December 20, 2005
National Insecurity

By Debra Saunders

Some D.C. Democrats are demanding an investigation -- impeachment even -- in the wake of last week's New York Times story about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on international calls and e-mails from suspected terror players to Americans. The shriller they get, the more President Bush looks like a strong leader who is willing to stick out his neck and take the heat to protect the American people.

As The New York Times reported, several officials credit the NSA eavesdropping with uncovering a plot by Iyman Faris to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge. The paper also reported that the NSA "special collection program" began in early 2002, after the CIA captured al-Qaida biggie Abu Zubaydah and others, along with their computers, cell phones and directors. Are there really Americans who would want intelligence agents to take their time -- delay hours or more -- with that information?

Hold hearings -- please. While Bush's constant critics carp at the questionable legality of what the White House did, it is clear that this is no Watergate: Dubya authorized more than 30 orders extending the NSA eavesdropping. This also is no Iran-Contra: The Bushies informed members of Congress.

As former White House lawyer Brad Blakeman noted: "The fact is, it's reviewed every 45 days. There's a paper trail for it being done. There were consultations with Congress." Why the outrage, then? Try: "Some of our democratic opponents are trying to weaken this president at the expense of our country."

It is not an attractive pattern -- far-left Democrats vote with Bush, then pounce when the president's poll numbers drop. Note that some Democrats who voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 -- as in California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein -- supported last week's filibuster that prevented the Senate from voting up or down on the measure's reauthorization.

As Bush said, the filibustering senators "need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September the 11th attacks but now think it's no longer necessary."

Watch what surely will happen next. The public will show support for Bush on the Patriot Act. Then principle-challenged Democrats will find a pretense for supporting the law.

Civil liberties? Sorry, but if Democrats cared about civil liberties, they would object to federal funding of random drug tests for public school students. Oddly, many support random drug tests for innocent kids -- then get teary-eyed about the privacy rights of cell-phone terrorists.

Then there's the Democrats' about-face on Iraq. Too many supported the resolution authorizing force in Iraq when it was popular, only to undermine the war effort as support for the war softened in the polls -- with little a thought as to how their actions affect the welfare of U.S. troops stationed abroad.

So Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., warned, "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril."

Do I have concerns about the NSA eavesdropping? Sure. But then, so did the administration, which according to The New York Times, suspended parts of the program as officials feared that the NSA "was in danger of misleading" federal courts. Other critics note the NSA could get warrants without much difficulty.

Yes, the nation's spooks should obtain warrants unless there is good reason not to. But if there is good reason not to get a warrant for calls or e-mails coming from overseas, then, I say, eavesdrop first, ask questions later.

As for the get-Bush crowd, I have a little suggestion: Don't tie the hands of the intelligence community -- and then hold hearings about intelligence breakdowns if there is another attack on American soil.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Debra Saunders

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More Commentary

Why Didn't Bush Ask Congress? - George Will
Enough. Let's Try 'Accountability.' - Richard Cohen
Merry You-Know-What - Thomas Sowell


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