In the Dec. 15 Chicago Tribune, John Schmidt, associate attorney general in the Clinton administration, laid it out cold: "President Bush's post-Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents."
"News stories" in the Times and other newspapers and many national newscasts have largely ignored this legal record. Instead, they are tinged with a note of hysteria and the suggestion that fundamental freedoms have been violated by the NSA intercepts.
Earlier this month, a Newsweek cover story depicted George W. Bush as living inside a bubble, isolated from knowledge of the real world. Many of the news stories about the NSA intercepts show that it is mainstream media that are living inside a bubble, carefully insulating themselves and their readers and viewers from knowledge of applicable law and recent historical precedent, determined to pursue an agenda of undermining the Bush administration regardless of any damage to national security.
And damage there almost certainly would be were the program to be ended, as many Democrats and many in the mainstream media would like. Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of NSA and now deputy national intelligence director, has come forward to say, "This program has been successful in detecting and preventing attacks inside the United States."
The Constitution, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote, should not be interpreted in a way that makes it "a suicide pact." The notion that terrorists' privacy must be respected when they place a cell-phone call to someone in the United States is in the nature of a suicide pact. The Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures in the United States should not be stretched into a ban on interceptions of communications from America's enemies abroad.
The mainstream media, inside their left-wing bubble, evidently thinks that there is not much in the way of danger. They should take a trip to Ground Zero, to the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon, to Shanksville, Pa., where the heroes of United flight 93 prevented the terrorists from hitting their target in Washington.