December 20, 2005
Don't Let Congress Trump National Security
been a successful terrorist attack in the United States since
Sep. 11th, 2001. Congress may be about to change that.
provisions of the Patriot Act will expire at the end of the year,
because a Democratic filibuster in the U.S. Senate blocked their
provisions, the FBI will lose most of its ability to track terrorists,
the head of the FBI's national security division told the Washington
important of these provisions is for roving wiretaps, said Gary
had that capability for years on the drug side of the ship and
frankly what it does is it cuts out the requirement for us to
go back to a judge every time a drug dealer throws his cell phone
into the river and gets another one," Bald said.
those who are trying to protect us from terrorists the tools law
enforcement has had for years to wield against less dangerous
criminals, Congress moved to make it unlikely we will ever again
get useful information from interrogation of terror suspects.
added to the defense bill a measure proposed by Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz) forbidding "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment" of prisoners.
media misleadingly have described this as "banning torture,"
but torture has long been prohibited by U.S. law. What the McCain
amendment effectively will do is to prevent us from treating terror
suspects as harshly as U.S. service members are treated in SERE
(Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school, or in Marine boot
of interrogation technique McCain says will be prohibited is "water
boarding." (In water boarding, the subject is strapped to
an inclined board, his feet above his head, and his face is wrapped.
Water is then poured over him. This gives the sensation of drowning,
without any actual physical danger.) Other forms of coercive interrogation
are to make the prisoner stand for long periods of time; to deprive
him of sleep; to shackle him in uncomfortable positions.
whole point of these sorts of interrogation is to break the human
will without breaking the mind or body," said retired Air
Force lieutenant colonel Buzz Patterson, a graduate of SERE training.
"I can attest they work like a champ."
Mohammed, the lead planner of the 9/11 attacks and al Qaida's
number three when he was captured in 2003, allegedly lasted less
than three minutes before spilling his guts after being subjected
treatment could be defined as anything that makes a terror suspect
uncomfortable, such as being stripped naked, or being interrogated
by a female interrogator.
any al Qaida operative captured in the future provide us with
information, if his interrogators are forbidden from doing anything
that would make him seriously uncomfortable, and he knows it,
because Congress and the news media have broadcast this fact to
It gets worse.
Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted terrorists involved in the 1993
attack on the World Trade Center, says the McCain amendment could
require U.S. troops to give to terrorists -- who are not entitled
even to the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war
because they are unlawful combatants -- the rights accorded to
criminal defendants in the U.S.
may very well have to be given Miranda warnings as well as free
lawyers -- underwritten by the Americans they are trying to kill,"
McCarthy wrote in National Review Online.
Congressional contretemps is over the revelation by the New
York Times that after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush authorized
to the National Security Agency to listen in on telephone conversations
between al Qaida suspects abroad and people in the United States.
the taps were conducted without first obtaining warrants from
the special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act because there wasn't time to obtain them.
lawful, under both an exception in the FISA act, and in
Congress' authorization of the use of force after 9/11, and
congressional leaders were informed of the taps, Attorney General
Alberto Gonzalez said Monday.
think they can make political hay by expressing more concern for
the "rights" of the enemy than for the safety of Americans,
they're mistaken, said John
McIntyre of RealClearPolitics: "Democrats have still
not fully grasped that the public has profound and long standing
concerns about their ability to defend the nation," he said.
Kelly is national security columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio.