So weary, in fact, that I'm not going to vex both myself and any readers by dredging up the countless essays Andrew McCarthy, Glenn Greenwald, and others have written on the subject. Those interested in familiarizing themselves with the contours of the debate will know where to find them.
I am surfeited with the cloying antics of the actors in this kabuki theater because, to a certain degree, the entire debate is an exercise in missing the point. The old FISA act has become cumbersome owing to advances in communications technology, resulting, among other things, in the transcendent absurdity that the law technically requires a warrant for surveillance of a call placed by jihadist A in Pakistan to jihadist B in Lebanon, if for some reason the call happens to be routed through the United States. This, however, is a comparatively minor issue, and everyone concurs on the necessity of a legal remedy. The real action is taking place in the debates over the surveillance powers the executive branch and its apologists assert are necessary to the safety and security of the American people, and the integrity of intelligence gathering itself. The surveillance, it is said, must be warrantless, at least until it is expedient to secure ex post facto legitimation, and companies complicit in the violation of the existing law must be immunized for those actions. Yawn.
If one were to distill this controversy down to its essentials, the respective positions would hold that, on the one hand, telecommunications technology is now wireless, mobile, and disposable, and that legions of jihadists are even now among us, conspiring to bring about our demise, and, on the other, that the threat has been exaggerated, and that the powers asserted by the executive threaten constitutional protections and immunities. It would seem that, in response to this issue of great import, the establishment is inclined to cede such powers to the executive, although the obstreperous remain opposed.
As I wrote back in August:
We fight them over there, because we will, indeed, must, have them over here; not having them here would be akin to them failing to emulate us over there, and so they simply must become like us, so that they will not fight us. We will succeed because we must. A failure to pursue openness would be unthinkable, unforgivable. We must succeed, and they must change, because we will not change.
In other words, in response to the threat of Muslims plotting against us, the preference of the political establishment is to augment the power of the executive branch, essentially performing an explicit coronation of the president as the sovereign, who decides upon the exceptions to the ordinary protections and procedures of the Constitution, rather than to traduce the stultifying orthodoxy of openness and multiculturalism by halting Muslim immigration. No, no - they're going to be here, and indeed must be here, and in consequence we simply must accede to the wishes of the executive branch for surveillance powers that, once granted, will be more likely to suffer abuse than rescission.
In the end, that is why I've grown weary of an issue that once elicited some measure of passion. The establishment is unserious about this, except insofar as it facilitates the recovery of potentially abusive powers that Congress foreclosed upon in the wake of Nixon's excesses. The entire nation, it seems, is unserious.