Let’s get them on the record

Byron York explains why President Bush approved wiretaps without waiting for the FISA court to approve them. He notes that “when the president made his decision, there was widespread, bipartisan frustration with the slowness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy involved in seeking warrants from the special intelligence court.”

The MSM is on a mission to expose the administration’s secret efforts to obtain information with which to combat and thwart terrorists. Its stated justification for publishing classified information on these matters is the need for debate over the administration’s policy. If that, not animus towards the president, is the MSM’s real reason, then it should promote such debate through a concerted effort to flush out the position of all those running for Congress in 2006 on the subject of intelligence gathering.

As a general matter, the MSM should press all candidates to state their view on the extent of the danger currently posed by terrorists to our homeland. All candidates should be asked (with the same persistence that Scott McClellan is asked about Karl Rove) whether they think the level of peril to the homeland is now significantly less than what it was shortly after 2001. They should also be asked whether, in general, the government should adopt a less intrusive approach to intelligence gathering than the one it now employs.

All candidates should also be asked their position on each controversial provision of the Patriot Act. And the MSM should ask whether there is any investigative procedure or device that the federal government should be permitted to use to fight organized crime, but should not be permitted to use against suspected terrorists.

In addition, all candidates should be asked to state their position on interrogation of terror suspects, and not just in general terms. Candidates should be asked to explain whether (and under what circumstances) they would permit such various techniques as sleep deprivation, slapping, waterboarding, etc. For example, does the candidate believe it was proper to use waterboarding in the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. If not, what alternative methods beyond simply propounding questions would have been proper in his case.

With respect to wiretaps, candidates should state what length of delay is acceptable between the time the government learns about the telephone number of someone in the U.S. with whom a terrorists has been in communication and the time the government taps that phone. They should also state whether, if it takes longer than that amount of time to obtain a court order, the government should wait for the court order or go ahead and tap the phone.

I’m sure that the minds at the Washington Post, New York Times, and the other MSM mainstays can think of additional questions that will promote the debate they say they crave. I’m less certain that the MSM really wants that debate to occur in an election year. I suspect that, in fact, if Republicans promote such a debate, the MSM will accuse them of playing politics with national security.

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