Michael Barone

The right of the government to invade people's privacy outside the United States is, or should not be, in question.

You might think, as Henry Stimson did in 1929, that it's ungentlemanly. But as secretary of war between 1940 and 1946, Stimson was grateful for the code-breaking programs that enabled the United States and Britain to decrypt secret Japanese and German messages.

That code-breaking, as historians recounted long after the war, undoubtedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of Allied service members.

"The Constitution and U.S. laws," as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "are not a treaty with the universe; they protect U.S. citizens."

It is an interesting development that Barack Obama has continued and, Snowden asserts, strengthened programs that he denounced as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate.

As George W. Bush expected, Obama's views were evidently changed by the harrowing contents of the intelligence reports he receives each morning. There are people out there determined to harm us, and not just because they can't bear Bush's Texas drawl.

The Pew Research/Washington Post poll conducted June 7 to 9 found that by a 56 to 41 percent margin Americans found it "acceptable" that the "NSA has been getting secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism."

That's similar to the margin in a 2006 Pew poll on NSA "secretly listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval."

Those numbers are in line with changes in opinion over the last two decades.

With increased computer use, technology is seen as empowering individuals rather than Big Brother. And with an increased threat of terrorist attack, government surveillance is seen as protecting individuals.

In these circumstances most Americans seem willing to accept NSA surveillance programs that, if ungentlemanly, are not illegal.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM