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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