I don’t see any particular reason to think this business of illicit snooping into Barack Obama’s passport records was some kind of administration plot. On the contrary, the fact that we’re hearing about it and the perpetrators are being punished suggests it weren’t. The administration dirty tricks plot, if there is one, would presumably involve its penchant for illegal electronic surveillance. Turning the spyglass on your political rivals has been the traditional use of oversight-free surveillance power in the United States and now that it’s back it wouldn’t exactly be shocking if we were to find out that the abuse is back, too.
And yet, nobody seems to want to talk about this aspect of the surveillance issue. It would, I think, be unserious to suggest that the Bush administration might abuse power in this way. To be sure, every administration for the period of four or five decades leading up to the Church Commission engaged in those kind of abuses to one degree or another but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous to accuse Bush of harboring those kind of ambitions.