Who's Letting Our Guard Down Now?

Hillary Clinton is attacking President Bush for not doing enough for homeland security.

"Somewhere along the line," she said in a recent speech, "we lost our edge. We let our guard down."

Okay, so what do Hillary and like-minded Democrats suggest we do? Well, no sooner had Clinton complained about letting "our guard down" than Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) won passage of an amendment de-funding the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).

This program required men visiting the United States from 18 Muslim countries to register with the Justice Department and be fingerprinted. The Justice Department says that in four months of operation, NSEERS led to the capture of seven terrorists, as well as scores of other wanted criminals. (See story, page 5.)

After Bush’s State of the Union address, HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso asked congressional Democrats whether they approved of NSEERS and agreed with Hillary’s criticism of Bush.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration program fingerprints and registers male visitors from several countries where al Qaeda is active. Do you support this program?

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.): I think it’s causing a lot of problems. I think if you wanted to do a very broad program over all people, and not just target the Arab population, there might be something. But I think it’s a very discriminatory policy.

Do you support Sen. Kennedy’s move to de-fund that program in the omnibus spending bill.

Cantwell: Um, probably. I haven’t seen his proposal. But I think [NSEERS] is discriminatory.

Do you agree with Sen. Clinton that President Bush is not doing enough to win the war on terror, that he’s letting his guard down?

Cantwell: I think that we need to engage the international community on things like biometric standards. This isn’t just the FBI running through this list of Arab visa holders. It’s about building a coalition internationally, and it’s about giving law enforcement here its funding.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration program fingerprints and registers male visitors from several countries where al Qaeda is active. Do you support this program?

Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.): We have to be careful to balance our needs for security from those who pose a threat to our safety with a respect for some basic rights that come to people that are legal residents of this country. There’s a balance that has to be struck and I’m not sure that that’s been accomplished.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration program fingerprints and registers male visitors from several countries where al Qaeda is active. Do you support this program?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio): I think that there needs to be an overall review of this administration’s policies with respect to criminal justice. We need to look at everything they’re doing, and they should have to justify-the administration should come forward and explain to the people of America why it is necessary, why the wholesale changes in criminal justice are merited. We need to know.

Sen. Hillary Clinton said this week that the Bush Administration was failing, not doing enough, letting its guard down in the war on terror. Do you agree with that assessment?

Kucinich: I don’t know the context in which she said that, but I will say this, that we need to review this so-called war on terrorism and try to sort out the phantoms from realities. And no one’s really done that yet. There’s a lot about this war on terrorism that seems to be hunting boogeymen, and there’s other things about the war on terrorism that doesn’t seem to be very effective. For example, it seems to me that it would be much more effective to have international police work than to be dropping bombs.

When it comes to screening and fingerprinting foreign visitors, is the administration being overzealous?

Kucinich: Okay, just visualize this: Give me your tired, your free, your huddled masses. . . your fingerprints!

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration program fingerprints and registers male visitors from several countries where al Qaeda is active. Do you support this program?

Rep. Denise Majette (D.-Ga.): In terms of trying to protect our citizens, we need to take reasonable steps. But to the extent that it looks like racial profiling, I’m not in support of that.

Does that sound like racial profiling to you?

Majette: In certain respects, yes. Of course, I’d have to look at it in more detail. I’m not familiar with all the aspects of it. But we certainly don’t want to be in a position of just assuming that people have some negative intent.

Sen. Clinton said that President Bush is not doing enough, he’s letting its guard down on homeland security. Is that a fair assessment, in your mind?

Majette: I think that the steps that are being taken are some steps in the right direction, but we do need to approach it from the standpoint of trying to balance the need to protect our citizens and people who live and work in this country, balance that with the need to protect our civil rights and our civil liberties.

The Justice Department is currently running the National Security Entry-Exit Registration program, to fingerprint and register male visitors from several countries where al Qaeda is active. Do you support this program?

Rep. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.): We have to see how the program unfolds. We have to make sure that we do everything we can, including in the security of our borders and those who enter our country, to guarantee the safety and security of our citizens and those who visit our country for legitimate purposes. But we also have to make sure that we preserve the fundamental rights that make this country worth dying for in any conflict. . .

Does the fingerprinting and registration of men from those particular countries, in your mind, violate those rights that you’re saying make this country worthy dying for?

Menendez: I would just simply ask the question, how would Americans feel if they had to be fingerprinted if they were from the United States, going into other countries in the world, might consider the possibility of them as a suspect classification. I think that’s the question we have to ask since we live in a global environment. We have to think about the reactions we could cause to our own actions. As we try to secure our borders, let’s know what we’re going to create for ourselves.

Congressman, Sen. Clinton was saying earlier this week that President Bush isn’t doing enough-he’s letting his guard down on homeland security and the war on terror. Is that an accurate assessment?

Menendez: Well, I certainly think that on the domestic front, the President has failed miserably in funding first responders.

The Justice Department is fingerprinting and registering visitors from certain countries where al Qaeda is active, mostly Arab countries. Do you support this program?

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.-N.Y.): Clearly, nobody has a constitutional right to enter the United States. Nobody has a right to enter the United States. The United States has the right to control its own borders, the United States has a right to require fingerprinting or anything else we want if people want to come to this country. And the United States, I think, has to be wary, and we have to know that the terrorists, the people who declared war on us, are not the IRA, not the Basque separatists. They’re Islamic extremist terrorists. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take security measures against people coming in from certain countries-not because those people are a particular risk, but because it isn’t the Eskimos, it’s not the Swedes, it’s people from certain areas, some people from those areas. Most people are fine, but unfortunately it makes sense to concentrate your investigative resources, and I have no problem with fingerprinting people coming in across the border. I think the administration has gone way too far in certain respects, and trampled on people’s civil liberties in ways that are unconscionable and should not be done, in many other respects.

But the program itself. . .

Nadler: Simply fingerprinting people from other countries who come into this country-I don’t know whether it’s really necessary or not, but as long as people know what’s going to happen, that’s fine. Now, if you say we’re going to start fingerprinting every American citizen of Iraqi extraction, that would be wrong.