Alexander's Column

Bug 'em and bag 'em!

By Mark Alexander · Jan. 6, 2006

“The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.” –Alexander Hamilton

Eight months after George W. Bush was sworn in as our 43rd President, al-Qa'ida terrorists, under the direction Osama bin Laden, hijacked four commercial jets and used them to kill almost 3,000 of our countrymen, all of them noncombatants in a decades-old asymmetric war between Islamofascists and liberty.

Three days after that bloodshed, the U.S. Senate and House voted 98-0 and 420-1, respectively, to authorize the President by war resolution “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.”

Bin Laden and his terrorist cadre planned the 9/11 attack during the last three years of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s regime, training the cell leaders and pre-positioning assets in the U.S. Bin Laden’s actions were largely unabated by the Clinton administration, which was more interested in sending thousands of federal agents to search for a lone abortion-clinic bomber in the mountains of North Carolina than killing or capturing Osama. Eric Rudolph was a much more politically attractive target than Bin Laden back in 1998. Unfortunately, Rudolph evaded capture during that two-year manhunt. In the same time period, the CIA and military had several opportunities to take clear shots at Osama – but Clinton declined.

Fortunately, since 9/11, there have been no “future acts of international terrorism against the United States,” in large measure because of the vision and determination of President Bush to implement his Doctrine of Preemption. Mr. Bush and our Allies dispatched the best fighting forces on earth, to Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations undisclosed, in an effort to take the fight to the enemy – the only way to prevail in The Long War against an asymmetric threat, particularly in the nuclear age.

Terrorists have not been able to strike again, but there have been plenty of acts of treason against the United States, most of which have been led by political opportunists like Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, et al.

Insisting they “support our troops,” these consummate leftists have emboldened the enemy by attacking our troops' Commander in Chief, with the insalubrious goal of gaining political ground. In other words, key Democrats are willing to use the lives of America’s Armed Forces for nothing more than campaign fodder, going into midterm elections.

The Left’s labors to undermine the administration’s effort to protect the U.S. from a catastrophic WMD attack know no bounds.

In recent weeks, the Left attempted to derail the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. As you know, first and foremost, the Patriot Act removes most of the legal and bureaucratic barriers preventing law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorists and terrorist organizations targeting the U.S. and our citizens around the world. Implementation of the Patriot Act has, according to well placed intelligence sources, resulted in the prevention of significant terrorist acts on U.S. soil, including two interdictions of WMD, one of those being nuclear WMD. (For more details on the latter, see next week’s edition.)

As the debate about Patriot Act reauthorization got underway in mid-December, it became clear that Democrats are making “privacy” a central theme of their midterm-election campaigns. Concurrent with that debate, but hardly coincidental, on 16 December The New York Times published a front-page story accusing President Bush of using the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens without a court order. As you now know, the story detailed how the National Security Agency targeted certain communications between known international terrorists and their U.S. counterparts or supporters.

Of course, the timing of the story not only bolstered the Democrats' privacy complaints against the Patriot Act, but it was dropped the same week Time’s reporter James Risen released his book ostensibly detailing all kinds of Patriot Act abuses.

The Times and all their follow-up media claim their articles are “in the national interest” – to determine if President Bush has broken any laws authorizing the NSA surveillance. However, The Times had already determined, a year earlier when information about the NSA’s surveillance program was first leaked, that President Bush had not violated any laws related to procedures outlined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The President’s actions were fully within his prescribed constitutional authority.

“The Constitution vests in the president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority,” wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002.

General Ashcroft’s opinion was similar to that of previous administrations. Back in 1994, after the first attack on the World Trade Center by Islamists, Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick argued, “The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General.”

In fact, the only law that has been broken in regard to the NSA’s activity is U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 37, Section 798, pertaining to the illegal release of national-security information.

Ironically, when former CIA case officer Valerie Plame was identified by the press as being with the CIA last year, Democrats were in full protest, accusing the Bush administration of disclosing the information to The Times as political retribution and calling for an independent counsel and a full investigation. They got that investigation, and it resulted in no criminal charges of a leak, because Plame was not a covert officer at the time she was identified as being with the CIA, and her name was mentioned by an administration official only after her husband, Joe Wilson, wrote an article for The Times about his CIA mission to determine if Iraq was procuring yellow-cake uranium from North Africa.

The exposure of Plame’s association with the CIA had exactly NO implications or consequences for U.S. national security. However, the exposure of the NSA’s methods and capabilities in regard to intercepting communications between terrorists targeting the U.S. has significant and immediate implications for our national security.

Why? Well, for example, in 1998, as al-Qa'ida was preparing their 9/11 attack, the NSA was tracking electronic communications from senior al-Qa'ida operatives, including Osama. When that information was leaked to, and by, the press, Osama disposed of his old satellite phone system and set up a whole different set of communication protocols, thus eluding detection of his 9/11 plans.

The same realignment of communication protocols is now taking place as a result of The Times NSA disclosure.

“Our enemies have learned information they should not have,” said President Bush this week. “The unauthorized disclosure of this [NSA] effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country. … It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war.” Treasonous, actually – and the Justice Department will soon determine which Democrat operative is the culprit.

More to the point, former NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, said last week, “This program has been successful in detecting and preventing attacks inside the United States.” Indeed it has, as we noted above.

So where are the Democrats protesting this traitorous leak – and demanding investigations? Don’t hold your breath… Ironically, the Democrats have made “intelligence failures” the staple of their criticism of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now they seem determined to ensure intelligence failures.

As for The New York Times, to date, it has not even answered its own ombudsman’s inquiry about the timing of its 16 December article. Not to be outdone by The Times, national media outlets have, in the last two weeks, published irresponsible headline stories on other intelligence methods, including secret U.S. detention centers for captured terrorists around the world and technology used in major cities to detect transit of fissile material.

For now, the Left got what it wanted – The Patriot Act was reauthorized but 16 key provisions were put on a very short renewal lease of only one month. So the debate begins all over again this month. The Democrats are holding passage of those provisions hostage in order to obtain other, unrelated legislative concessions. Regarding the privacy issue, The Patriot editors certainly advocate for redundant oversight of all domestic surveillance procedures because of the potential for civil-liberty abuses. But Democrats' objections to the Patriot Act have nothing to do with civil liberties and everything to do with political appearances.

There is no place for such trivial objections on the warfront with a determined enemy.