1. First, the notion that we are entitled to freedom from all eavesdropping is simply nonsense. Harry Blackmun's feelings
did not create a constitutional 'right to privacy', no matter how loudly his fellow black-robed saboteurs may insist on it. They didn't really mean to make an overall right anyway; they were just working to maximize the profits of Big Abortion.
The 4th Amendment, though it unfortunately contains that vague word 'reasonable', is talking specifically about searches. In modern terms, it does put limits on searching the contents of your hard disk, but it was never meant to apply to communications made through public channels. If you're using a government-owned channel like the post office, or a government-allocated channel like the radio spectrum ... or if you're talking in a place where anyone could walk in, like a church or mosque ... you have no more expectation of 'privacy' than you would when talking on a sidewalk. Court decisions are quite firm and consistent on this point.
2. Second, the government has always spied internally
on suspicious people, whether a law prohibited such activity or not. Nixon happened to get caught because he was an anti-Communist, and thus working against most of the government and media. But he was simply copying the tactics of FDR, JFK and LBJ. Clinton carried on the same tactics, but of course he's a Dem, so nobody needed to investigate or punish him.
Personal example from the Reagan years: In 1982 I was active in the Nuclear Freeze movement, participating in two different groups based in Kansas City and Lawrence. Each group had a spy, who made no particular effort at concealment. In Lawrence, a member named Mark described himself as a 'former CIA agent', and seemed to have no other job. In KC, where the group included several teachers at the DeVry school, a 30-year-old student named Cindy said she worked for the State Department, and claimed to be taking electronics courses to further her career. Fairly transparent, since she didn't live in KC to begin with, and one can assume the gov't has its own MacGyver School of Electronics for secret agents. When we joined a Nuke Freeze march in Washington, Cindy made a point of mentioning that she had 'happened' to be back in DC that day, and had 'happened' to see us marching.
Note that the post-Watergate reforms were fresh in 1982, so the law was quite clear at that time.
I can't speak for the other members, but I have mostly positive feelings about the monitoring. Chilling effect? Yes. It probably kept us from taking some drastic actions. But were there any consequences? No. None of us were arrested or hassled, and as far as I know, none of us had any career problems as a result. The monitoring forced me to realize that we were doing something genuinely wrong -- helping the Soviets, not just working for 'peace' -- and gave me a sort of kickstart on the way toward conservatism.
3. So the NYTimes revealing this particular episode of monitoring may well have a healthy chilling effect on the enemy, despite the Times's traitorous intentions.
Al-Qaeda's skill-set is more spycraft than military, thanks to intensive training by Pakistani and Iraqi intelligence, so we can assume they are already
taking all necessary precautions against wiretapping and eavesdropping, including encryption. The Times article doesn't tell them anything they don't already know; it just gives ammunition to internal enemies like McCain, Kennedy, Leahy and McDermott. (Sidenote: Ever wonder why so many internal traitors have Irish names? I truly don't know, but it's an interesting tendency!)
But independent or semi-pro sections of Allah's Army aren't so well-trained. They might now decide to change their methods, and might do it rather clumsily. The gov't can detect those changes by traffic analysis, which may provide useful info.
However, I'm making a dubious assumption here. It's true that no law will prevent a (properly) sneaky gov't agency from watching suspicious people. Like it or not, this task is sometimes necessary. But a law may prevent a gentlemanly
executive like Bush Junior from accomplishing his basic duty, which is to protect us from internal and external enemies. Since Bush Junior has declared himself to be a Conscientious Objector when it comes to using mean-spirited tactics against the enemy, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he lets the ACLU take over intelligence to satisfy the NYTimes.
12:30 PST: Bush has just now made a special speech in which he STRONGLY CRITICIZED the NYTimes (and whoever leaked to it) as damaging the war effort; and DECLARED that the internal spying WILL CONTINUE! I'm shocked in a positive way. He's finally, finally, finally starting to behave less like a Christian pacifist and more like a competent wartime President! Maybe we finally stand a real chance of winning this war. BRAVO.