Na na na, told you so!

A few thoughts on “NSA Critics, Right All Along: Even NSA’s defenders — and Dems who’ve encouraged executive overreach — now want reform,” by Charles C. W. Cooke.

(I’m a big fan of Mr. Cooke’s writing, so this is not meant to be a hit piece. But I was struck by the prevalence of largely pointless snark in the piece. I commend the article to your attention; mine is largely an argument as to style points and rhetorical overkill, not against Cooke’s accurate assessment that last week’s revelations were game-changers vis. the NSA debate.)

Which NSA critics? The NSA critics who called for abolishing the agency in its entirety? The NSA critics who think that Snowden should be canonized? The NSA critics who support the statutory authority to gather phone records pertaining to overseas calls, but are concerned about the alleged and actual abuse of that authority?

Right all along? Does that include the misreporting that was later retracted? Right all along that domestic phone calls were being routinely monitored as to content? Right all along that a Constitutional penumbra emanation having to do with an expectation of privacy vis third-party phone records trumps the actual enumerated power of defending the nation against its enemies?

Contrary to the self-satisfied insistence of America’s national-security apologists…

Seriously? Self-satisfied? Seems to be more than a bit of self-satisfaction going on with the NSA critics, as well, eh?

But wait, there’s more!

The country, as so often, appears more or less evenly divided between those of us who find the new revelations deeply vexing and those who steadfastly refuse to express anxiety unless they can actually hear jackboots.

The preceding quote was surprisingly adolescent, coming from a usually very thoughtful writer.

One would be hard-pressed to find any serious writer (or an un-serious one like me) who has defended the NSA and has not also said that inadequate Congressional might well be an issue; that Congressional hearings were in order to establish whether abuses of statutory authority occurred; and that if, in fact, the NSA had not exceeded its statutory authority, the issue of whether that statutory authority needed to be modified should be examined by Congress.

Earl Warren’s dour prediction that “the fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a great danger to the privacy of the individual” has proven prescient, and those who saw danger and not hysteria when the NSA scandal broke have been proven correct.

Some of us saw both potential danger and actual hysteria.

Moreover, we can now see that the NSA’s defenders were foolish in their rush to paint this as a mere case of bad management that a more engaged president could fix. I do not expect most Americans to get fully on board with me and my worldview, but I can now say with some confidence that there are serious problems with the NSA. Could we not all agree at least that it needs reform?

Mr. Cooke’s apparent desire to be glib leads him to misrepresent and oversimplify what NSA’s defenders have actually said. And yes, I think it’s pretty obvious that the problems with the NSA and/or Congressional oversight are rampant and need to be addressed–which is similar what I was saying at the same time I was mocking the renting of garments on the part of Paulinistas and their ilk. Also, it’s possible to ask that question without being a smartass about it. (Am I doing the same thing? Sure–but I don’t write for NRO.)

As for foolishness, Mr. Cooke surely knows that there has been at least as much foolishness coming from the Saint Snowden crowd as from NSA’s defenders. Could we not all agree at least that Snowden is a self-admitted felon? I know, I know, it’s not about Snowden. At least that’s what those who would canonize him (which I am certainly not accusing Mr. Cooke of) keep telling us.

Again, Cooke is one of the best writers around–but you might not know it if your assessment were based on the piece discussed above.

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