Monday, December 19, 2005

Spies are U.S.

So, the big buzz over the last couple of days is that the President has been authorising the NSA to intercept telephone conversations and e-mails of U.S. citizens. Many commentators believe that such actions are illegal, without court approval. The Bushies though want people to reassured by their claims that such activities are, in fact legal. On the news, Dick Cheney attempted to reassure people by claiming that these intercepts only occurred when people were communicating with 'known' al Quaida members. The word 'know' seems to function in an odd way in Washington these days.

People will probably recall all the times the public and Congress were assured by the administration about what they 'knew' about WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq. This 'knowledge' was the putative justification offered for what has clearly become a futile, immoral and probably illegal war. Bush and his cronies also have claimed in the past that they 'knew' that there were connections between the Iraqi regime and al Quaida. In both these latter cases, it seems that knowledge claims have been venues for the propagation of utter fiction. Given these facts, what sort of solace should the U.S. population take from Cheney's claims? I would say very little.

There is another aspect of Cheney's claim that also gives cause for pause. If the spooks allegedly 'know' the phone numbers of these alleged terrorists, how come they cannot catch them? Would it not make more sense from a security perspective to detain the terrorists, rather than monitor who they talk to? I guess not being part of the Washington elite, we shall never 'know' the reason why the administration chooses to behave the way that it does.

A further reason to doubt White House knowledge claims is that in recent months, they did not seem to 'know' what the rest of the country knew, simply by watching the news. It seems that CNN and the Weather Channel did not reach into the White House, whilst Southern Louisiana was drowning. This provides yet more reason to doubt the claims that have been made by Washington.

This though raises a philosophically interesting question. After all, epistemology is a branch of philosophy which exclusively deals with knowledge and knowledge claims. What philosophical position are Bush and his cronies adopting to underwrite their positions? There have been a couple of clues recently in the addresses the President has made to the nation. According to the President's statements, everything is going just swimmingly in Iraq. We are going to win (even though he claimed a couple of years ago that we had already won). We just have to 'stay the course', etc. etc. I guess the news about the over 1,000 US dead soldiers and the tens or hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, the suicide bombers, etc. got blocked from the White House, like the Weather Channel. However, this provides big evidence about the White House's view on epistemology. Apparently, if the President says something is the case, then both he and we can 'know' that it is the case. This view, which might be called epistemological nominalism, is an unusual one. Where I come from, in less pretentious language, we call it 'a lie'.


Blogger Professor Zero said...

You will have to update your blog! Otherwise I will delink you! This is Professor Zero, posting in her persona.

1:06 AM  

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