Washington is beginning to debate the proper extent of government eavesdropping powers in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency. It’s hardly as robust a discussion as it should be, but it’s a desperately needed start.
The colossal effort to monitor Americans’ communications has been going on for at least seven years, under two presidents. It constitutes an expansion of government power without precedent in the modern era. Yet while some members of Congress were informed about it — and all had the opportunity to learn — none saw an urgent need for public discussion. This is astounding. It took the actions of a leaker to spur any real airing of the matter on Capitol Hill.
Even now, it seems unlikely that Congress will make significant policy changes. That’s because all the nation’s key actors and institutions appear to approve of the surveillance programs. By its silence, Congress clearly supported them. Presidents Bush and Obama backed them. The intelligence community, a powerful voice on national security issues, has resolutely defended them.
All content copyright ©2013 The Tribune, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.