A QUESTION OF INCOMPETANCE

A QUESTION OF INCOMPETENCE… Framing thought for the day: the primary worry about the NSA eavesdropping program shouldn’t be civil liberties, but incompetence.

Most people agree, or can be convinced, that in order to root out terrorist threats we need to give the NSA enhanced permission to snoop on domestic communications. But this is a potentially very dangerous power we?re giving the government. So the question is, do we trust the Bush administration to use this power with care and competence?

The answer is, of course not. The administration has shown, time and again, that it can?t be trusted to manage the power it has. Iraq, Katrina, the budget, mine safety, prescription drugs?each and every one a monumental screw-up. What possible reason do we have to presume that the administration hasn?t screwed up the NSA eavesdropping program? We have no real idea who the NSA is spying on. Could be al-Qaeda cells. Could be your wife?s cell phone conversations. We have no idea.

There?s only one way to make sure the Bush administration hasn?t blown this very important and delicate domestic spying activity. It?s the mechanism bequeathed to us by the Founders: Congressional consent and oversight. But the president doesn?t believe he needs Congress? consent, and the Republican-controlled Congress doesn?t believe in tough oversight.

The upcoming hearings on the NSA eavesdropping program are certainly welcome. But given the realities of one-party control in Washington, there’s really only one way for the American people to make sure they have a domestic spying program that smokes out terrorists without shredding their civil liberties. They have to vote for it this November.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.