Friday, December 16, 2005

Bush Authorized Internal Spying

A new storm is brewing over reports that President Bush allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on at least 500 US citizens as part of the intelligence gathering in the War on Terror. Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that he would open an investigation into the accusations. (New Mexican: Bush authorized NSA to spy on Americans).

The President defended his actions in a public radio address. "We do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country, and the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them," the President said. "I will make this point: that whatever I do to protect the American people _ and I have an obligation to do so _ that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people."

At issue are reports that the NSA monitored the e-mails and international communications of at least 500 people suspected of terror activity following the 9/11 attacks. Such activities are technically illegal under the Constitution. There are situations, however, that do warrant such extreme surveillance. When it comes to protecting the security of the US, especially in the wake of the terror attacks in NY, such measures by the NSA are most certainly justified. We can ill afford to allow our enemies any advantage. Like it or not, a state of war exists, and that means certain intelligence measures are needed that would not ordinarily pass muster in peace time.

Various news agencies reported today that Congressional leaders were briefed on the program when it was implemented. Of course, that briefing took place following 9/11 when the national focus was on security. Four years later, as memories of 9/11 fade into the distant past, the American public and Congress seem to have forgotten why those extreme measures were necessary in the first place.

Under normal circumstances, I would not condone the wiretapping of US citizens. These are not normal circumstances. Those suspected of spying for the enemy, plotting attacks against the US, or providing information to those that are bent on attacking us, simply cannot be afforded the Constitutional protections that are questioned in this report. National Security is the first responsibility of our government, and that means they must at times take extraordinary means to safeguard the public at large.

It is a given that Congress will investigate these reports. Congress has oversight authority in these matters, and it is their responsibility to conduct those investigations. Like the President, though, they too have an obligation to protect the American people. It is essential that Congress not undermine the ability of the NSA to keep tabs on the enemies of the United States, especially those that may be living in this country.

Perhaps Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said it best. "Winning the war on terrorism requires winning the war of information We are dealing with a patient, diabolical enemy who wants to harm America." Indeed, in the face of such an enemy, we must be prepared to give the NSA and other intelligence organizations a bit of leeway. Let's not hinder their ability to gather the intelligence needed to prevent another 9/11 style attack.



Alan Fraser said...

You can't buy comedy better than a Bush speech. He's going to uphold the law in the process of conducting illegal wiretaps. Priceless!

Bill Gnade said...

I have several questions of all this hullabaloo: How is it that the New York Times would agree to wait one year to release information that arguably could protect us from Bush's alleged tyranny? How is the NYT's silence not collusion? How is that not scandal? Since when does the Fourth Estate, our public watchdog, choose to leave its readership vulnerable? And why was the story released the very day the news-cycle should have been abuzz with the Iraqi elections?

Questions, questions. Hold on to your hats. The spin starts now.