In the aftershock of 9/11, the bipartisan commission found ample evidence that the FBI and other agencies, out of sloppiness or squeamishness, kept ignoring evidence of Arabs enrolling in American flight schools to fly commercial airliners without too much interest in landing them but failed to grasp its significance and follow up assiduously.
As the President addresses the furor over NSA excesses, directing his government to “develop options for a new approach,” his self-righteous critics should not be allowed to obscure the bottom line, security against another 9/11. Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden won’t be held accountable for a sneak nuclear attack.
“Some who participated in our review,” said the President yesterday, “as well as some in Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters, so that we have to go to a judge before issuing these requests. Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.”
As the Administration struggles to curb abuses without damaging our chances of preventing future attacks, critics have every right and duty to demand that more and better safeguards be developed.
What they don’t have the moral standing to do is follow Greenwald’s lead in denouncing the President thus:
“They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic ‘reforms’ so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.”
In the Internet Age, talk is cheap, but in the aftermath of an another attack on the US homeland, it won’t be Greenwald or his puppet Snowden telling the American people what went wrong.
Barack Obama took a solemn oath to protect America. He is not immune to criticism but deserves the respect and credibility that should accompany that burden as he struggles with a bottomless pit of conflicting pressures. Political posturing is not the issue.