by Philip Giraldi
August 01, 2013

The Washington Post editorial page under Fred Hiatt has long been a neoconservative bastion rivaling the Wall Street Journal, supporting every war to come down the pike while justifying every intrusion on personal rights as long as it might plausibly be justified on grounds of national security. On July 23rd, the paper’s op-ed page delivered an in-your-face bravura performance with a brace of pieces that supported National Security Agency (NSA) snooping and also advanced the case for United States direct involvement to topple the Syrian government. The reader was asked to prepare for a new war, though this time a “good one,” and relinquish privacy rights because doing so makes you safer. If it sounds like a couple of songs we have all heard before, it should be because it was.

The first piece, by Steven G. Bradbury, was headed “NSA phone collection efforts shouldn’t be constrained.” Bradbury headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2005 until 2009, meaning that he served under both Bush and Obama. Per the Post, “In 2006, he led the department’s legal effort to obtain initial approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for the telephone metadata order.” That effort, initiated under George W. Bush, was, of course, successful and provided a legal fig leaf for activity that had long been going on anyway under the auspices of the Patriot Act. So one might say that Bradbury is essentially defending a bit of legal malfeasance that he was responsible for in a bid to avoid any kind of accountability for a bad bit of policy that has diminished the rights of every American.

But to be fair to Bradbury, let us consider not who he is but what he has written. He wrote that the debate over NSA “collection of telephone metadata is taking a dangerous turn” possibly leading to “ill-considered constraints on the NSA that would compromise our ability to protect the United States against the next 9/11.” He claims that metadata does not reveal content of phone calls and 14 federal judges on the FISA court have approved the process, which does not permit trolling. He cites NSA Director General Keith Alexander who has said that the program “has helped prevent dozens of attacks on the United States.”

Bradbury then explains that you have to collect vast quantities of information, i.e. “the entire data base…to track terrorists’ calling patterns effectively.” If the NSA can no longer collect such information “Americans will be distinctly less safe…protecting the United States from foreign attack is the core mission of the federal government, and a catastrophic failure in that mission could threaten the liberties we all cherish.” He explains – and as I read him there is a tear in my eye and I think I can hear God Bless America being sung softly in the background while a huge American flag is flapping in the breeze over amber waves of grain – “…there is no more self-restrained, professional and patriotic group of federal officers than those staffing the NSA today. We should be proud of the job this agency is doing…”

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