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Senior Democratic Leadership Council Fellow: "We should be Grateful to the President and General Hayden" for Spying on al Qaeda

8:20 AM, Jan 9, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the DLC in Washington, DC, wrote the following today on his blog, BullMooseblog.com:

Intelligence Design

[I] continue to believe that the NSA eavesdropping program was just swell.

After hearing the various arguments pro and con on the controversial program, the Moose only wishes President Bush and other Presidents had earlier ignored FISA and had extensively and aggressively tapped into electronic data of terrorist suspects' communications to the United States. Of course, prior to 9/11 there was no great imperative to sidestep FISA.

It is interesting that no prominent opponent of the program has called for its elimination. Some objectors are playing with the "I" word, but even they are not suggesting that we shut down this nefarious threat to our freedoms.

There is an entirely valid point that we should update our laws to monitor this type of eavesdropping. That is a difficult task, but it is worth exploring. We are in for the long haul in this war against Jihadism, and we must think anew. There may be a better way to implement checks and balances in light of this new threat.

But, we should be grateful to the President and General Hayden, rather than outraged that they refused to be hampered by FISA and implemented the interception of vital military intelligence from the enemy. Any President, Republican or Democrat, worth his salt would have done the same. No President is above the law nor immune from the responsibility from defending the citizens of the United States.

A dangerous and frightening complacency has fallen upon the land. There is little concern about the continuing terrorist threat. The Senate delays passing an extension of the Patriot Act while civil liberties attorneys bicker about dotting the i's and crossing the t's. In some quarters, the Jihadist threat has been replaced by the Bushie threat.

The word has gone out - a CNN reporter might have been eavesdropped upon! Why should we be all that concerned about a dirty bomb or Iranians with nukes when a warrantless NSA might have detected enemies' call to the States! The Constitution is being shredded! If this crowd had been around during the Civil War or WWII, surely they would have submitted the articles of impeachment on Lincoln and FDR for their manifold Constitutional transgressions.

Joe Klein's column in this week's Time Magazine is must reading particularly for all Democrats.

He writes,

"For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are "fruit," and bitter fruit at that. The government is presumed guilty of illegal electronic eavesdropping until proven innocent. This sort of civil-liberties fetishism is a hangover from the Vietnam era, when the Nixon Administration wildly exceeded all bounds of legality-spying on antiwar protesters and civil rights leaders...

"At the very least, the Administration should have acted, with alacrity, to update the federal intelligence laws to include the powerful new technologies developed by the NSA. But these concerns pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys. There is evidence that the information harvested helped foil several plots and disrupt al-Qaeda operations...

"There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them-but also, on the plus side, hampering their ability to communicate with one another."

Klein trenchantly concludes,

"In fact, liberal Democrats are about as far from the American mainstream on these issues as Republicans were when they invaded the privacy of Terri Schiavo's family in the right-to-die case last year.

"But there is a difference. National security is a far more important issue, and until the Democrats make clear that they will err on the side of aggressiveness in the war against al-Qaeda, they will probably not regain the majority in Congress or the country."

If there is evidence that the NSA program was a Nixonian dirty tricks operation, everything would change. But, absent that revelation, the Moose is pleased that the Administration was doing everything possible to thwart another attack. Facile comparisons with Nixon are silly and inappropriate when there is absolutely no proof of a domestic political spy scheme.