Monday, January 23, 2006

Thank you, George

This is a "read it before you can get it" version of my column in this week's Picket, which doesn't come out for SU Students until Wednesday. It's not the best thing I've ever written, but it's not too bad. Enjoy...

It was recently revealed by The New York Times that the National Security Agency has been using ‘eavesdropping’ programs authorized by President Bush to ‘listen in’ to persons thought to be associated with terrorist organizations. The Times report brings to the surface the itching question of “How much Presidential power is too much?” while also putting delicate intelligence gathering tools in the spotlight, a spotlight not hidden from the very terrorist groups it is meant to help quash.

While some may applaud this so called “journalistic reporting” as cutting edge and needed, I call it a sad attempt to gather scorn against President Bush and undermine the war on terror. These actions are not only unacceptable, but they border on treason—indeed one might see “exposing” the tools used by the NSA to stop terrorists as helping the enemy.

The Bush Administration has been consistently criticized for inaccurate intelligence leading up to the Iraq war and has even been accused of knowingly allowing 9/11 to happen. Critics such as 2000 democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore call the program, “a truly breathtaking expansion of power” which could undermine “the very structure of our government.” Republican National Committee spokesperson Tracey Schmidt fired back at Gore pointing out that, “Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America.” This assessment of Gore’s intentions and spectrum of understanding seems to be true of most democrats.

Bush has not sat quietly, though. In a recent radio address, the President defended the NSA eavesdropping program as valued tools in the war on terror, explaining that, “[The] 9/11 Commission pointed out…that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad... The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem.”

The biggest criticism of the NSA program has been in regards to the effect it does or does not have on the civil liberties of Americans. West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd asserted that, “[Bush] has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war." Byrd’s assertion echoes that of many Bush opponents and incorrectly assesses the situations on multiple levels. The NSA program is not, in fact, “domestic civilian surveillance.” As described in White House Press Release, the program is “solely for intercepting international calls.” Attorney General Gonzales explains further, “ party to the communication has to be outside the United States.” In other words, either the recipient or the sender must be outside of American borders. Gonzales further defended the program as one which only targets persons known to be associated with al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

Byrd’s second mistake lies in his explanation of Bush’s reasoning. Byrd’s reasoning centers on the fact that we are at war. That is not, in fact, the rationale. Bush’s program is a legitimate program because his foremost responsibility to the people of the United States is to protect and defend them. In case it has been forgotten, we were attacked on 9/11 by a group of vicious murderers. Thanks to the policies of George Bush no terrorist has been able to carry out a successful attack inside our borders.

This program makes sense and is undeniably necessary. Our government must be able to gather the needed intelligence in order to prevent the “9’11’s of the future.” Aside from the fact that my mind is still trying to comprehend how a classified program is now common public knowledge, I cannot fathom why there is such debate on this issue. If it protects Americans, deters the terrorists and does not infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens, I have no problem with it. Rather than consistently harassing the president about his faults and his ‘evil doings,’ perhaps we could thank him for protecting this nation for the past 5 years. While highly unlikely, I think it’s a good suggestion…
Back with more sometime this week...


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