Monday, December 19, 2005

My Take on the NSA Controversy

It seems that you can't escape it--turn on the radio and you hear about it, turn on the TV and you see it, or talk to a relative and they mention it: Bush authorized the NSA to do some spying within America.

Earlier today I had an ordinarily reasonable Democrat tell me that while Bush certainly had the authority to authorize the spying, it nonetheless was illegal. Ponder contradictions in that for a moment--if he has the authority, then by definition it's legal. Now, if someone wants to argue that in fact he does not have the authority, that's at least a coherent position to hold. I'm no legal expert, and I don't particularly plan to become one, but owing to the fact that opinions are like elbows--everyone has a couple--let me advance mine.

First of all, it seems to me that a lot of people are jumping to conclusions with regard to the implications of this. There are so many wrinkles to this, and there's a lot of specifics we don't know. It seems irresponsible to condemn the administration before it's even remotely clear that there was any wrong doing. Frankly, I'm not at all interested in the minute details, I'll leave that to people who understand, and enjoy, the law better than I do. Sooner or later, the truth will out.

I predict that, at the worst, this will end up being a case where modern realities have outpaced decades old legislation--in other words, it was perhaps a grey area of the law. It won't have been the first time the law haasn't kept pace with modern life, and likely wouldn't be the last. From the press reports so far it seems like the Administration exercised a fair degree of dilligence in consulting Congress and the Attorney General--and despite the feverish nature of the reporting, there has so far been no credible suggestion that the easedropping was done arbitrarily.

In the final analysis, the real story that is most likely to come out of this is that someone leaked a top secret government program to the press, and the resulting publication of that program likely hobbles the ability of our government to generate actionable intelligence.


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