Spy vs. spy: the wiretaps, the Times, and the firewall
I haven't written yet about the controversy over government wiretaps designed to eavesdrop on conversations with terrorists. That's partly because so many have covered the story already, and partly because I like to do a lot of reading on a topic like that before I venture an opinion, and I've been too pressed for time lately.
There are two separate issues, however. The first is the legality of the wiretaps themselves, and the balancing of our security needs with protection of our liberties. In times of war (and this is a time of war, in my opinion), it's always been a tricky problem to weigh those competing interests. The second issue is that of the outing of the details of the program (apparently by someone in the intelligence community), and the subsequent decision by the NY Times to publish the information.
If you want to take a look at what others have written on the subject, first let's hear from the lawyers: there's Ann Althouse, and Glenn Reynolds has a a good roundup of links. Next, Dean Esmay has some strong views about the leakers, and Baldilocks has a discussion of the role of Congress, as well as this interesting post, which concludes with links to other bloggers on the subject.
On the second issue, I see some historical roots for the Times's action, originating in those MSM glory days--once again!--of Vietnam: the Pentagon Papers. I believe that was the turning point in which the MSM began to see itself in the role of whistleblower on federal government excesses (especially in wartime), and it's never looked back. Now, even the hint of a possibility of an overstepping--even one directly related to the attempt to catch terrorists who do in fact threaten our lives--prompts the response: publish (never mind if we perish).
As for that famous intelligence "wall" that underlies some of the issues here, please take a look at this previous post of mine. It's a history of what led to the development of the wall. I think the information contained therein is extremely important, and can help in understanding the present controversy, which is just the latest incident in a long series of moves in an important chess game of spy vs. spy.