Apart from the day the New York Times goes out of business — and the stellar work Paul Krugman’s column does twice a week helping people house-train their puppies — the newspaper has done the greatest thing it will ever do in its entire existence. (Calm down: No, the Times didn’t hold an intervention for Frank Rich.)
Monday’s Times carried a major expose on child molesters who use the Internet to lure their adolescent prey into performing sex acts for Webcams. In the course of investigating the story, reporter Kurt Eichenwald broke open a massive network of pedophiles, rescued a young man who had been abused for years, and led the Department of Justice to hundreds of child molesters.
I kept waiting for the catch, but apparently the Times does not yet believe pedophilia is covered by the "privacy right." They should stop covering politics and start covering more stories like this.
In order to report the story, the Times said it obtained:
— Copies of online conversations and e-mail messages between minors and the creepy adults;
— Records of payments to the minors;
— Membership lists for Webcam sites;
— Defunct sites stored in online archives;
— Files retained on a victim’s computer over several years;
— Financial records, credit card processing data and other information;
— The Neverland Ranch’s mailing list. (OK, I made that last one up.)
Would that the Times allowed the Bush administration similar investigative powers for Islamofacists in America!
Which brings me to this week’s scandal about No Such Agency spying on "Americans." I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
But if we must engage in a national debate on half-measures: After 9/11, any president who was not spying on people calling phone numbers associated with terrorists should be impeached for being an inept commander in chief.
With a huge gaping hole in lower Manhattan, I’m not sure why we have to keep reminding people, but we are at war. (Perhaps it’s because of the media blackout on images of the 9/11 attack. We’re not allowed to see those because seeing planes plowing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon might make us feel angry and jingoistic.)
Among the things that war entails are: killing people (sometimes innocent), destroying buildings (sometimes innocent) and spying on people (sometimes innocent).
That is why war is a bad thing. But once a war starts, it is going to be finished one way or another, and I have a preference for it coming out one way rather than the other.
In previous wars, the country has done far worse than monitor telephone calls placed to jihad headquarters. FDR rounded up Japanese — many of them loyal American citizens — and threw them in internment camps. Most appallingly, at the same time, he let New York Times editors wander free.
Note the following about the Japanese internment:
1) The Supreme Court upheld the president’s authority to intern the Japanese during wartime;
2) That case, Korematsu v. United States, is still good law;
3) There are no Japanese internment camps today. (Although the no-limit blackjack section at Caesar’s Palace on a Saturday night comes pretty close.)
It’s one or the other: Either we take the politically correct, scattershot approach and violate everyone’s civil liberties, or we focus on the group threatening us and — in the worst-case scenario — run the risk of briefly violating the civil liberties of 1,000 people in a country of 300 million.
Of course, this is assuming I’m talking to people from the world of the normal. In the Democrats’ world, there are two more options. Violate no one’s civil liberties and get used to a lot more 9/11s, or the modified third option, preferred by Sen. John D. Rockefeller: Let the president do all the work and take all the heat for preventing another terrorist attack while you place a letter expressing your objections in a file cabinet as a small parchment tribute to your exquisite conscience.