In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria argues that we need a domestic spy agency in order to combat terror.
So the FBI will now tap phones, track bank accounts and work with the CIA. Does this sound familiar? The last time the FBI got involved in “political intelligence,” during the Johnson and Nixon years, it was more politics than intelligence. (Remember the phone taps on Martin Luther King Jr.?) In fact, it was those abuses of power that produced many of the restraints that prohibit the FBI from acting as an intelligence agency.
We must learn from those errors and get it right this time. We need a domestic intelligence capability. Every major power in the world has one, most with too much power. Britain’s M.I.5 and France’s Renseignements Generaux can open mail and tap phones at will. (Many in Washington believe that one reason so many terrorists operated out of Germany is that — fearful of creating another Gestapo — it has a weak internal security agency.) In an age of terrorism, when the enemy will often be operating inside America, we can’t remain blindfolded.
There’s only one way to get security and liberty at the same time: Authorize the FBI to engage in domestic intelligence with clearly demarcated powers; put the agency under much stronger “civilian” oversight, including from Congress, and let it know specifically what it can and cannot do.
I’ve been wrestling with this one since about September 13, when the initial shock and “nuke’em all” rage first wore off.
Domestic spying. Our government, spying on us. Scary stuff. Also scary is airliners flying into office towers, dirty dombs, small pox, nuclear suicide bombers
Frankly, I just don’t know.
But I do know that Zakaria has made a pretty damn weak case on how our liberties can be protected while what little privacy we have left is stripped. So for now, I remain unconvinced.