Paul Greenberg

Our president is back with one of his grand conceptions, ideal compromises and works of staggering political genius. This one, like the others, is designed to please every special interest involved, though it may leave out a minor matter or two. Like national security. And the kind of obsessive attention to detail that national security calls for.

But who cares about all that boring minutiae? In their sweeping vision and righteous indignation, the brilliances at the White House and in Congress have decided that the National Security Agency is getting much too concerned about national security. Specifically, about everybody's phone calls, or at least a record of them. And that means everybody's. In the whole world.

Our snoops, both civilian and military, those nosy parkers, are now able to amass all that metadata and use all those mysterious algorithms to trace a lone call from one party to another to another and so hop-skip-and-jump along till they notice, say, that one of those phone calls could be traced, after a discreet inquiry or two, to an address in Abbottabad, Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan -- which just might be the number of a Bin Laden, O.

Which means a Navy SEAL Team Six could be dispatched to pay a courtesy call to said address at 1 o'clock in the morning, which proved to be said occupant's final hour. You just can't ever tell where attention to detail -- the smallest detail -- might lead.

But why bother? The political repercussions of all this snooping are too much trouble to deal with. So, deftly as always, our commander-in-chief has come up with the ideal solution: Just park all this data with the phone companies!

Who knew our president was such a fan of private enterprise? But these public utilities should make the perfect buffer when the ACLU, Pat Leahy (D-Vermont), et many al., raise a ruckus about our snoops getting too snoopy. So just leave all this data, and maybe the few small clues buried here and there in that worldwide haystack, for Ma Bell or somebody like that to take care of. Political problem solved.

As for any problem this solution might raise for our intelligence agencies, there's no need to worry about it. For we've now got the word of the usual unidentified "senior administration official" that the effect of this change will be "small." It's just a little tweak, we're told. How assuring. Only the more persnickety among us might express a reservation or two about this neat arrangement. Or maybe just anybody who ever had one of those lick-and-a-promise, introductory orientation lectures in G-2 (military intelligence) back in the Basic Officers Course years ago.


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.