In the Friday December 16th edition of the New York Times, it was revealed to the American masses that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on the international calls of individuals who have been positively linked to Al Qaeda. The Times called this mission a “major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices” and it inferred that perhaps Bush has stepped outside the boundaries of what he is legally allowed to do as president. This information-gathering program has been in effect since shortly after the terrorist events of September 11th, and to this day, we have not had any more terrorist attacks on our country. There have been several instances of the government warning individual communities of an increased risk of attack, and helping them handle the increased need for security. Perhaps these warnings have come as the result of this. In fact, the Times article mentions two separate instances where terrorist plots have been foiled as a result of this program. (The Times Story).
Although I understand that it does seem rather suspicious that the President has allowed spying on communication within the United States, I also find it rather suspicious that this particular program has raised so much smoke. What Bush has authorized certainly is not a new idea at all.
Another recent president authorized a spying program during his presidency that in my opinion blows Bush’s program out of the water. Bill Clinton authorized a program known as “Echelon” that during the 1990s. This program, also working with the NSA, monitored the electronic communication of American Citizens (not known terrorist’s allies). Telephone and e-mail communications of most Americans were monitored. An article published on Newsmax.com referenced a “60 Minutes” episode on this secret program that aired in 2000. According to this article the Echelon program monitored “everything from data transfers to cell phones to portable phones to baby monitors to ATMs” (Newsmax.com). Those monitored by this program did not necessarily have any known ties to any suspected terrorists. Any communications of other information being monitored could be done, and possibly was, to any American. Some phone calls were screened by computers at the NSA that monitored the phone calls if any word or phrase was used that might indicate there was some possible terroristic threat. How’s that for civil liberty? At least Bush’s program was only used to spy on those who are known to have strong associations with Al-Qeada and it’s operatives.
How effective was the Echelon program? Although I don’t know specific numbers of foiled plans, it didn’t seem too effective in stopping the September 11th attacks. Bush’s has directly foiled a couple of different plans, both in the U.S. and outside of it.
Why is it that the New York Times and Democrats in Washington feel that this spy plan instituted by President Bush is so threatening to the American Citizens’ civil liberties of privacy and such, yet Clinton’s program is barely mentioned by the recent press? The Times article does not even mention Echelon. It seems to be that there is a double standard that exists in not only politics but also within mass media publications. The Times article and the outspokenness of the politicians who oppose the president are not helping our country fight this battle.
Regardless of whether or not our country should be at war in Iraq or not, really is no longer a question. I do not like war, and I am not sure that I support our reasons for going over there in the first place. However, one thing is certain to me- we are there now, and we have to finish the job. Our mere presence in Iraq makes us more susceptible to terrorist plots and actions, so it makes sense to me that our president would exercise his constitutional right to authorize domestic spying in order to help keep our citizens, and the citizens of other countries, safer. Articles like the one written by the Times, and those who leak such information the press are really only harming the effort to win the war and bring our troops home. Regardless of his motives for sending American troops to Iraq, I think that it is obvious that Bush wants to win this war and bring troops home. Wars are not easily won, and having disunity and manipulative politicians does not help the war efforts.
Do I want someone reading my e-mails or listening to my cell phone calls? Absolutely not. However, I am more concerned that myself and my fellow citizens are not hit by another terrorist attack in our own country than I am about whether someone is looking over my shoulder.