Surveillance Debate: Today Show Quakes for Quakers

<p><img hspace="0" src="media/2005-12-22-NBCT.jpg" align="right" border="0" />Who would have thought the peaceful Quakers* [though see info at foot of column suggesting some Quakers are not so harmless] would be used as a spearhead? </p><p>Yet ironically, in the debate over national security and surveillance, liberals are attempting to beat the Quakers' plowshares into swords.</p><p>This morning's Today show offered a prime example.</p><p>In to debate was that patrician of the left, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and that most unreliable of Bush defenders, Pat Buchanan.</p><p>Credit Couric for at least identifying The Nation as a 'liberal' magazine.  Needless to say she labeled Buchanan &quot;conservative.&quot;</p><p>And in fairness, Katie hit Vanden Heuvel with a tough first question:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px"><p>&quot;Many people say, including the President, including Vice President Cheney, that there's a reason why there hasn't been a terrorist attack, that the country is safer, it needs the Patriot Act, it needs to be able to conduct these kind of spying things.  They need more latitude because it's a different environment.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Vanden Heuvel responded with breathtaking condescension.  &quot;Katie, Katie,&quot; she purred, with a tone befitting a teacher remonstrating with a recalcitrant third-grader, &quot;there must be a balance struck between security and liberty . . .  but this President has committed the most abuse of executive power in modern American history.  He thinks he's above the law.&quot; </p><p>Echoing Russ Feingold, vanden Heuvel declared: &quot;we need a President not a king,&quot; and accused Bush of &quot;crushing the Constitution.&quot;</p><p>Katie quickly got on board.  She responded &quot;some liberals are concerned,&quot; then 'corrected' herself, &quot;some <em>Americans</em> are concerned that it's not just potential Al-Qaeda plots that are being spied on.  We're talking about Quaker meeting houses, animal rights activists.  Are there other organizations that cause you concern over this?&quot;</p><p>For vanden Heuvel, it's shades of '1984': &quot;We're seeing only the tip of the hidden surveillance state that is being built up in these last few years.  9/11 is being used and abused by this administration.&quot;</p><p>Vanden Heuvel again referred to surveillance of Quaker meeting groups, declaring &quot;these are innocent Americans exercising their duty to fulfill the promise of America through dissent.&quot;</p><p>She then added, among groups being surveilled: &quot;Catholic Worker Groups? Katie, these are not terrorist organizations.&quot;</p><p>Buchanan agreed that &quot;they ought not to be going to Quaker meetings.&quot; </p><p>Couric would not be mollified: &quot;You kind of blew off the notion of the Quaker meeting house.  Doesn't that concern you? Maybe it's gone too far?&quot;</p><p>Buchanan had to go further: &quot;if they wasted their time with Quaker meetings, they ought to be fired,  Congress should take a look at it. But there are enemies in our midst who did these things right in the United States.&quot;</p><p>Vanden Heuvel accused President Bush of &quot;shredding&quot; the Constitution.</p><p>Buchanan called the Dems' bluff: &quot;if he shredded it, they should impeach him, but you and I know they don't have the guts to put a bill in the hopper.&quot;</p><p>Mused vanden Heuvel darkly: &quot;if the Democrats take back the House, look for articles of impeachment.&quot;</p><p>Look, I don't know if or why surveillance was conducted of the Quakers.  But when vanden Heuvel lumped them in with the Catholic Workers, she seriously overplayed her hand.</p><p>Its innocuous name notwithstanding, the Catholic Workers is a radical, far-left group.  Right here in my home town of Ithaca, a group of Catholic Workers was convicted in federal court for having sprayed blood over a military recruiter and a recruitment center.</p><p>* Query just how harmless some Quakers are.  This <a href="http://bioleft.tripod.com/afsc.htm"><font color="#ff4010">web</font></a> site indicates that the Quaker group known as the Friends Service Committee has supported the Vietcong and the PLO and calls for revolution in the US in these terms:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px"><p>&quot;Revolution then is needed first and foremost in the United States, thoroughgoing revolution, not a mild palliative.&quot;</p></blockquote>

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.