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The Party of Hysteria: “Connect, But Don’t Collect, The Dots!” How Dems and Their MSM Allies Would Run The War.

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Are there jihadists in America plotting to kill thousands of Americans in attacks similar to those of 9/11?

On that very simple question turns the debate about about the latest national security leak about the NSA. None of the reports in the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe or any other major paper bothers to pose this question to critics of the program which, according to the Post, collects “the domestic telephone records of millions of U.S. households and businesses, assembling gargantuan databases and attempting to sift through them for clues about terrorist threats.”

To ask this first, necessary question, of course, is to settle the debate, at least for serious people. And the American people know this. From the overnight polling:

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it

Every debate ought always to begin with the threat we face. Here, from October of last year, is the public list of terrorist attacks averted in the past five years.

Here is the DOJ release on the arrest of suspected terrorists in Oregon in 2002. Here is the FBI’s report of the arrest of terrorism suspects in Lackawanna, New York.

Here is a comprehensive list of indictments and related documents in various terrorism prosecutions.

And here is Patrick Leahy, senior member of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday:

Now, are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaida? If that’s the case, we’ve really failed in any kind of a war on terror.

This may be the best quote from a Democrat on the war ever, demonstrating as it does in a single sound byte the astonishing combination of ignorance, hyperbole and partisanship that has rendered the Democratic Party unfit for a management role in the defense of the country. Leahy’s immediate condemnation of the necessity of information gathering of the sort done in this program telegraphs what will happen if Dems get control of either the House or the Senate: The left will once again assume that the biggest danger in the world is from America’s government, and immediately set about restraining it in the war on terror.

The Washington Post’s editorial, though far more measured than Leahy’s hysterics, also is very wide of the mark:

As with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, the law here is murky. Although both Mr. Bush and the telephone companies insist they have behaved strictly in accordance with the law, it isn’t clear how the companies could have turned over records of more than a trillion calls without violating consumer privacy laws. What is clear is that a surveillance program of enormous magnitude, involving not just al-Qaeda suspects but also the presumptively private data of almost all Americans, appears to have taken place with no public debate, no judicial review and only the slightest congressional oversight. Americans have no understanding of what, if any, controls exist on this information, with its massive potential for abuse. They do not know how the NSA or other government agencies are using it. Consequently, the public — and Congress — have no sense of how to measure the program’s supposed contributions to the war on terrorism against the very considerable dangers of such an operation.

As with the Leahy hysteria, the Post’s willful refusal to understand the obvious need to have a database against which to trackback terrorist communication activity is disingenuous.

As Lileks memorably put it yesterday, critics of the president demand that he connect the dots but damn him for collecting the dots.

The most unhinged of the many unhinged commentators yesterday was, of course, CNN’s Jack Cafferty, searching hard for the approval of the fever swamp residents who rally to the side of the nuttiest MSM talking head. Said Cafferty:

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I don’t know about wisdom, but you’ll get a little outrage. We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that is standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country.

He’s vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records and yours and tens of millions of other Americans. Shortly after 9/11, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth began providing the super-secret NSA with information on phone calls of millions of our citizens. All part of the war on terror, President Bush says.

Why don’t you go find Osama bin Laden and seal the country’s borders and start inspecting the containers that come into our ports? The president rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in “USA Today” and declared the government is doing nothing wrong and all this is just fine.

Is it? Is it legal? Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens? Because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn’t have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation.

Read that sentence again. A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it’s not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says, OK, and drops the whole thing. We’re in some serious trouble here, boys and girls.

What can be said about such idiocy, except that it is the shame of CNN to indulge such looniness in an era of real dictatorships, and when the record of real dictatorships is known to anyone who can read, which apparently excludes Cafferty.

While Cafferty joins Dick Durbin in the hall of fame for stupid historical comparisons that reveal the speaker as an irresponsible lightweight better suited to carnival barkery than serious commentary, the key question remains unasked:

Are there jihadists in America plotting to kill thousands of Americans in attacks similar to those of 9/11?

If so, which party do you want in charge of finding them?

Additional, sane commentary available from Powerline (great headline –“NSA Accused of Protecting U.S. From Terrorists”Michelle Malkin, CaptainsQuarters and InFromTheCold.

The anti-intelligence gathering posts accumulating on this subject in the fever swamp, just like the nutter statements from Leahy and Cafferty, will be of tragic interest when the next attack occurs. At that point sober folks will ask, what wasn’t done, and why not? Don’t expect the hysteria squad to reflect on their own indifference to security at that point. I fully expect them to be damning the Bush Adminsitration, whether departed or still in power, for the intelligence gathering failure that allowed for the atrocity to happen.

But already the majority of Americans are registering their understanding of the threat the country faces, and I suspect the November elections will confirm that while voters are deeply dissatified with some policies of the president –especially the refusal to move to lock down the border– they are not about to turn the country’s security policy over to Pat Leahy, John Conyers and the other Dems who simply don’t understand the threat.

The latest NSA story is thus a welcome bit of bonfire that illuminates the real attitudes of both parties –and members of MSM and New Media– on the war.

UPDATE: Brendan Loy gets it: “[A] mindset which holds we must never surrender any liberties, no matter how small, in order to further our security, is a mindset which does not understand the reality of the threat we face.”


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