Friday, June 7, 2013

The NSA - Scandals & Pseudo Scandals

This seemed a badly timed speech a month ago, given just before the IRS scandal broke. After yesterday's revelations, that the NSA is capturing "metadata" on virtually all of our calls and e-mails, the speech nears world record irony:

The NSA data mining of virtually all phone calls in, into and out of the U.S. is the latest flash point. It involves the NSA collecting the "meta-data" on these communications (as well as, it seems, programs relating to e-mails and credit card usage) ostensibly solely to sift through for "patterns" that should raise a national security flag. It is a fishing expedition that could have come right out of Orwell's "1984." But it is also a long running national security program that the WSJ, as well as virtually all of the Congresscritters read into the program, are at pains to defend.

Whether one supports or decries this program, there can be no argument that it at least stands at the outer boundary of our Fourth Amendment right to be free from "unreasonable" searches. Given that the threat we face today is existential and diffuse, all things being equal, I would look at this program as a necessary evil. But all things aren't equal today. The left doesn't want to win political fights, it wants to destroy those on the right as illegitimate and drive them wholly from the public square. They argue and act with virtually no intellectual honesty. Thus my concern, as I sit here, is that the government would use the NSA program to target their political enemies. I do not have anywhere near the information to give me confidence that this program could not be misused.

Moreover, there are two collateral aspects worthy of note. First, there was DNI James Clapper who, several weeks ago, in public hearings before the Senate Intelligence committee, flatly "denied allegations by panel members the NSA conducted electronic surveillance of Americans on U.S. soil." Given that this has been an ongoing program for years - and an open secret - clearly what Clapper said in his testimony was false. To give him a limited defense, he never should have been asked about that in a public forum by members of a Senate committee who were or should have been read into the program. His answer should have been to completely demur, offering to answer all questions about methods and practices in closed session. The fact that he didn't do that looks bad, but it is not one I would consider scandalous under the circumstances.

Two, just a reminder, from PJM today, this was Obama in a 2007 speech:

[The Bush] Administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.

That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

The utter, shameless moralizing and hypocrisy of Obama and the left certainly is a scandal - but it is one aspect of this that the MSM will ignore.

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