Thursday, May 11, 2006

Too Much Outrage over Phone Data Collection

The news story of the day is the NSA's collection of domestic telephone records. The story was leaked by anonymous sources, and the leak appears timed to hurt the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden for CIA director.

The NSA has been building a database of external data on phone calls (for example, number calling, number called, time of call). The government does not listen to any calls or collect any information on the substance of the call.

Liberals have been outraged. (Where was their outrage when the Clinton White House was illegally reading FBI files?) Their outrage is over the top.

Imagine for a minute that a prominent Democrat suddenly was anointed President. Do you think that the Democratic President would terminate this NSA program? Before you answer, consider that, when the widely expected terrorist strike does occur on U.S. soil, the president who terminates the program that would have contributed in hindsight to preventing that attack will become the most reviled president in U.S. history. On the other hand, can a Democrat who criticizes the NSA intelligence programs justify a change of mind once in the White House? Will a Democrat in the White House be willing to risk American lives for a temporary partisan political gain? The current outrage voiced by Democrats shows you that too many Democrats are more motivated by temporary partisan political gain than they are by genuine concern for the lives of Americans.

The ones voicing outrage over this NSA program should consider that many private enterprises have similar information about individual Americans. The telephone companies already have the data they passed to the government. Grocery stores have and sell the information about your purchases if you have their discount card. The IRS has your basic financial information and has the power to obtain all of it in an audit. Are any of these entities any more trustworthy than the NSA?

Since 9/11, the U.S. has not experienced another terrorist attack. This has not happened by chance. This NSA data collection program and other intelligence programs help to prevent terrorist attacks.

In the final analysis, this program of collecting phone call data, which was initiated in the wake of 9/11, serves a valid national security purpose. The infringement on privacy is virtually infinitesimal. On balance, the program is worthwhile. The outrage is not deserved.

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