he lived merrily, going to the masquerade every evening, making kites out of dollar notes

Remember those documents that according to at least some right-wing blogs were the smoking gun connection between al-Queda, Saddam, and WMD,

On his blog last week, Ray Robison, a former Army officer from Alabama, quoted a document reporting a supposed scheme to put anthrax into American leaflets dropped in Iraq and declared: "Saddam's W.M.D. and terrorist connections all proven in one document!!!"

Well maybe not. Robinson was good enough to put up a correction, but that correction didn't get quite the loud echo that Robinson's original post generated. So much for what Malkin has referred to as the self correcting proclivities of the right. Radio Sawa or impaired broadcast?

The Times reporter notes that "the anthrax document that intrigued Mr. Robison, the Alabama blogger, does not seem to prove much. It is a message from the Quds Army, a regional militia created by Mr. Hussein, to Iraqi military intelligence that passes on reports picked up by troops, possibly from the radio, since the information is labeled "open source" and "impaired broadcast."

All true. But I noticed something else. The English translation does indeed say "impaired broadcast," but the Arabic original says "itha'a sawa."

Which could mean "impaired broadcast", I suppose, but also sounds an awful lot like… Radio Sawa. Which is, of course, the name of the American government run Arabic language radio station which began broadcasting in 2002. Which could, hilariously enough, mean that the al-Quds Division document was actually reporting propaganda picked up from an American radio station. Which an enthusiastic conservative blogger then, in turn, embraced as evidence. In a word, blowback!

This is not the last word, but more a caution to avoid preconcieved notions that the documents say what the reader wants them to say. In a previous post Abu Aardvark also warns against even what might be perfectly good translations as they might be forgeries, disinformation, or hearsay.

Agencies Not Protecting Privacy Rights, GAO Says

Government agencies that use private information services for law enforcement, counterterrorism and other investigations often do not follow federal rules to protect Americans' privacy, according to a report yesterday by the Government Accountability Office.

The Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and two other agencies examined by the GAO spent about $30 million last year on companies that maintain billions of electronic files about adults' current and past addresses, family members and associates, buying habits, personal finances, listed and unlisted phone numbers, and much more.

But those agencies often do not limit the collection and use of information about law-abiding citizens, as required by the Privacy Act of 1974 and other laws. The agencies also don't ensure the accuracy of the information they are buying, according to the GAO report. That's in part because of a lack of clear guidance from the agencies and the Office of Management and Budget on guidelines known as "fair information practices," the report said.

Pretty damning in and of itself, but it gets worse,

The 83-page report, the subject of a congressional hearing yesterday, was spurred in part by massive security breaches reported last year by ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis in which sensitive files involving almost 200,000 people were sold to fraud artists.

It highlights a difficult truth about the government's increasing reliance on information services: By outsourcing the building of rich dossiers, the government is sidestepping checks on surveillance approved in the wake of domestic spy scandals involving the FBI, Army and other agencies in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anonymous Liberal writing at Unclaimed Territory has the latest on the NSA constitutional crisis, NSA endgame

The other interesting avenue of legal challenge is the one proposed by Sean Patrick Maloney, a candidate for Attorney General in New York. Maloney, with the assistance of some other good lawyers, has actually drafted a complaint that could be used by any number of state Attorneys General to challenge the legality of the NSA program. The complaint alleges–among other things–that the NSA program violates a New York state law that forbids eavesdropping except as authorized by relevant state and federal laws. Many other states have similar laws. Determining whether the NSA program violates these laws would require a judge to determine whether or not the President acted within his constitutional power in authorizing the program. This sort of lawsuit may be less vulnerable to standing challenges than one filed by a private party.

An interesting development, but unfortunate in that if Democrats would stand together and be resolute we wouldn't be relying on lawsuits from the state or private individuals to hold the administration accountable. While I'm a little tired of the cliche that people aren't sure where national Democrats stand on the issues, there is a failure of too many Democrats to stand firm on on gravely important issues like this that keep the cliche alive. Yes outside forces can be a threat to our democracy, but for the moment and possibably for the next generation the balance of powers between the branches will be dangerously weighted toward a unitary executive. This fracture of American values from people that are all too ready to exploit fear for political power are also a threat.

Better to face ouir own divisions straight on rather then try and skirt them, Wall Street Dems Unveil Plan to Undermine the Progressive Movement
One of the things that has always struck me as strange about conservatives over the years was their claim to be anti-gov'ment on the grounds that they didn't want gov'ment control or intrusion into their lives, yet were all together readily subservient to corporate intrusion and control.

This older post from the NRDC is not exactly official Democratic issued agenda on the environment, but does reflect the progressive attitude of many Democrats, An Environmental Agenda for the 109th Congress , Clean Air/Climate Change, Public Lands / Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Endangered Species, Regulatory Rollback…

HERE was once a merchant, who was so rich that he could pave the whole street with gold, and almost have enough left for a little lane. But he did not do that; he knew how to employ his money differently. When he spent a shilling he got back a crown, such a clever merchant was he; and this continued till he died.
His son now got all this money; and he lived merrily, going to the masquerade every evening, making kites out of dollar notes, and playing at ducks and drakes on the sea-coast with gold pieces instead of pebbles. In this way the money might soon be spent, and indeed it was so. At last he had no more than four shillings left, and no clothes to wear but a pair of slippers and an old dressing-gown. Now his friends did not trouble themselves any more about him, as they could not walk with him in the street, but one of them, who was good-natured, sent him an old trunk, with the remark, Pack up! Yes, that was all very well, but he had nothing to pack, therefore he seated himself in the trunk.

from The Flying Trunk by Hans Christian Andersen