“Domestic” Abuse

February 6, 2006

I hereby expressly consent to the NSA eavesdropping on any telephonic, Internet or other electronic forms of communications I may have — whether I initiate or am on the receiving end of the communication — with any person or persons the government has reasonable basis to conclude is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda.

I aver that I have no expectation of privacy with respect to any communications I might have with suspected or known al Qaeda members or persons linked to al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations. Indeed, I’d like to meet the person who would pretend to be victimized by an interception of a call he had with al Qaeda.

As usual with the Democratic leadership, it’s difficult to tell for sure whether its motivation in attempting to scandalize the president’s wartime electronic surveillance of the enemy is purely political, based on legitimate civil-liberties concerns or a combination of both.

But given its overt misrepresentation of the president’s program and its disregard for the historical practice of warrantless electronic surveillance of the enemy by the presidents of both parties, my bet is that their motivation is partisan.

If Democratic leaders were truly concerned about potential infringements of privacy rights, would they repeatedly mischaracterize the program as “domestic” spying? Would they have pretended the president conducted this program completely clandestinely when he briefed key members of Congress from both parties more than a dozen times?

Would they all repeat the same hollow mantra, “We are in favor of spying on al Qaeda”? Isn’t that what’s going on here? Sorry, boys and girls, you can’t have it both ways. Explain to us how you would protect the nation by always requiring warrants in this fast-moving, high-tech world, with ever-shifting phone numbers and disposable cell phones — a world the drafters of FISA couldn’t possibly have envisioned.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. The NSA surveillance program involves intelligence of a foreign enemy during war. None of the interceptions of communications is for the purpose of criminal law enforcement but instead for the detection and prevention of terrorist attacks against the United States.

The program clearly does not apply to purely domestic communications, where all parties to the communications are located in the United States. The Justice Department has specified that the president “has authorized the NSA to intercept (BEGIN ITAL) international (END ITAL) (emphasis mine) communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations.” (For the record, it wouldn’t bother me if the program included purely domestic communications as long as one or more parties to the conversation were reasonably believed to have ties to al Qaeda.)

In light of the Democratic leadership’s exaggerated displays of concern, one might infer it suspects the president of having assimilated a list of political enemies and authorized warrantless wiretaps of their calls. But it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could think this president, who considers Ted Kennedy a friend and Bill Clinton a brother, even believes he has political enemies. It’s not as if President Bush has hired the Clintons’ favorite private eye, Anthony Pellicano, to dig up dirt on Howard Dean.

If Democrats were not engaged in partisan shenanigans here, why did they wait for The New York Times to leak news of this program to raise objections to it when important members of their party had been briefed well ahead of the publication of the story?

Would they be attempting to criminalize the president’s surveillance program or suggest that it constitutes an impeachable offense instead of civilly debating him over his constitutional authority? Perhaps we should call for impeachment of members of Congress every time they arguably exceed their constitutional authority, which happens to be almost daily.

The Democratic leadership insists it is as vigilant on national-security matters as the president. If that’s the case, why does it always rush to err on the side of civil liberties, even when there are no known victims of any NSA surveillance abuses — or of the Patriot Act, for that matter?

Based on the evidence before us, it appears once again that the Democratic leadership is willing to politicize anything, including our national security, and that its cacophony over the Fourth Amendment is just a lot of hot air designed to singe the president, who is manifestly engaged in a good-faith effort to honor his constitutional duty as Commander in Chief to protect the nation from enemy attack.