It has become fashionable to say that the controversy surrounding President Bush's domestic spying program is about the problem of balancing civil liberties and national security. But I think the real issue is Bush's apparent belief that he can do anything he wants, and justify it in the name of fighting terror. Bush and others in the administration have argued that the President's wartime powers trump some of the important constitutional guarantees and civil liberties that Americans had previously taken for granted. But they don't seem to see the irony of fighting on behalf of liberty in Afghanistan and Iraq while curtailing precious liberties here at home. This is not China or the old Soviet Union. The U.S. should be the one place on the planet where even a devastating terror strike is unable to shake the foundations of the government, which is grounded in the rule of law, the separation of powers, and a constitution that guarantees the fundamental rights of the citizenry. The administration shouldn't be allowed to use war as an excuse. The U.S. is a special place in large part because no one, not even the President, is above the law.
Bob Herbert [1/12/06]