American intelligence and the "high noon" scenario

It matters little that the reports may or may not be true or that foreign leaders may or may not have already suspected these activities. The issue now is that seemingly plausible accounts are in the public domain, and people are angry.

To be sure, there is some theater involved here. Public allegations of espionage require “victims” to be publicly outraged. But there also are legitimate concerns about privacy, and even theater can force reduced cooperation with the U.S. on a variety of issues.

And so the president is clearly committed to a “rebalancing.” He has teed this up by reminding audiences that “just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it,” and the coming report from his “outside experts” panel, due by year’s end, will give him recommendations (and political cover) for making some moves.

Fair enough. I had my share of “political guidance” while at the NSA, too. It’s not new.

But the administration needs to be careful not to overachieve.

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