From the President's weekly radio address:
"This week, new claims have been made about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. It is important for Americans to understand that our activities strictly target al Qaeda and its known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans.
The intelligence activities I have authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda terrorists and its affiliates who want to harm the American people.
Americans expect their government to do everything in its power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. That is exactly what we are doing."
Let's leave aside the obvious lies: that the NSA program "strictly targets al Qaeda and its known affiliates" (tens of millions of them, apparently, all here in the US), or that "we are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." I'm interested in the claim that our privacy is being "fiercely protected" by this administration. And I'm curious: what, exactly, is the threat to our privacy from which we are being fiercely protected? If Bush and his administration are our protectors, what exactly is he protecting us from?
There are threats to our privacy out there -- corporations amassing huge databases full of personal information, for instance, and identity thieves. But I haven't noticed this administration spending a lot of time protecting us from them. The Congress hasn't done much either: despite any number of scandals in which personal information is lost or sold to criminals, Congress is currently considering legislation that wouldn't do much to solve the problem, and might preempt much better state laws. So that can't be what Bush had in mind.
Maybe the real reason we went to war with Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was after the personal records of American citizens; and there's some deep, dark reason why the President can't tell us about it. Maybe that explains why none of his other rationales make sense: they're all just cover stories for Saddam's unmentionable threat to our privacy. Maybe our privacy is threatened by fiscal sanity, or the estate tax, or the city of New Orleans, or that fish the President caught. Or maybe the reason he likes to whack away at the mesquite on his ranch that it's a would-be invader of privacy in a very, very clever disguise.
Somehow, I don't think so.
So what is this nameless threat to our privacy from which our President is so fiercely protecting us? The only thing I can think of is: himself.
And that would give a whole new meaning to the term 'divided government'.