Friday, June 07, 2013

It All Depends On Whose Phone Is Being Tapped

Of all the current “scandals” that are currently entangling the Obama Administration the latest revelations about the extent of NSA monitoring and data-mining of phone and internet records is by far the least disturbing. In fact, the only real scandal is here is how the media continues to publicize leaks that endanger national security and damage efforts to prevent terrorism.

An editorial in today’s WSJ explained that instead of decrying the potential violations and abuse of privacy that such programs could lead to we should say Thank You for Data-Mining:

The real danger from this leak is the potential political overreaction. The NSA is collecting less information than appears on a monthly phone bill (no names), but Americans would worry less about the government spying on them if, for example, the Justice Department wasn't secretly spying on the Associated Press and Fox News. Or if the IRS wasn't targeting White House critics. Or if the Administration in general showed a higher regard for the law when it conflicts with its policy preferences.

The liberals who spent the Bush years warning about a knock on the door at least have the virtue of consistency, if not the Republicans who are now depicting the NSA program as some J. Edgar Hoover-Bill Moyers operation to target domestic enemies. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has already introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013. Yet surveillance is more critical than ever to stopping terror attacks now that Mr. Obama has all but abolished extended interrogation and military detention and invited Congress to limit drone strikes.

Amid many real abuses of power, the political temptation will be to tie data-mining into a narrative about a government out of control. Such opportunism can only weaken our counterterror defenses and endanger the country.

One of the hallmarks of good character when it comes to politicians and pundits is consistency in their views. So if you supported NSA data-mining in 2006 under the Bush Administration you should also support similar efforts in 2013 under the Obama Administration. So far, I’m encouraged by the response in this area by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and conservative talk show hosts such as Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt who all come out in defense of the NSA monitoring under Obama just as they did when it was being done under Bush.

Likewise, I have to tip my hat to people like Glenn Greenwald (damaging leak offense notwithstanding) for being consistent in their opposition to such practices no matter who is power. While there may not be any real scandal here, it should at least open the eyes of progressives who bought President Obama’s campaign promises about how he would not be like Bush when it came to the War on Terror hook, line, and sinker. With Gitmo still open for business, drone strikes expanded, and the NSA mining away they can no longer pretend that these promises were anything more than platitudes to secure their vote.

Conservatives meanwhile should focus on the real examples of government abuse under President Obama like the way that the power of the IRS, EPA, and other government agencies has been used to target and intimidate groups and individuals solely based on their political views. That is where the truly scandalous actions took place.