Is the NSA's Domestic Surveillance Justified?, Feb. 3, 2006 · What are the limits of executive authority? Does national security trump civil liberties during wartime? These questions are once again being fiercely debated following the revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly wiretapping Americans without a warrant. Below, a sampling of opinion on the controversial surveillance program:


Bad Targeting

Washington Post Editorial Board

The Washington Post

Hidden from public and congressional scrutiny, [the NSA] has repeated the same abuses once committed against war protesters and civil rights activists of the 1960s. The larger lesson is that domestic intelligence operations by security-conscious government agencies, even when necessary and well-intentioned, can easily get out of hand and violate the fundamental rights of Americans.

What Those Big Ears Might Hear

by Steve Ford

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

If the NSA, with its ultra-sophisticated listening capacity, can pluck out conversations that might put authorities on the trail of folks with malice in mind, so what if there are some false alarms?

Spying by Another Name

The L.A. Times Editorial Board

The Los Angeles Times

The administration is also de-emphasizing the fact that the eavesdropping is taking place on American soil by pointing out that it is only targeting communications that involve one party outside the United States. This is irrelevant as a legal matter. And as a practical matter, it's not entirely true.

A Real Surveillance Scandal

The WSJ Editorial Board

The Wall Street Journal

No one has found any evidence of any spying recently on anybody's domestic political enemies. Instead, the 'controversial' NSA surveillance has been directed at people with unambiguous al Qaeda connections... if there were any real abuses going on here, there were plenty of people in the loop and able to blow the whistle.

We Must Accept Risk to Protect Freedoms

by James Werrell

The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

If the commander-in-chief operates outside the law and is not answerable to the other branches of government, he, in essence, becomes the law unto himself, more despot than president. The real-world ramifications of that include not only secret wiretaps but also the condoned torture of detainees and the establishment of secret prisons to hold terrorist suspects in other countries.

Why We Listen

by Philip Bobbitt

The New York Times

If we agree that the National Security Agency now needs to trace and analyze large volumes of phone and Internet traffic looking for particular patterns and to cross-reference leads, then it seems clear that traditional, specific warrants may sometimes not be appropriate.


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