Inside Opinion

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Tag: Constitution


NSA data-spying has left the Constitution intact

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Hollywood sometimes portrays intelligence agencies as almost omniscient in their power to track Internet traffic. It turns out that Hollywood is sometimes right.

Libertarians of various stripes are raising a stink over last week’s revelations that the National Security Agency has routinely been tracking billions of phone calls – maybe most phone calls made in America and many other countries.

On top of that, the Washington Post reported that the NSA has been sifting through the central servers of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other Internet giants, dredging up emails, chats, documents and other digital connections among unsuspecting people.

The libertarians are wrong on this one.

The details so far suggest that the digital surveillance has been limited, constitutional and supervised by all three branches of government. Not to mention effective at spotting terrorists.

Part of the stink is a matter of timing: A second-term-scandal narrative has begun gathering around President Obama.

His Justice Department stepped into dangerous territory when it swept legitimate journalists into criminal investigations.

It also looks as if Internal Revenue Service people – at some level – persistently singled out small-government advocates and other political opponents for special scrutiny during the president’s first term.

But the NSA business doesn’t belong in this story line.
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Legal martyrdom for an ‘American’ terror leader

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

As a couple Supreme Court justices and others have noted, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. It doesn’t require the president to passively watch international terrorists mount attack after attack on Americans from safe havens beyond the reach of the law.

Barack Obama’s decision to kill an al-Qaida leader hiding in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was thoroughly justified regardless of al-Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship.

Some civil libertarians complain that this American-bred terrorist was denied his constitutional right to due process. U.S. agents, presumably, were supposed to try to arrest him in some terrorist snake pit, risking his escape and their lives, in hopes of spiriting him off to America to receive a court-appointed attorney, a proper trial and the usual rounds of appeals.

There’s no real doubt that al-Awlaki was an eager would-be murderer of Americans. His fiery calls for terror attacks were openly posted on the Internet; by all accounts he was complicit in the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger jet in 2009 and the 2010 plot to detonate bombs concealed in printer cartridges at various U.S. targets, including a Jewish center in Chicago.

Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of massacring 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, reportedly exchanged many emails with al-Awlaki prior to the attack.

Al-Awlaki’s nationality seems about as relevant as the U.S. citizenship of a few German soldiers who fought against Americans in World War II. The struggle with al-Qaida abroad is a war, not a courtroom drama.
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