Monday, January 30, 2006

Politics of Domestic "Spying"

There's a moving article in Monday's Wall Street Journal Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines plane that was crashed into the Pentagon. She decries the current politicization of national security, arguing that it puts us at great risk of another attack.
Meanwhile, the media, mouthing phrases like "Article II authority," "separation of powers" and "right to privacy," are presenting the issues as if politics have nothing to do with what is driving the subject matter and its coverage. They want us to forget four years of relentless "connect-the-dots" reporting about the missed chances that "could have prevented 9/11." They have discounted the relevance of references to the two 9/11 hijackers who lived in San Diego. But not too long ago, the media itself reported that phone records revealed that five or six of the hijackers made extensive calls overseas.

NBC News aired an "exclusive" story in 2004 that dramatically recounted how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda "switchboard" inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar's brother-in-law lived. The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, "The NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn't deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying." Back then, the NBC script didn't describe it as "spying on Americans." Instead, it was called one of the "missed opportunities that could have saved 3,000 lives."
"The Wall," that was instituted by the Clinton Administration expressly to prohibit intelligence agencies from sharing intelligence, was a big part of the failure to stop the 9/11 murders. The FISA court, currently much beloved by those eager to bash the Bush Administration, was also a big part of the problem.

What about the "secret," "illegal" wiretaps ordered without FISA court approval? Paul Gigot and James Taranto had this exchange on The Journal Editorial Report this weekend:
Gigot: James, you and I interviewed the vice president, Vice President Cheney, this week on executive power. And he made an interesting argument when we asked him why they didn't go to Congress to get Congress to expand that authority. What did he say?

Taranto: Well, he said they were briefing eight or nine top leaders of the Intelligence Committee and the leaders of the House and the Senate, and they all agreed, including the Democrats, that secrecy was essential here, that is we had a public debate about this, it would have bad effects on national security.
Now, the Democrats are saying a different tune now, publicly. But that suggests that their base, the base of their party, is so unhinged that Democratic leaders can't afford to be responsible about national security, except behind closed doors.
Sad, but true. The lunatics are running the Democrat asylum these days.

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