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Lessons from yesterday’s terror plot exposure

The WSJ has some tough words.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Joseph:

Come on: this piece is a silly hit job. The central paragraph is incoherent:

Surveillance? Hmmm. Democrats and their media allies screamed bloody murder last year when it was leaked that the government was monitoring some communications outside the context of a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA wasn’t designed for, nor does it forbid, the timely exploitation of what are often anonymous phone numbers, and the calls monitored had at least one overseas connection. But Mr. Reid labeled such surveillance "illegal" and an "NSA domestic spying program." Other Democrats are still saying they will censure, or even impeach, Mr. Bush over the FISA program if they win control of Congress.

So, according to the WSJ, the Democrats objected to surveillance outside of FISA, but somehow this surveillance gets morphed into a "FISA program" by the end of the paragraph. Which is it? Did the intelligence come from compliance with FISA (and, as has been suggested, from surveillance conducted according to warrants issued by the FISA court) or outside of FISA?

The central lesson of yesterday’s foiled plot - and if I were a politician I’d be mentioning this at every opportunity - is that the lesson of 9/11 wasn’t a story about Iraq; it was about terrorists using our own transportation systems (and other systems) against us. The war in Iraq has not aided in combating that threat.

Brett,

You responded more quickly than I expected. Yes, the wording of the WSJ editorial is a little looser than I’d like, but it makes an important point about the necessity of flexible means of surveillance.

Your takeaway lesson is disputable. Many of the bad guys are just as focused on Iraq as we are. And it strikes me at least as arguable that a more aggressive military posture in Iraq (one, for example, that held its neighbors accountable for the aid and comfort they’ve given to terrorists in Iraq) would actually have forestalled some of what’s now going on in Lebanon. In saying this, I’m not changing the subject, since it seems to me that there is currently a contest for "jihadi of the year" between al Qaeda and Hezbollah.

Yea, Brett’s crazy. Some people have blinders on when it comes to linking the Iraq invasion with the GWOT. Moreover, the FISA is a straightjacket that is rightly evaded when thousands of lives are at stake. The bottom line is that the Dems, who are pretty much against anything that commonsense demands, are once again proved wrong by events. They are clueless about what’s really going on in the world, and their adversarial nonsense will get more Americans killed than anything Bush’s policies might lead to.

Iraq is part of the War on Terror.

For crying out loud, it is part of the Axis of Evil.

If we invaded Iran instead of Iraq, do you, Brett, think that Saddam would be just sitting there idly doing nothing?

Come on.

The Democrats and some wishy-washy Republicans are doing much harm to this effort, which has the very real potential to affect us personally.

So, you could say the Democrats and those wishy-washy Republicans are, in effect, helping the terrorists even though that may not be their desired motive.

Either way, it is pretty sh*(*y of them!

Joseph:

Just trying to keep you on your toes. Flexibility is not inherently incompatible with oversight. The administration has always presented the public with a false choice here. The WSJ can’t even bother to get the Democrats’ FISA-related objections right, but that’s not surprising; indeed, it’s a central piece of the argument. And to continue your claim about Iraq: did removing one of Iran’s biggest strategic rival in the area actually help or hurt its efforts to develop broader influence? The Iraq war didn’t hurt al Qaeda and it hasn’t really hurt Iran.

In other words, you are saying that Iraq should have not been part of the Axis of Evil.

Which is interesting for Iraq fully supported international terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Also, to say our efforts in Iraq hasn’t hurt Al Qaeda is ignoring a lot ... a whole lot.

Did it hurt Iran? Obviously not, but so what?

One thing is for sure, we are not doing what we traditionally do, that is, run whenever there are signs of trouble. (And traditionally means post Vietnam)

The world realizes that America is run, for now, by people who will see things through, and that means something.

Even OBL recognized that we would run. Today, if he is really alive, he is seeing us staying around.

Democrat’s objection to ’wire-tapping’ ... need a warrant (which could take a very long time to get by the way)

So, yeah, the WSJ got the essence of the objections correct.

Brett,

There was oversight. Members of Congress were informed, but in a manner consistent with maintaining the secrecy of the program.

And a nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq, with both competing for influence in the Gulf and among the jihadis, is not my idea of a peaceful and stable Middle East.

Joseph:

A false choice once again, I fear: either the limited, restricted briefings offered by the administration to a chosen few in congress, or operational details about the program will be revealed.

On Iraq, I’ve never heard of that particular defense of the war: we needed to eliminate a competitor with Iran for the attention of jihadists. Could be. But now we’ve got a failed state in the region - a true training ground for all sorts of terrorists - plus a neighboring state that wants to finance terrorists, and has a pretty good nuclear weapons program. Not an obvious improvement, as far as I can tell. And again, it’s done nothing to prevent another 9/11.

I know that we won’t agree on these issues, but I think that we can at least agree that opinion pieces need a better factual basis than the one provided by the WSJ in this instance. "We don’t know what happened, but whatever happened, it shows that the Democrats were wrong" is just not a very good argument. People who make such arguments are worthy of contempt; they’re political sloganeers rather than thoughtful participants in public dialogue.

Brett,

Would that you and I (and our friends) wrote all the op-eds!

But seriously, I was responding to a point you made, which was (as I recall) implicitly or explicitly rejected by all those who voted for the Iraq Liberation Act.

I’m not a big fan of "realpolitik approaches to the Middle East, since too few of the major actors seem to conform to the requirements of the paradigm. You’ve read this, haven’t you?

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