afar, to raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the Assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him. So to start matters, Franklin was writing not as a subject being asked to cede his liberty to government, but in his capacity as a legislator being asked to renounce his power to tax lands notionally under his jurisdiction. In other words, the “essential liberty” to which Franklin referred was thus not what we would think of today as civil liberties but, rather, the right of self-governance of a legislature in the interests of collective security.

    “What’s more the “purchase [of] a little temporary safety” of which Franklin complains was not the ceding of power to a government Leviathan in exchange for some promise of protection from external threat; for in Franklin’s letter, the word “purchase” does not appear to have been a metaphor. The governor was accusing the Assembly of stalling on appropriating money for frontier defense by insisting on including the Penn lands in its taxes–and thus triggering his intervention. And the Penn family later offered cash to fund defense of the frontier–as long as the Assembly would acknowledge that it lacked the power to tax the family’s lands. Franklin was thus complaining of the choice facing the legislature between being able to make funds available for frontier defense and maintaining its right of self-governance–and he was criticizing the governor for suggesting it should be willing to give up the latter to ensure the former.

    “In short, Franklin was not describing some tension between government power and individual liberty. He was describing, rather, effective self-government in the service of security as the very liberty it would be contemptible to trade. Notwithstanding the way the quotation has come down to us, Franklin saw the liberty and security interests of Pennsylvanians as aligned.”

  10. Kip W

    Kip W said, almost 3 years ago

    To be accurate, the NSA miner should be running into somebody from Google or Facebook working from left to right.

  11. feverjr

    feverjr said, almost 3 years ago

    As the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said at the NSA hearings, “you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know it’s being violated.” Just for the record, Mike Rogers wife, Kristi, was President and CEO of Aegis an international intelligence and security firm. She secured a $10 billion contract with the State Dept. for Aegis . She’s now on the Board of Directors of Qualys, a “leading provider of cloud security… in more than 100 countries.”

  12. Respectful Troll

    Respectful Troll said, almost 3 years ago


    Thank you Doughfoot.
    That was eloquent and appropriate.

  13. Godfreydaniel

    Godfreydaniel said, almost 3 years ago

    Your cogent explanation is exactly right, and phrased very well. Certain political writers might want to take a peek at it—they might learn something for a change!

  14. Zuhlamon

    Zuhlamon GoComics PRO Member said, almost 3 years ago

    If only we had bad-guy sniffy dogs, or special glasses that would point out the “enemy”. Humint is too expensive, slow, and dangerous, so we use software to sift the data.
    While we’re at it, it’d be nice to put the brakes on the automated robo-traders of Wall Street – it’s just a few interlocking gateways from another financial disaster that would make the security concerns of the NSA look trivial.

  15. I Play One On TV

    I Play One On TV said, almost 3 years ago


    Thanks for your research and your lucid summary of the subject.

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