Washington is beginning to debate the proper extent of government eavesdropping powers in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA. It’s hardly as robust a discussion as it should be, but it’s a desperately needed start.
The colossal effort to monitor Americans’ communications has been going on for at least seven years, under two presidents. It constitutes an expansion of government power without precedent in the modern era. Yet while some members of Congress were informed about it — and all had the opportunity to learn — none saw an urgent need for public discussion. This is astounding. It took the actions of a leaker to spur any real airing of the matter on Capitol Hill.