Peter King’s overly broad denunciation

Rep. Peter King added his voice to Chris Christie’s in blasting Rand Paul on foreign policy and national security issues. King went beyond attacking Paul, though — he indicted Republican House members who voted to curtail NSA’s surveillance program.

King told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he finds it “absolutely disgraceful” that so many House Republicans voted to defund the NSA’s surveillance program. He added, “this is an isolationist streak that’s in our party, it goes totally against the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, Bush.”

Actually, it isn’t isolationist to oppose domestic surveillance. One can support an internationalist approach to foreign policy and still oppose obtaining records about the private activities of ordinary Americans.

I agree that it would be badly misguided to end NSA’s surveillance program. But concern over that program is understandable, especially given the Obama administration’s track record of abuse (e.g., the IRS scandal).

And it’s not the worst thing in the world that the vote in the House was close. The administration, and future administrations, need to understand the consequences that likely would follow if any evidence of actual abuse emerges.

UPDATE: To be clear, there is much less reason to fear abuse of the NSA surveillance program than to fear abuse by the IRS. For one thing, the NSA receives direct oversight from the courts and from Congress.

For another, it is the IRS’s job to conduct audits and to grant or deny various exemptions. Thus, it makes these decisions in the natural course of its work, and political bias can be brought to bear without the IRS going on an expedition.

By contrast, the NSA would have to go far out of its way to investigate my phone calls.

Finally, the national security bureaucracy is probably far less inherently left-wing than the IRS. However, I take limited comfort from this, considering that it utilizes contractors like Edward Snowden.

The main point, I think, is that, as Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said today, “there [are] zero privacy violations on this in the entire length of the program [note: at least as far as we know] and 54 disrupted terrorist plots.”


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