Mr. Smith goes to Las Vegas

I watched last night’s Frontline installment on “Spying on the home front.” The show can be viewed online after 9:00 a.m. (Eastern) this morning at the linked site. As always with Frontline, the production values are first-rate. While entertaining, well-edited, and timed perfectly to the news of the day, however, the show was not good.
I can’t say the show was disappointing because I had low expectations for what Frontline would do with the subject. But I was surprised by Hedrick Smith’s apparent lack of knowledge regarding mattes basic to the subject. He appeared not to know that investigative tools such as grand jury subpoenas seeking financial records prohibit financial institutions from disclosing their existence (a prohibition similar to the one affecting the National Security Letters discussed in the show). He appeared not to know that searches can be conducted lawfully under the Fourth Amendment without a warrant under a wide range of circumstances. His scandalized tone suggesting the contrary should have been directed closer to home.
I’ll return to the subject in the next day when or two when I have a bit more time. In the meantime, if you saw the show last night or watch it today, I’d be grateful for your comments. On a closely related note, please see Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post “Sam Tanenhaus: Arsonist.”

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