Playing Pick Up Sticks With National Security

Back from a fine hiking vacation, I have a short op-ed in USA Today:

Many of us played Pick Up Sticks in our youth, slowly pulling first one then another stick from the jumble. You lost the game by pulling out the stick that collapsed the pile. It’s a great way to pass a rainy afternoon, but a bad way to set national security policy….

[W]e’ve seen aggressive civil liberties campaigns in the second term of every president since at least Bill Clinton. In the 1990s, these campaigns made it politically impossible to object when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court imposed a “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement. Then, in George W. Bush’s second term, Congress put new limits on intelligence wiretaps. And now, right on schedule, another round of civil liberties attacks is being launched, this time at President Obama.

We seem unable to separate our feelings about the occupant of the Oval Office from the agencies that protect all Americans. Every few years, in a fever of opposition to whoever has been re-elected to the White House, we look over the country’s security measures and pull another one out of the pile.

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