Accuracy in Media

Currently the media is obsessed with the legality and ethics of the disclosed eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA), and President Bush’s firm support of those actions.  According to a poll conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal January 26-29, “?51 percent approve of the administration’s use of these wiretaps ? without a court order ? to monitor the conversations between al-Qaida suspects and those living in the United States, compared with 46 percent who disapprove.” 

Kahlil G. Chism, Education Specialist for the National Archives and Records Administration when referring to the President’s constitutional powers in a 2003 feature article said, “?the one time when the President can assume greater power is during times of war.”

Last time I checked we are currently engaged in a war on international terrorism.  Do the American people need to be reminded of the events of 9/11 in order to make them realize how serious this war really is?  We did not attack them first, they attacked us.  We did not seek this war or start it, but we need to finish it.

Perhaps there are cases such as this one in which we have to sacrifice a bit of our freedom, like some of our privacy, to have the greater portion of it preserved.

Many question whether the NSA needed to secure a warrant to intercept communications from al-Qaeda associates following the guidelines of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court.

William Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Gary Schmitt of the Washington Post noted in a column, “The difficulty with FISA is the standard it imposes for obtaining a warrant aimed at a ‘U.S. person’?a U.S. citizen or a legal alien: The standard suggests that, for all practical purposes, the Justice Department must already have in hand evidence that someone is a problem before they seek a warrant.”

Although appearances may be deceiving it is harder than some may think to sort through governmental red tape.  That is not to say that we should allow the President to avoid it altogether but there may just be exceptions, especially in a time of war, though some would have us think otherwise.

According to, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attacked Bush’s defense for NSA by saying, “Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists.  I think that’s our obligation.  But I think it can be done in a lawful way.  Their argument that it’s rooted in the authority to go after al-Qaida is far-fetched.”

When it comes to fighting a war against terrorists is the NSA’s argument for electronic surveillance really that “far-fetched?”

Should the President’s executive power as Commander-in-Chief in the war in Iraq be distinguished from the executive power past presidents had in previous wars?

In his December 2005 article about the NSA’s eavesdropping, Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly seems to think there is no clear-cut definition of wartime, and it depends on your perspective of the war.  And perhaps, on which side you stand.  He said, “There’s ‘wartime’ and then there’s ‘wartime,’ and not all armed conflicts vest the president with emergency powers.  George Bush may have the best intentions in the world?and in this case he probably did have the best intentions in the world?but that still doesn’t mean he has the kind of plenary power Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt exercised during their wars.” 

At a recent American Enterprise Institute (AEI) seminar, entitled “A Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno, assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in reference to the war in Iraq, said, “This is not a war against Islam, this is a war against extreme ideology that despises freedom and rejects tolerance at all corners.”

Some Senators would have us wait for a law to justify every little decision in this war, but how long would that take and do we really have time in every situation to wait for permission before we act.  Perhaps we would do well to take the threat of terrorism as seriously as the President does.

“When he says he’s going to hurt the American people again,” said President Bush about Osama bin Laden, “or try to, he means it. I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously.”

And it is a good thing the President does take terrorism seriously.  Keep in mind that despite Osama bin Laden’s threats to attack the U.S. again, there has not been another terrorist attack in America since 9/11.

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