Paul Greenberg
Who is Anna Diggs Taylor and what does she have against national security?

The answer to the first question is: a U.S. district judge in Detroit. The answer to the second is as mysterious as the decision she handed down Thursday.

In her 44-page ruling, Judge Taylor ordered the National Security Agency to stop monitoring international calls to and from this country, aka "domestic spying" in New York Times style.

The judge found the practice not just illegal but unconstitutional. And also un-American in just about every crass, rhetorical way she could. The crux of her opinion reads like an entry in a high-school declamation contest rather than a reasoned piece of jurisprudence.

It's as if Her Honor had mounted her trusty steed and ridden off in all directions - legal, constitutional, philosophical and mainly oratorical.

There may indeed be a legitimate argument against some aspects of the National Security Agency's wiretaps. But this ruling doesn't make it. It's not so much an argument as a series of wild swings:

First off, Her Honor agreed that those challenging the National Security Agency had grounds to sue even if they could not demonstrate any actual material damage to themselves. The mere fear that they might be spied upon was reason enough to let them ask that the whole surveillance program be shut down.

The plaintiffs argued that the very existence of the program is such a threat to their delicate psyches that it should be banned. Because even the possibility that the feds might be listening in - none of the defendants claimed their phone lines were actually tapped - could inhibit their conversations with terrorist suspects abroad. How dare the government do such a thing!

It's an interesting point of view. But it's not mine, at least not since it was reported that these wiretaps may have played a role in the arrest and conviction of at least one would-be terrorist - Iyman Faris, a truck driver who was casing the Brooklyn Bridge with a view to cutting its suspension cables.

It's not the NSA's listening in on international calls that bothers some of us. It's the distinct possibility that soon it may not be able to. Maybe that's because we'd like to think the courts would let the government protect one of our basic American rights - the right not to be blown sky-high.

When the next plot proves successful, and the country is reeling after another 9/11, you can bet the same folks now celebrating this ruling against the administration will be blaming the president for not preventing the massacre.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.