Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks we are backsliding to a pre-9/11 mindset. I'm joined in this concern by no less than the editorial board of National Review Online. The lede:
We are once again living in September 10 America. The signs are all around us: Congress's acting to neuter interrogations of terrorist detainees; the Senate's filibustering the reauthorization of the most important piece of counterterrorism legislation since 9/11, the Patriot Act (Sen. John Sununu, who supports the filibuster, responds to our Friday editorial here); and now the controversy over National Security Agency intercepts of conversations between persons in the United States and suspected al Qaeda operatives overseas.
As much as I would like to comment on the NSA flap, I cannot add any value to that debate. You would be better off going here and here, for a legal analysis and for some ongoing analysis (and even more here). Some things to keep in mind - the purpose of the program was intelligence-gathering, not criminal prosecution; contrary to Democratic protestations, Congress was not circumvented and did have oversight (probably through the Select Intelligence Committee); the intent was to monitor international phone calls, not domestic calls; and finally, there seems to be some unique technology involved - several reports have hinted that the intelligence was collected using some means that makes warrants difficult to procure. If that is the case, the President may have decided it was better to proceed than spend a decade arguing over and creating legislation and case law. In other words, act, and deal with the consequences when they happen.

While the legalities and proper procedure can be argued - there's a lot more to learn on this story - it is not the "The President is spying on you!" narrative the major media was pushing over the weekend. (Headline in last Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune: "President says spying on citizens OK.") The truth is, it's a lot more complicated than that.

And that reaction is what troubles me. It suggests to me that all too large a portion of the public and the media fear Republicans more than they fear terrorists, and that's just sad.

While I would rather be whispering to the wind than be right on this, I fear that the public consciousness has forgotten September 11th, or at least banished those thoughts to that some dark place our grandparents buried memories of World War One, the 1918 flu pandemic, and the Korean War. A dark and quiet place, far from here, where the ghosts cannot trouble us.

That's not to say everyone has forgotten. I had a conversation with a friend this last weekend. She was alone on business in the Midwest when 9/11 happened, and was stranded there by the airline grounding. She was in an area where fuel prices immediately shot sky-high on panicked speculation. She hasn't forgotten.

But then I look more broadly around, at the movers and shakers, at those in the public sphere. While there are thousands of stories like my friend's, they seem to matter little in the bigger scheme of things.

I have to be honest, I worry, and I worry too much. Not for me - when my time comes, it comes. When God calls me home, who am I to argue? But I worry for my family, my friends, and my countrymen - I watched thousands die on September 11th, practically before my eyes. I admit I was scared then - how far would it go, and why? Now, I just want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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