Amid all the heated cross-currents of debate about the National Security Agency's massive surveillance program, there is a growing distrust of the Obama administration that makes weighing the costs and benefits of the NSA program itself hard to assess.
The belated recognition of this administration's contempt for the truth, for the American people and for the Constitution of the United States has been long overdue.
But what if the NSA program has in fact thwarted terrorists and saved many American lives in ways that cannot be revealed publicly?
Nothing is easier than saying that you still don't want your telephone records collected by the government.
But the first time you have to collect the remains of your loved ones after they have been killed by terrorists, telephone records can suddenly seem like a small price to pay to prevent such things.
The millions of records of phone calls collected every day virtually guarantee that nobody has the time to listen to them all, even if NSA could get a judge to authorize listening to what is said in all
these calls instead of just keeping a record of who called whom.
Moreover, congressional oversight by members of both political parties limits what Barack Obama or any other president can get away with.
Are these safeguards foolproof?
No. Nothing is ever foolproof.
As Edmund Burke said more than two centuries ago: "Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state."
In other words, we do not have a choice whether to trust or not to trust government officials.
Unless we are willing to risk anarchy or terrorism, the most we can do is set up checks and balances within government - and be a lot more careful in the future than we have been in the past when deciding whom to elect.
Anyone old enough will remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when President John F. Kennedy took this country to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.