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Oregon Editors Say:

Surveillance is not 'spying' Americans are doing their jobs, trying to keep other Americans safe

The Albany Democrat-Herald

Shorthand in the news is doing the country an injustice by repeatedly referring to domestic spying.

Spying is not what's at issue here. Spying is universally illegal. If spies are caught, they are expelled, and if they're caught in the wrong country, they might face execution without much of a trial.

What has been disclosed by the New York Times, and endlessly repeated on the air and in print since last week, is an action by the president to authorize a phase of intelligence gathering in wartime. What he authorized was not spying but electronic monitoring of certain international telephone calls and e-mails.

This has nothing to do with domestic spying. The people doing the work are U.S. employees trying to safeguard the people of the United States in the shadowy terror war that has been going on since who knows how long but that entered an acute phase on 9/11.

In the terror war, our side does not face opposing generals and armies. It faces underground cells of people who operate rat-like ' stealthy, cunning, murderous, without any regard for any rules. And some may operate in this country, as the 9/11 hijackers did for a good long time before it was their time to strike.

— Our government has to assume that there may be other cells operating in this country. It has to assume that they may, from time to time, communicate with their networks overseas. So it was the most natural thing to keep an eye on these people if their identity was suspected, or to keep an electronic ear cocked generally for international communications that might reveal their presence and even, with luck, their plans.

Now it develops that a few members of Congress including Democrats were briefed on this program as it went along. Some say they didn't approve. So what? It was important that they be informed, but it was not up to them to approve. They are not in charge of our defense, and they would not have got the blame if another attack had taken place.

We have to remember that we're in a long and shadowy war. The first obligation of our leadership is to try to learn what the enemy is up to. We should be grateful that they are doing what they can.