The Left's Larger Ideological Campaign

Today’s lead Wall Street Journal editorial gets to the heart of the wiretapping controversy:

To hear the critics tell it, the warrantless wiretapping law passed by Congress this weekend is an immoral license for a mad President Bush and his spymasters to eavesdrop on all Americans. For those willing to believe such things, mere facts don’t matter. But for anyone still amenable to reason, the deal is worth parsing for its national security precedents, good and bad. The next Democratic President might be grateful.

The good news is that the new law will at least allow the National Security Agency to monitor terrorist communications again. That ability has been severely limited since January, when Mr. Bush agreed to put the wiretap program under the supervision of a special court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The new law provides a six-month fix to the outdated FISA provision that had defined even foreign-to-foreign calls as subject to a U.S. judicial warrant.

The first duty of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell is to prevent the next terrorist attack, and it’s disgraceful that some have vilified him for trying to revive our intelligence ability in that cause. His effort has been no different, and no less honorable, than a general arguing for more troops.

But it’s important to understand for the debate ahead why all of this has become so ferociously controversial. Opposition from the Democratic left to this intelligence program isn’t merely part of the partisan blood feud against a weak President near the end of his term. It is part of a far larger ideological campaign to erode Presidential war powers. Goaded by the ACLU and much of the press corps, many Democrats want to use the courts and lawsuits to restrict Mr. Bush and future Presidents in their ability to gather intelligence in the war on terror. For a flavor of this strategy, spend a few minutes on the ACLU’s Web site.

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