Max Boot weighs in on the NSA surveillance issue in today's LA Times. His opener shows the arrant stupidity of this president's political nemeses in full relief:
I CAN CERTAINLY understand the uproar over President Bush's flagrant abuses of civil liberties. This is America. What right does that fascist in the White House have to imprison Michael Moore, wiretap Nancy Pelosi and blackmail Howard Dean?
Wait. You mean he hasn't done those things? All he's done is intercept communications between terrorists abroad and their contacts in the U.S. without a court order? Talk about defining impeachable offenses downward.
If you want to see real abuses of civil liberties, read Geoffrey R. Stone's 2004 book "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism." It tells how John Adams jailed a congressman for criticizing his "continual grasp for power." How Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and had the army arrest up to 38,000 civilians suspected of undermining the Union cause. How Woodrow Wilson imprisoned Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for opposing U.S. entry into World War I. And how Franklin D. Roosevelt consigned 120,000 Japanese Americans to detention camps.
You can also read about how presidents from FDR to Richard Nixon used the FBI to spy on, and occasionally blackmail and harass, their political opponents. The Senate's Church Committee in 1976 blew the whistle on decades of misconduct, including FBI investigations of such nefarious characters as Eleanor Roosevelt, William O. Douglas, Barry Goldwater and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Get it? The FBI used to spy on the President's or just the FBI Director's (remember, Hoover ran the FBI as his own fiefdom) political enemies for political gain or insurance. That definitely doesn't compare to the NSA issue, and Boot salutes the public for its wisdom in the face of bluster and bloviations from the Dean-Pelosi crowd:
And although the government has occasionally blundered, it has also used its enhanced post-9/11 powers to keep us safe. The National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps, which have generated so much controversy, helped catch, among others, a naturalized American citizen named Iyman Faris who pleaded guilty to being part of an Al Qaeda plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge.
No wonder polls show that most people continue to support Bush's handling of the war on terrorism. As long as federal surveillance remains targeted on the country's enemies, not on the president's, the public will continue to yawn at hyperbolic criticisms of the commander in chief.
A good primer on the issues and the law is here, just keep following the links.