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First things . . . Richard Falknor on 30 Jul 2013 03:22 pm

NSA, Surveillance, and Genuine, Effective Homeland Security

“[Y]ou can’t be in favor of assertive American foreign policy overseas and increasing Europeanization domestically; likewise, you can’t take a reductively libertarian view while the rest of the planet goes to pieces. Someone in the GOP needs to do what Ronald Reagan did so brilliantly a quarter-century ago — reconcile the big challenges abroad with a small-government philosophy at home.” Mark Steyn
“Being right on the adequacy of the NSA programs’ structural safeguards, and being right on the law, will count for nothing if Americans are not convinced – quickly – that there is a real, material, comprehensible connection between the massive data collection and the prevention of terrorist attacks.” Andrew McCarthy (Highlighting Forum’s throughout.)

We have been waiting for Andrew McCarthy’s take on the Amash amendment controversy (click here for a quick Heritage view by Paul Rosenzweig) because former Federal prosecutor McCarthy is both (1) a strong (and learned) constitutionalist and (2) a vigorous proponent of national security.

Author McCarthy does not disappoint us today with his post (PJMedia) The WHY Question — Why the National-Security Right Is Gradually Losing the NSA Debate where he makes these salient points —

  • “An amendment proposed by libertarian Congressman Justin Amash (R., MI) that would effectively have killed the NSA surveillance programs was just barely defeated last week. In the battle’s wake, a consensus seems to be growing that conservatives must have an intramural debate over national security. This is healthy, or at least it could be if we could stick to facts, law and policy. The discussion will not be advanced by trading barbs that libertarianism is a ‘dangerous thought’; that those justifiably worried about an abusive surveillance state are ‘isolationists’ whose concerns are sheer ‘madness’; or that the national-security right has gone ‘statist.’”
  • “A better model for the debate was featured on the Blaze Monday morning: On his radio program, NSA naysayer Glenn Beck invited Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R., MN), a staunch NSA defender, for a civil but spirited discussion about the program. Glenn and Michele are friends – of each other and, for what it’s worth, of mine.”
  • “I am a proponent of the NSA programs, and a member of the national-security right who has long feared that our camp was frittering away its influence – by associating with the ‘Islamic democracy’ experiment and by uncritically supporting some excessive investigative measures that stoked controversy while not improving security. Thus, it will come as no surprise that I believe Congresswoman Bachmann has the better of the argument. As Glenn conceded, Michele sits on the House Intelligence Committee; she is in a better position than are we who don’t know both what the government is up to and what threats it is responding to. Still, Glenn illustrated weaknesses in the national security right’s case. If they are not shored up in a hurry, Amash & Co. will not be denied next time around.”
  • “Another good and truly alarming comparison is the Federal Data Hub, revealingly reported on by John Fund at National Review. Unlike the NSA program, whose extensive safeguards are designed to make data more difficult for the government to peruse, the FDH is an Obamacare enterprise in which reams of personal information about Americans, far more extensive than communications data, is amassed for the precise purpose of making it easy for government bureaucrats to access under the guise of improving health care. And, putting aside that national security is the ultimate federal responsibility while health care is something the federal government should have no part in, the FDH data will be handled not by technically proficient intelligence professionals, as in the NSA program, but by ‘patient navigators’ who will require neither high school diplomas nor criminal background checks.” (Highlighting Forum’s throughout.)

We are troubled about yet another dog that apparently didn’t bark very loudly (if at all) during the controversy over the Amash amendment.  As McCarthy reported last year, the FBI has purged training (and presumably other) materials offensive to Islamists. Tea Partiers reasonably ask why the NSA needs all these surveillance powers when even with warning from the Russians the FBI couldn’t prevent the Boston atrocity. This purge (click here for our 2011 post) is certainly one answer.  A satiric video (click here) illustrates that lamentable point.  We wonder why the House GOP leadership didn’t put the same effort into spotlighting and fighting the FBI documents purge — from its beginning — as they did into defeating the Amash amendment.

 Conservatives should consider all of McCarthy’s NSA post (click here) and weigh the points made both by Bachmann and by Beck to widen their understanding of the delicate balance between maintaining our traditional freedoms and protecting the United States — against the Muslim Brotherhood at home and abroad, and against other serious adversaries like Iran, Putin’s Russia, China’s PLA, North Korea, and their extenders in Latin America.

As with everything else from “common core,” to “smart growth,” to Giant Amnesty, to Obamacare, we need to keep up our homework — right now — on this delicate balance between liberty and defense to get our “facts, law, and policy” right.

Otherwise how can we keep our friends in the Congress and in state and local government on the right track?

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