It’s rare to see a Washington Post headline that commends the Bush administration, but today’s Washington Post story by Walter Pincus is captioned “NSA Gave Other U.S. Agencies Information From Surveillance – Fruit of Eavesdropping Was Processed and Cross-Checked With Databases.”
Not that the Post viewed itself as crediting the Bush administration for attempting to connect the dots in the war on terrorism. More likely, the Post was attempting to fan the flames of what it considers a scandal. But it’s hard to see how even the average Washington Post reader could be scandalized by the fact that the NSA shared the information it gathered with law enforcement agencies in order to investigate people it had reason to believe were involved, or planning to engage, in terrorism against this country. The scandal would be if our intelligence and law enforcement agencies were not coordinating their efforts, as was the case before 9/11.
Pincus tries to breathe some life into his story by invoking an intercept program authorized by President Johnson in the 1960s that involved the investigation of foreign influence on civil disturbances in the U.S. and of possible threats of assassination. This is the kind of pathetic, frozen-in-the-1960s outlook I discussed here, which discredits the left on national security issues, and makes Pincus sound like a grandfather still obsessed with the Great Depression. LBJ may have been responding to real threats or he may have been paranoid, but there is no analogy between the situation he faced and the one that confronts the U.S. today; nor did Congress authorize Johnson to take appropriate action to prevent the U.S. from being attacked. Indeed, it’s telling that Pincus discusses the 1960s surveillance of peace activitsts before he mentions either 9/11 or the terrorism is mention.
Context is everything, but to those who are forever young there’s only one context — the 1960s.
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