Friday, July 27, 2007

Playing Politics

Business as usual. Politicians practice the oldest political profession. Most of the time no serious harm comes from each party maligning the other. On the subject of monitoring electronic Terrorist communications however, we are dangerously allowing Political Considerations to outweigh common sense. Common Sense dictates that, should a cell phone call be made from Afghanistan to Syria, no Warrant is needed to legally allow the US to listen in. But in practice, A WARRANT may be necessary. This is Politics Gone Wild.

We are not talking about Domestic calls of US Citizens here. It could be Usama bin Laden talking to a known al-Qaeda operative in Syria or Iraq that we are prevented from monitoring without a warrant, and both ends of the call are OUTSIDE the US.

This is possible because the US leads the world in technology. Our Cell Phone networks are so efficient, that many calls are routed through the USA, EVEN when none of the parties is in the US. Under Current US Law, to monitor these calls requires a warrant. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot. This is clearly not the best way to fight Terrorists. But because the Democrats in Congress want to score Political points, they are willing to place all of us at greater risk by opposing changes and making mountains out of molehills.

An editorial piece (Wiretap Debacle) published on-line today at the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal makes the argument that we are less secure because Congress has pushed, and the President has caved on the Wiretap issue.
President Bush approved this terrorist surveillance not long after 9/11, allowing intelligence officials to track terrorist calls overseas, as well as overseas communications with al Qaeda sympathizers operating in the U.S. The New York Times exposed the program in late 2005, and Democrats and antiwar activists immediately denounced it as an "illegal" attempt to spy on Americans, à la J. Edgar Hoover.
Of course there is always the opportunity to use unlimited power to wiretap for illegal reasons. But proper co-operation between Congressional Oversight Committees and regular Presidential Briefings, abuse was not a problem prior to the New York Times disclosure. That's where the Politicians began to play the most dangerous game of Politics.
Democratic leaders were briefed on the program from the first and never once tried to shut it down. But once it was exposed, these same Democrats accused Mr. Bush of breaking the law by not getting warrants from the special court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Mr. Bush has rightly defended the program's legality, but as a gesture of compromise in January he agreed to seek warrants under the FISA process.
President Bush tried, unsuccessfully, to compromise, but the Democrats smelled blood in the water. Besides, all Politicians have found that emotional scare issues persuade voters. An assessment of how dangerous this game is came from recent Congressional Testimony.
Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell more or less admitted the problem last week, albeit obliquely, when he told the Senate that "we're actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting." That's understating things. Our sources say the surveillance program is now at most one-third as effective as it once was.
We have been both smart and lucky so far in that we have not had a serious Terrorist Attack on US soil since 9/11. Now with the smart part dangerously reduced, luck is what makes millions losers in the lottery. Politicians playing Politics with this issue are, with only a few exceptions, Democrats.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is holding any wiretap legislation hostage to his demand for Administration documents related to the program. This is part of the Democrats' political exercise to claim that Mr. Bush has somehow broken the law by allowing the wiretaps. Backed by grandstanding Republican Arlen Specter, in short, Mr. Leahy is more interested in fighting over how the program began than in allowing it to continue today.
We need to win the Global War on Terror Militarily, before a Political Peace can ensue.

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