Epstein on NSA Surveillance in Chicago Tribune

NSA surveillance in perspective

President Barack Obama is under harsh attack for stating the obvious: No amount of government ingenuity will guarantee the American people 100 percent security, 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. He was answering a burst of more heated responses from left and right alike to the "news" that for years the National Security Agency has been collecting metadata about Americans' phone calls and certain foreign Internet communications.

Legally, the president is on secure footing under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed shortly after 9/11 and has since reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities. As he stressed, the program has enjoyed the continued support of all three branches of the federal government. It has been free of political abuse since its inception. And as he rightly added, this nation has real problems if its people, at least here, can't trust the combined actions of the executive branch and the Congress, backstopped by federal judges sworn to protect our individual liberties secured by the Bill of Rights.

In asking for our trust, Obama would be on stronger ground, of course, if the NSA controversy had not followed hard on the heels of the ongoing Benghazi, IRS and AP/Fox News scandals — to say nothing of Attorney General Eric Holder's problems. But give Obama due credit: We can recall no other instance in which he announced publicly that the responsibilities of his office have changed his mind. And for the better — here's why.

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