Monday, December 19, 2005

Playing Al Qaeda Roulette - The Press, the Democrats, and the War on Terror

“A word to the wise ain't necessary, it's the stupid ones who need the advice.”

- Bill Cosby

I have some advice for the Democratic Party and the American press. Stop playing Al Qaeda roulette with the security of the American people.

It seems that the war in Iraq is going well. The soldiers conducting the war believe so. The people of Iraq believe it is. The President also believes that it is, calling his critics out in a televised national speech from the Oval Office last night:

“I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country — victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.”

But, the Democratic Party and the national press, seems these days to be in a different league. The prospect of victory in the war on terror is troubling them.

I’m a Democrat and I have many issues with the President and his party. But, on the issue of the war in Iraq and the war on terror, I supported the President when we and our allies took Saddam Hussein from international circulation. I support that decision now, notwithstanding the effort of Saddam’s lawyers and assorted international “friends” to continue insisting that he is still “the president” of Iraq:

“Saddam’s lawyers use a video link to speak to him as he languishes in a jail cell inside the courthouse during his trial.”

“Bizarrely, his legal team address Saddam as “Mr. President” — despite the fact he tortured, gassed and butchered an estimated 300,000 of his own people during a 24-year reign of terror.”

While the quote may be from a tabloid, it is instructive. Only someone like Ramsey Clark, whose list of clients is a who’s who of evil in the world, would staunchly defend men like Charles Taylor of Liberia, Rwanda’s Elizaphan Ntikarutimana, or Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia. Who but a fool would describe someone as debased and evil as Elizaphan Ntikarutimana as harmless pacifist:

“In February 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found both Ntakirutimana and his son Gérard guilty of genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994. The Tribunal found it proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ntakirutimana had transported armed attackers to the Mugonero complex, where they killed hundreds of Tutsi refugees. Ntakirutimana was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.”

Ramsey Clark, Defence Counsel for Ntakirutimana, described the clergyman as a pacifist who couldn't even “wring the neck of a chicken.”

Right! And Saddam Hussein is still the president of Iraq. Sure! Saddam was justified in the genocide he committed. This is a clear example of stupidity running amok.

How did a former Attorney General of the United States get to where he is now? The only answer I can come up with for his stupidity is, as comedians answer when asked about how one gets to Carnegie Hall, that it takes “practice, practice, practice.”

This brings me to the latest bout of stupidity that has infected the Democratic Party. As I said in my last post, the party I’ve voted for through almost all of my adult life put itself in jeopardy of being politically irrelevant by acting as implicit supporters of defeat in Iraq and the war on terror. The President, seeing where his political opponents were going, skillfully outflanked them. The Democratic Party has bet on the wrong horse in this race and unless they change horses in mid-stream they’ll continue to pay politically for their blunder. As John Podhoretz noted this morning:

“But in the end, “the need for victory is larger than any president or political party.” In the end, “the security of our people is in the balance.” Hate me. But if you love America and its brave men and women in uniform, you will agree with me that “the road to victory . . . is the road that will take them home.”

“Checkmate, Mr. Murtha.”

Unfortunately, though, I sense that the taxpayer subsidized stupidity is going to continue to be the mainstay of the Democratic Party playbook.

Over the weekend the New York Times seemed to give the Democrats the ammunition they feel they need to bring this President, and his war, down. The media claimed that the President violated the law by authorizing the wiretaps of Al Qaeda supporters making or receiving telephone calls or other communications from allies outside the United States. The Washington Post picked up on the story, then expounded on it as only the Washington Post can:

“Does the administration now claim that warrantless surveillance of hundreds of people by an agency generally barred from domestic spying is consistent with FISA? Does it claim that the congressional authorization to use military force against al Qaeda somehow unties the president's hands? Other than claiming it has done nothing illegal, the administration is not saying.”

The battle was joined. On Saturday the President responded:

“To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief.”

“In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.”

“This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.”

The President further claimed that the surveillance was legal, necessary, protective of the rights of Americans, and that Congress has been briefed and consulted more than twelve times about the on-going problem.

The Democratic Party response was swift, and predictable:

“Reid (Senate minority leader Harry Reid) acknowledged he had been briefed on the four-year-old domestic spy program “a couple months ago” but insisted the administration bears full responsibility. Reid became Democratic leader in January.” “The president can't pass the buck on this one. This is his program,” Reid said. “He's commander in chief. But commander in chief does not trump the Bill of Rights.”
“House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Saturday that she had been told on several occasions about unspecified activities by the NSA. Pelosi said she expressed strong concerns at the time.”

I think I’ve got it. Harry Reid says he’s been briefed, but he bears no responsibility. Nancy Pelosi says she’s been told several times about the program and had expressed “strong concerns.”

The Democratic response was, sadly, every bit as stupid as Ramsey Clark’s defense of terror.

This morning I watched the President’s news conference. He came out swinging, calling the leak of the information about the highly classified program “shameless.”

So, the swords are once again crossed. There is political warfare going on in America’s newsrooms and the seats of power.

I suppose I should be more trusting of our press, but my repeated bouts with Patrick Kelley at the Emporia Gazette have jaded me. While Mr. Kelley is a harmless small town journalist, though, the folks at the Washington Post and the New York Times aren’t. They’re powerful and they’re deadly. Knowing this, I decided to check out as many of the relevant statutes they are claiming the President has violated. I suspect that in the space of four hours today I’ve read more about the law relevant to this matter than most journalists covering the story.

Did the President break the law in this case?

Today he said he acted in accord with the U.S. Constitution, Senate joint resolution 23 (later to become public law 107-40), the war powers act of 1973, the Congressional Resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq (October, 2002), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

Let’s look at the relevant data. First, the Constitution. Article 2, section two states that:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”

The Democratic counter argument is that the surveillance violates the fourth amendment to the Constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I doubt that the Democrats or the New York Times would say that the surveillance was unreasonable. The crux of their argument, then, is that no warrant was issued for the surveillance.

The issue of warrants was raised by several journalists during today’s news conference. Why hadn’t the President and the NSA used the provisions of FISA, which was passed in 1978, to get the information they needed. I decided to see if what the boys in the Fourth Estate squared with the legal realities. After a bit of digging I found some very interesting information. A report compiled by the Congressional Research Service, prepared in September, 2004, noted that:

“Investigations for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence give rise to a
tension between the Government’s legitimate national security interests and the
protection of privacy interests. The stage was set for legislation to address these
competing concerns in part by Supreme Court decisions on related issues. In Katz
v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the Court held that the protections of the
Fourth Amendment extended to circumstances involving electronic surveillance of
oral communications without physical intrusion. The Katz Court stated, however,
that its holding did not extend to cases involving national security. (my emphasis added)

The report went on to highlight the tension between the executive branch to protect Americans from terror and the Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure:

“The Court held that, in the case of intelligence gathering involving domestic security
surveillance, prior judicial approval was required to satisfy the Fourth Amendment.
Justice Powell emphasized that the case before it “require[d] no judgment on the
scope of the President’s surveillance power with respect to the activities of foreign powers, within or without the country.” (my emphasis added)
The Court expressed no opinion as to “the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents.”

This is a fight that has been going on for years now. It all began with the passage of the War Powers Act of 1973. Using language stark, legal language, Congress appropriated to itself the power to direct the executive branch and to do its bidding:

“Notwithstanding subsection (b), at any time that United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.”

Since its passage in the Senate, lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, have used the law as a hammer against the White House. Democrats used it against Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Republicans used it to rein in Bill Clinton in Kosovo and prevented him from acting in Rwanda. The law has been challenged by successive administrations, who have argued that Congress violated the Constitutional provision for separation of powers in doing passing the War Powers Act. The debate still rages.

On September 14, 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C., Tom Daschle, Senate minority leader, drafted Senate Joint Resolution 23. The resolution was passed and became public law 107-40 on September 18, 2001.

The language seems clear, unambiguous:

“Whereas on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens;”

“Whereas such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad;”

“Whereas in the light of the threat to national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence;”

“Whereas such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and”

“Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, Now therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America assembled,”

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

After all the legal language, there are some things that still remain clear. The President of the United States, whether Republican or Democrat, is our Commander in Chief. The United States is also at war with terrorists, whether they be nations, organizations, or persons. And, the President does have recognized authority under the Constitution to take action. Finally, the President believes he has acted in accord with that authority and has also acted in accord with the Constitution, including the fourth amendment.

There are a couple of things that don’t seem clear. The War Powers Act of 1973 may not be as constitutional as its congressional proponents argue. It may violate the important doctrine of separation of powers. Additionally, it isn’t at all clear that the President violated FISA provisions for warrants in the surveillance issue. In fact, legal scholars, including a Supreme Court justice, seem to think otherwise.

We may now be headed for a constitutional showdown. In a time of war, when the energy and resources of the nation need to be focused on winning the war in Iraq, the war on terror, and national unity, the press and the Democratic Party are playing an exceedingly dangerous game. They’re playing with the lives of Americans, using them as political pawns in a power game. They may be, as the President said today, engaging in “shameful” acts. In fact, it might even be worse, a violation of article 3, section 3 of the Constitution under which journalists ply their trade and lawmakers have sworn to uphold.

This morning, John McIntyre, founder of Real Clear Politics, noted that:

“One of the major problems working against Democrats is many on their side appear to be rooting for failure in Iraq and publicly ridicule the idea that we actually might win. When this impression is put in context of the debate over eavesdropping or the Patriot Act, Democrats run the significant risk of being perceived to be more concerned with the enemy’s rights than protecting ordinary Americans. This is a loser for Democrats.”

“If Democrats want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story they are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story is out and the security damage is already done, let’s have a full investigation into exactly who the President spied on and why. Let’s also find out who leaked this highly classified information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If the president is found to have broken the law and spied on political opponents or average Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, then Bush should be impeached and convicted.”

“But unlike Senator Levin, who claimed on Meet The Press yesterday not to know what the President’s motives were when he authorized these eavesdropping measures, I have no doubt that the President’s use of this extraordinary authority was solely an attempt to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies. Let the facts and the truth come out, but the White House’s initial response is a pretty powerful signal that they aren’t afraid of where this is heading.”

I don’t know what Mr. McIntyre’s political persuasion is, but I’m with him. Let’s finish our noble work in Iraq. Let’s win this war on terror. Let’s root out the terrorists, whether they live abroad or in the United States. Let’s stop acting on the basis of hate or political agenda. Let’s let the facts and the truth come out. It’s simple, really. The Democratic Party and the press need to start acting like loyal, responsible Americans. That’s the need of the hour, not stupidity.


Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


Anonymous said...

"Let's finish our noble work in Iraq" - what "noble work" would that be? The killing of civilians to further American interests? Your country has lost the plot but you as a nation are too selfish, arrogant and stupid to see it.

And by the's not a "war" - it's an invasion of a sovereign country by the USA - yet again.

Ed Darrell said...

What do you make of uber-conservative Michael Luttig's calling out of the president on the issue of illegal detainments? Did the Bush administration lie before about Padilla, or are they lying now?