Today, the National Security Administration, or NSA, got slammed by a federal judge who found that its practice of systematically keeping records of all Americans' phone calls probably violates the U.S. Constitution:
In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia called the program's technology "almost Orwellian" and suggested that James Madison, the author of the Constitution, would be "aghast" to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way.
"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary' invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval," Judge Leon wrote. "Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."
Wow — you know who ought to offer Judge Leon a job if he ever decides to hang up the robe?
"60 Minutes," because that show really needs someone who can ask tough questions of the NSA.
OK, I'm still boycotting CBS' increasingly tarnished flagship news program, which refuses to conduct an independent probe or ask itself tough questions about how it aired a bogus report on Benghazi several weeks ago. But I have read numerous accounts (read more here) that last night it aired a 28-minute promotional puff piece for the government spy agency — by not including any critics of the NSA's broad overreaches, like the program struck down by judge Leon — and essentially provided top government officials with a platform to blast whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA is entitled to tell its side of the story. But numerous media critics say that what aired in the time slot once glorified by the likes of Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley was a pure infomercial for the U.S. government, not resembling journalism in any way shape or form. (Indeed, the reporter, John Miller, is a former security official said to be in the process of angling for a new government post.)
I do think that CBS News and "60 Minutes" have been pandering to the right, possibly because older whites — the base of the Republican Party — are also essentially the last remaining viewers of news on the big traditional networks. But I want to be clear — that's not the problem. The problems are a) in its eagerness to pander to a new audience, "60 Minutes" aired reports on disability fraud and on Benghazi that were fundamentally dishonest and b) its shameful kowtowing to those in power, regardless of ideology. As many commenters rightly pointed out when I wrote about "60 Minutes" previously, the show has also become a safe haven for President Obama to answer softball questions.
The travesty of a mockery of a puff piece of a one-sided sham that aired last night was just the exclamation point on all of that.