Domestic Surveillance Works

Some Capitol Hill Democrats would like to impeach President Bush (should they take control of Congress) because they consider the administration’s terrorist surveillance programs—especially those that involve monitoring communications in and out of the U.S. itself—an affront to the Constitution. The Democrats’ short-sighted views threaten the War on Terror, and last week’s thwarted terrorist plot in Britain is a perfect example of why intelligence gathering plays a crucial role.

Although we are still learning details about the U.S. role in the investigation leading up to last Thursday’s arrests, we know from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales and British Home Secretary John Reid that it was a cooperative effort between the United States and Britain that foiled the plot. And, according to CNN, the plotters were British citizens.

“During the investigation, an unprecedented level of surveillance has been undertaken and that surveillance has had as its objective to gather intelligence and evidence in support of the investigation,” Reid said. “We have been looking at meetings, movements, travel, spending and the aspirations of a large group of people. This has involved close cooperation not only between agencies and police forces in the UK but also internationally.”

Chertoff called it a “remarkable example of interagency coordination in the federal government,” and Gonzales said law-enforcement and intelligence agencies have worked together to pursue “every domestic lead that has arisen from the intelligence.”

It wasn’t too long ago, however, that Democrats were sounding alarm when the New York Times disclosed the details of two surveillance programs—the first having to do with wiretapping and the second dealing with bank records. At the time of each revelation, Democrats seized on the opportunity to criticize the Bush Administration. Some liberals have gone so far as to call for impeachment.

Following the programs’ disclosure, the White House mounted an aggressive defense and attacked critics for not only revealing important anti-terror measures but also having a short-sighted view of the struggle. Last week’s events in Britain offer a real-life example of why intelligence gathering is crucial in the fight against terrorists.

The tools the Bush Administration has put in place are necessary, and while critics are entitled to question them, the intelligence community’s success in stopping attacks in the United States, and our cooperation with the British and other governments overseas, is an encouraging sign that surveillance programs are working. Democrats who attack them apparently don’t understand the consequences.