Fat Steve's Blatherings

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Spying on Americans Without a Warrant"

        Debra Burlinghame reminds us of some facts concerning surveillance and terrorism:
        NBC News aired an "exclusive" story in 2004 that dramatically recounted how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda "switchboard" inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar's brother-in-law lived.  The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world.  Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, "The NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn't deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying."  Back then, the NBC script didn't describe it as "spying on Americans."  Instead, it was called one of the "missed opportunities that could have saved 3,000 lives."

        Among the lives that could have been saved was that of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III.  He was a pilot on Flight 77, and died That Day.

        More from Ms. Burlingham:
        Another example of opportunistic coverage concerns the Patriot Act's "library provision."  News reports have given plenty of ink and airtime to the ACLU's unsupported claims that the government has abused this important records provision.  But how many Americans know that several of the hijackers repeatedly accessed computers at public libraries in New Jersey and Florida, using personal Internet accounts to carry out the conspiracy?  Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi logged on four times at a college library in New Jersey where they purchased airline tickets for AA 77 and later confirmed their reservations on Aug. 30.  In light of this, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Justice Department has the time, resources or interest in "investigating the reading habits of law abiding citizens."

        We now have the ability to put remote control cameras on the surface of Mars.  Why should we allow enemies to annihilate us simply because we lack the clarity or resolve to strike a reasonable balance between a healthy skepticism of government power and the need to take proactive measures to protect ourselves from such threats?  The mantra of civil-liberties hard-liners is to "question authority"--even when it is coming to our rescue--then blame that same authority when, hamstrung by civil liberties laws, it fails to save us.

        This is what the people who claim to be protecting our "civil rights" want to return us to — a country where thousands can die one morning, because law enforcement wasn't allowed to catch terrorists before they struck.  Or as Ms. Burlinghame put it:
        The public has listened to years of stinging revelations detailing how the government tied its own hands in stopping the devastating attacks of September 11.  It is an irresponsible violation of the public trust for members of Congress to weaken the Patriot Act or jeopardize the NSA terrorist surveillance program because of the same illusory theories that cost us so dearly before, or worse, for rank partisan advantage.  If they do, and our country sustains yet another catastrophic attack that these antiterrorism tools could have prevented, the phrase "connect the dots" will resonate again--but this time it will refer to the trail of innocent American blood which leads directly to the Senate floor.

Read it all.

        Hat tip: Captain Ed, who asks:
        Do I fear the FBI more than al-Qaeda and Islamofascist terrorists?  That's the question that Americans have to ask themselves.

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