The Wall Street Journal Friday downplayed reports of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, dismissing it as no more intrusive than the kind of data mining "tech companies or banks" do on personal and financial records.
"Unlike the other White House scandals, there seems to be little here that is scandalous," the Journal said in an editorial
. "The existence of the program was exposed years ago and such surveillance is a core part of the war on terror, if we can still use that term."
Critics argue that the NSA program violates privacy and is unconstitutional. But the newspaper said it can't understand what all the fuss is about.
"Nobody's civil liberties are violated by tech companies or banks that constantly run the same kinds of data analysis," the editorial said, adding: "We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security. The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse far greater harm to civil liberties."
The editorial noted that the telephone and email information analyzed does not include "the content of communications" and that searches are "narrowly tailored" and reviewed by judges under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed by Congress that gave a green light to the surveillance program.
The Journal insisted the only "real danger" from the leak about the program "is the potential political overreaction," given the fact that the NSA "is collecting less information than appears on a monthly phone bill."
"But Americans would worry less about the government spying on them if, for example, the Justice Department wasn't secretly spying on The Associated Press and Fox News," the editorial continued. "Or if the IRS wasn't targeting White House critics. Or if the Administration in general showed a higher regard for the law when it conflicts with its policy preferences."
The newspaper concluded: "Amid many real abuses of power, the political temptation will be to tie data-mining into a narrative about a government out of control. Such opportunism can only weaken our counterterror defenses and endanger the country."
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