Saturday, January 21, 2006
Who are you and what have you done with Joe Klein?
The Bush Administration had similar concerns. In the days after 9/11, it asked Hayden to push the edge of existing technology and come up with the best possible program to track the terrorists. The result was the now infamous NSA data-mining operation, which began months later, in early 2002. Vast amounts of phone and computer communications by al-Qaeda suspects overseas, including some messages to people in the U.S., could now be scooped up and quickly analyzed.
The release of Pelosi's letter last week and the subsequent Times story ("Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show") left the misleading impression that a) Hayden had launched the controversial data-mining operation on his own, and b) Pelosi had protested it. But clearly the program didn't exist when Pelosi wrote the letter. When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, "Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it's all fruit."
A dodgy response at best, but one invested with a larger truth. For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are "fruit," and bitter fruit at that. The government is presumed guilty of illegal electronic eavesdropping until proven innocent. This sort of civil-liberties fetishism is a hangover from the Vietnam era, when the Nixon Administration wildly exceeded all bounds of legality—spying on antiwar protesters and civil rights leaders.