We need a toughening of both congressional oversight and judicial review, perhaps even some independent outside scrutiny.
Plus periodic legislative revision — say, reauthorization every four years — in the light of efficacy of the safeguards and the nature of the external threat.
The object is not to abolish these vital programs. It's to fix them.
Not exactly easy to do amid the current state of national agitation — provoked largely because such intrusive programs require a measure of trust in government and this administration has forfeited that trust amid an unfolding series of scandals and a basic problem with truth-telling.
There are nonetheless two other reasons these revelations have sparked such anxiety.
Every spying program is a compromise between liberty and security. Yet here is a president who campaigned on the proposition that he would transcend such pedestrian considerations.
"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," he declared in his first inaugural address, no less.
When caught with his hand on your phone data, however, President Obama offered this defense: "You can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy. . . . We're going to have to make some choices as a society."
So it wasn't such a false choice after all, was it, Mr. President?
Nor does it help that just three weeks ago the president issued a major foreign policy manifesto whose essential theme was that the War on Terror is drawing to a close and its very legal underpinning, the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, should be not just reformed but repealed to prevent "keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing."
Now it turns out that Obama's government was simultaneously running a massive, secret anti-terror intelligence operation.
But if the tide of war is receding, why this vast, ever-expanding NSA dragnet whose only justification is an outside threat — that you assure us is ever receding?
Which is it, Mr. President?
Tell it straight. We are a nation of grown-ups. We can make choices.
Even one it took you four years to admit is not "false."
Krauthammer's email address is lett...@charleskrauthammer.com.