In October of 2001, the Patriot Act, giving the federal government increased power to monitor and prosecute suspected terrorists, was passed in the U.S. Senate with only one dissenting vote. Forty-Seven Democrats voted for the bill. They justified their support of the measure, rightfully, by explaining that terrorism posed a grave threat to America and more potent policing would be needed until we could get the long-term problem under control.
Last week the Senate blocked renewal of much of the Patriot Act. Only two Democrats supported renewal of the law, while 41 Democrats voted against renewal — including 35 who had voted for the same law in 2001.
Obviously then, we can assume that most Democrats believe that the threat from terrorism is now well under control. This would be quite a testament to George W. Bush, who has evidently taken America from the September 11 era of vulnerability to such comparative safety in just four years. It is also a little confusing to those of us who have had to listen to the Democrats claim for some time now that Bush’s policies have made America less safe.
For example, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, has made many statements such as this one: “Are we safer today because of the policies of President George W. Bush? Any honest assessment can lead to only one answer, and that answer is an emphatic no.” Yet Kennedy voted against renewal of the Patriot Act last week.
Now, if we are not safer, and the Patriot Act was intended to obstruct terrorists until we could be made safer, then one would have to believe that allowing the act to expire would make us vulnerable again to the terrorism from which Ted Kennedy says George Bush has not made us safer. So why then did Kennedy vote to allow the act to expire?
One possibility is that Kennedy and the other Democrats are playing partisan political games with our safety, by opposing pretty much anything Bush supports as part of a cynical campaign to inspire Democratic donors and denigrate the President in preparation for the 2006 elections. Obviously, that cannot be true.
So then we must conclude that Kennedy — despite what he says — really believes that Bush has made America safer. So safe, in fact, that we can now begin to re-hobble our law enforcement agencies with the sort of restrictions they suffered before September 11.
And it’s not just the Patriot Act that makes me draw this conclusion. Democrats are aghast at all sorts of anti-terror activity lately.
Consider the “shocking” revelation by the New York Times last week that, shortly after September 11, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor the international phone calls and emails of terror suspects within the United States. The whole point of the NSA is to monitor international phone calls and emails and such, but because one half of the international phone calls and emails in question originated within the United States, the NSA had previously been restricted from monitoring them under a strict interpretation of a ban on domestic spying by the NSA.
After a failure of intelligence allowed 3000 people to die on September 11th, President Bush decided that such a strict interpretation was ridiculous and immoral. Why should the NSA have the power to tap a foreign communication from Afghanistan to Iran, but be prohibited from tapping a foreign communication from Afghanistan to New York? Which is more likely to be related to terrorism against the United States?
So, with special approval and oversight, the NSA was given permission to monitor only the international communications of terror suspects within the United States. Your calls to Grandma in Michigan are still perfectly safe and under the jurisdiction of the FBI and the courts. But any calls by one of a few hundred suspicious persons to remote shack #452 in the tribal territories of Pakistan can now be monitored. This seems reasonable to me. But the New York Times and their groupies in the mainstream media see it as a major theoretical civil rights conundrum worthy of congressional investigations.
The story was enough to make Ted Kennedy spout out, “This is Big Brother run amok” — a phrase he also used at several late night White House parties in the early 1960s. In this case, however, he was using it to imply that monitoring the overseas communications of a small watch-list of people with ties to terrorist organizations was worse than the all-powerful all-controlling marxo-fascist police state envisioned by George Orwell in his masterwork 1984.
Strange, how the fear of an all-powerful state never seemed to occur to Kennedy when he has previously proposed socialized medicine, expanded welfare state taxation and income redistribution, business regulation, hate crimes legislation, race-based hiring in government, and the most extreme gun control measures in our nation’s history. But maybe he just read “1984” recently.
Clearly, though, when we can worry about fine details — such as how many international participants must be involved before a communication becomes international enough to fall under the jurisdiction of the NSA — we must be in a much safer position than we were. Or else the Democrats are behaving irresponsibly in a world that remains dangerous — which they would never do. Never.
Likewise, would Democrats (both in and out of the media) worry so much about a single soggy Koran and the thermostat settings at Guantanamo if we were under a real threat from terrorists? Would they seek to expose secret CIA interrogation facilities overseas if America were in any true danger? Would they obsess about how private your library receipts should be if our enemies were still at large? Of course not. They’re not so partisan or blinded by hatred of President Bush that they would endanger our nation’s safety just to score a few points in the polls. Right?
After September 11, America watched and waited for the next attack. We marked each anniversary and holiday with dread and a sense of resignation. It was not a matter of “if,” it was a matter of “when” they hit again. But they did not hit in the weeks after 9/11, or that Christmas, or on the first anniversary of the massacre. They did not strike in all of 2002 or 2003 or 2004 or 2005.
For over four years, through two wars, and dozens of events, they have not struck. During that time they have attacked Madrid and London, Bali and Baghdad –but not here. We know they want to attack here, yet no attack has come.
The same people that carried out 9/11 haven’t been able to overturn an apple cart in the United States since then.
This is our greatest success in the War on Terror
Either the terrorists just got really, really lucky on 9/11, or else something we did after that attack actually made us safer. We may soon find out which it was, by rolling back all the measures we took after the 9/11 attack and restoring the pre-September 11 mentality to our politics and our intelligence agencies.