The Right Coast

January 30, 2006
Some common sense from a law professor on the NSA program
By Tom Smith

Philip Bobbit of the University of Texas Law School gets this exactly right. As I would put it, it is much less important whether Bush technically violated the requirements of what is obviously a grotesquely outmoded law, than it is that NSA be able to carry on the sort of intelligence gathering operations it is gathering. In 1978, no one imagined that by gathering data on millions of persons, none of whom were likely terrorists, you could mechanically ferret out the few who were. The whole paradigm of privacy and probable cause we are used to makes no sense in this context. We need to come up with an approach that both allows us to protect national security and respect some reasonable conception of privacy. A reasonable conception does not include feeling violated if some mindless robot collecting samples from your phone calls and emails raises a red flag if you sound like a terrorist.