Charles Krauthammer: Pushing the envelope, NSA-style
The problem here is not constitutionality. It's practicality. Legally this is fairly straightforward. But between intent and execution lies a shadow - the human factor, the possibility of abuse. And because of the scope and power of the NSA, any abuse would have major consequences for civil liberties.
We need a toughening of both congressional oversight and judicial review, perhaps even some independent outside scrutiny.
The object is not to abolish these vital programs. It's to fix them. Not exactly easy to do amid the current state of national agitation - provoked largely because such intrusive programs require a measure of trust in government and this administration has forfeited that trust amid an unfolding series of scandals and a basic problem with truth-telling.
Every spying program is a compromise between liberty and security.
Yet, here is a President who campaigned on the proposition that he would transcend such pedestrian considerations. "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," he declared in his first inaugural address, no less.
Nor does it help that just three weeks ago the President issued a major foreign-policy manifesto whose essential theme was that the War on Terror is drawing to a close and its very legal underpinning, the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, should be not just reformed but repealed to prevent "keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing."
. Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post.
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