Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big Brother W.?

The Moose doesn't think it's 1984.

The latest imbroglio over the revelation that the government eavesdropped into the international phone calls of U.S. citizens does not set the Moose's antlers on fire. The Administration is going to have to offer a better explanation for why they failed to go to court to get authorization. And we should also have an inquiry into a leak that might have endangered national security.

In the aftermath of 9/11, America learned that it was ill-prepared for this new threat. Old laws dealing with new technologies were an anachronism. The "FISA" process, if not the authorization, was often burdensome and slow with a relatively high standard of proof. The Administration perhaps should have moved to alter those laws if they were obstacles to national security.

However, as of yet, there is no clear evidence that they broke the law. Lawyers will endlessly debate the legitimacy of the Administration's citing of the Al Quaeda force resolution for authorization. Moreover, there was a legitimate concern that an open debate about modifications in the FISA law could have alerted our enemies that their calls were detected. And does anyone seriously believe that the targets of these calls were anyone else than potential security threats? There is absolutely no evidence that this was a "Nixonian" enemies list witch hunt.

Now that the controversy is out in the open, Democrats and Republicans should work together to improve and clarify the law rather than seeking retribution for past misunderstandings. The bottom line should be strengthening our national security while maintaining our liberties to the fullest extent possible.

What we do know is that we have not suffered another attack on the Homeland since 9/11. That is a miraculous fact. And President Bush should be applauded for protecting the country rather than excoriated, to say nothing of impeachment which is on the lips of some Democrats.

We also know that, while there have been excesses here and there, our fundamental freedoms have not been infringed since the first massive assault on the homeland by foreign enemies since the War of 1812. Certainly, we have not suffered an abrogation of our liberties anything near the scale of Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus or FDR's relocation camps.

We are at war with a Jihadist enemy who wants us and our families dead. It is not clear that some of our elites recognize that fact or care any more. And some on the left fear that President Bush is a greater threat to our nation's security and liberties than the Jihadists.

If the ACLU is upset about the Patriot Act, fine, It is their job to push the outside of the envelope. But it is another thing when a Party almost unanimously obstructs its reauthorization over minor objections after significant compromises have been achieved. And it does not provide any solace that Larry Craig and John Sununu were on the Democrats' side.

When it comes to the War Against Terror, there is no room for right wing or left wing libertarianism. Of course, we should guard our freedoms and be vigilant for excesses. But, our robust democracy is not endangered. If international phone calls by terrorist suspects were monitored, good and fine. What is in question is whether some of our elites continue to believe that we are actually at war with a devious foe. Memories of 9/11 are fading and many act as if the threat has gone away.

On the political front, in the past month, there has been a systematic effort at self-branding by the Democratic Party, and it is not good. From the defeatist Iraq talk to the obstruction on the Patriot Act, the donkey is effectively "rebranding' and "framing" itself as weak on national security. George Lakoff should be proud! Rather than the 2006 election being about the GOP' s weak ethics, it may be about the Democrat's anemic defense credentials.

We live in a period that is similar to the Cold War in that there is an over-riding national security threat. The fundamental political and policy question is which party will the American people trust to defend the country and their families?
-- Posted at 8:15 AM | Link to this post | Email this post