Joe Klein of TIME magazine fame wrote a fabulous piece recently entitled “How to Stay Out of Power; Why liberal democrats are playing too fast and too loose with issues of war and peace.” In it, the typically liberal Klein offered a typically liberal readership a side of the domestic spying issue that must have made many subscribers wonder if their mailman had accidentally put a copy of the National Review in their mailbox.
Klein began by addressing the hypocrisy of a letter that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) recently released that was supposedly written on October 11, 2001 to then National Security Agency director General Michael V. Hayden. “In it she expressed concern that Hayden, who had briefed the House Intelligence Committee about the steps he was taking to track down al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, was not acting with "specific presidential authorization."
“The release of Pelosi's letter last week and the subsequent Times story (‘Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show’) left the misleading impression that a) Hayden had launched the controversial data-mining operation on his own, and b) Pelosi had protested it. But clearly the program didn't exist when Pelosi wrote the letter. When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, ‘Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it's all fruit.’
“A dodgy response at best, but one invested with a larger truth. 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.”
In Klein’s view, “the ‘all fruit’ assumption doesn't take into account the strict constraints placed on the intelligence community after the Nixon debacle, or the lethally elusive nature of the current terrorist threat.”
Maybe most important:
“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 moved in a splendid crescendo towards his conclusion:
“The latest version of the absolutely necessary Patriot Act, which updates the laws regulating the war on terrorism and contains civil-liberties improvements over the first edition, was nearly killed by a stampede of Senate Democrats. Most polls indicate that a strong majority of Americans favor the act, and I suspect that a strong majority would favor the NSA program as well, if its details were declassified and made known.
“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.”
For those of you that remember how you used to request an encore at a rock concert, please light a match and hold it up in the air.
Bravo, Joe. Bravo.