“We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night,” John Kerry told Iowa voters last December 1. “So it is time to end the era of John Ashcroft. That starts with replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time.”
Characteristically, Kerry now denounces the Patriot Act, although he voted for it. At least as late as August 6, 2003, Kerry bragged about that decision. He told New Hampshire voters, “Most of [the Patriot Act] has to do with improving the transfer of information between CIA and FBI, and it has to do with things that really were quite necessary in the wake of what happened on September 11th.”
Unlike the Tumbleweed-in-Chief, members of the new Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law unswervingly promote the Patriot Act as a shield against Islamo-fascists eager to slaughter more Americans in massive numbers. The Coalition urged Congressional leaders September 23 to renew the Patriot Act next year.
“We write to express our strong support for the USA Patriot Act and concern about misinformation about the necessary legal tools it provides to battle al Qaeda and other terrorist enemies,” states a letter signed by former Gotham mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, actor Ron Silver, and 66 other leading Americans.
They quote Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Senator John Edwards (D., N. C.), who also voted for the Patriot Act and said, “We simply cannot prevail in the battle against terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the left hand is doing.”
By boosting penalties for terrorism, dragging analog-era surveillance laws into the digital age, and tearing down the wall that kept American spies from comparing notes with cops, the Patriot Act has helped thwart numerous terrorist conspiracies, among them:
FBI efforts to nail the Lackawanna Six al Qaeda cell began in summer 2001. Separate teams probed their suspected drug and terrorist violations. According to the Justice Department’s “July Report from the Field: The USA Patriot Act at Work,” “there were times when the intelligence officers and the law enforcement agents concluded that they could not be in the same room during briefings to discuss their respective investigations with each other.” Under the Patriot Act, these officials began exchanging data, pooled their energies, and jailed all six upstate New York terrorists for seven to ten years for pro-al Qaeda subterfuge.
In the Portland Seven case, the Patriot Act let the FBI follow one terrorist’s plans to attack domestic Jewish targets while other conspirators tried to reach Afghanistan to help al Qaeda and the Taliban battle American GIs. The FBI and prosecutors jointly imprisoned six of the Seven for three to 18 years. As the DOJ dryly adds: “Charges against the seventh defendant were dismissed after he was killed in Pakistan by Pakistani troops on October 3, 2003.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Eight were indicted for materially supporting foreign terrorists. Before that, Patriot Act Section 219 let the supervising federal judge quickly issue a search warrant in another jurisdiction, rather than consume precious time by involving an additional, local jurist.
The Virginia Jihad Nine have been jailed for four years to life for training in Pakistani and Afghan terror camps between 1999 and 2001 and for paramilitary jihad instruction in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Patriot Act information-sharing language helped incarcerate these members of the Dar al-Arqam Islamic Center.
Patriot Act Section 371 is helping the feds seize $659,000 that Alaa Al-Sadawi, a terrorist-linked New Jersey mullah, tried to smuggle to Egypt through his elderly parents. Customs agents found this cash in a Quaker Oats carton, a Ritz Crackers box, and two baby-wipes packages, all stashed in the imam’s father’s luggage.
As Dick Morris recalled in the September 12 New York Post, under the Patriot Act, federal intelligence agents in March 2003 gave information to the NYPD gleaned from interrogations of al Qaeda honcho Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM). This prompted New York’s Finest to guard the Brooklyn Bridge and arrest Iyman Faris before he could blast it into the East River.
Similar intelligence sharing helped the NYPD unravel an al Qaeda plot to use a law-abiding Manhattan garment company to ship bombs and Stinger missiles into New York. Details massaged out of KSM foiled Islamist designs to fire these Stingers at jetliners departing Newark Airport.
Despite its caricature as an anti-Islamic nightstick, the Patriot Act helped save a mosque. Jared Bjarnason allegedly e-mailed the El Paso Islamic Center April 18 and threatened to torch it if hostages were not freed in Iraq. Patriot Act Section 212 let the FBI locate Bjarnason through his Internet service provider and cuff him before he could set the mosque ablaze.
Thanks to such post-Patriot Act cooperation among the CIA, FBI, police, and prosecutors, “more than 3,000 terrorists have been rolled up worldwide, including two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s leadership,” investigative journalist Ronald Kessler estimated in USA Today April 21.
Still, the American Civil Liberties Union and its allies see the Patriot Act as the birth certificate of an American police state.
Speaking September 9 at a homeland-security seminar in Colorado Springs, Heritage Foundation scholar Paul Rosenzweig dismissed worries about, for instance, Patriot Act provisions on “delayed notification search warrants.”
“They can come into your house, and you’ll never know about it,” Rosenzweig said in mock horror. “Imagine if you had to tell John Gotti that you bugged his house. ‘Speak clearly into the chandelier, John.’”
As for alleged civil-liberties violations, the Justice Department’s inspector general found only 17 Patriot Act-related complaints through December 2003 that merited investigation and substantial review. That is a rather low error rate given millions of contacts over two years between Justice employees and average citizens.
Quintennially reauthorizing the Patriot Act would help Congress guard against potential abuses. Journalists also would howl if overzealous feds ever began examining library reading lists without search warrants. That said, wouldn’t it have been nice had FBI agents on, say, September 1, 2001 learned that Mohamed Atta had borrowed books on Boeing 767 flight techniques and high-rise fire-fighting challenges?
While Americans ponder legal niceties, those who want YOU dead likely weigh the relative merits of explosives versus poisons. Remember the enemy against whom the Patriot Act is deployed. Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against the U.S. is icily clear: “The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”
The Patriot Act stands between that and you.