Politics & Policy

Graham’s Cover Up

Kyl vs. Graham.

10:45 A.M.: SMEARED BUSH ON NATIONAL TELEVISION

On Sunday, senator and presidential aspirant Bob Graham of Florida charged that the Bush administration is engaged in a “cover up” of pre-9/11 intelligence failures and ongoing terrorist threats. Graham seeks the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the pre-9/11 intelligence failures. The report was written when Graham was chairman of the committee, but much of it remains classified.

In a later interview, Graham explained: “I think what the administration is concerned about is that we have connected the dots. They don’t want the American people in one document to know and be able to assess and hold accountable the people who were involved in the lead up to September 11.” Doubtless the release of the committee Democrats’ full report would also be a nice story for Graham’s presidential campaign.

#ad#Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, served on the Intelligence Committee while the report was being written (and did not agree with all the report’s conclusions). He calls Sen. Graham’s charge “ludicrous.” Kyl continues, “It is true that you can’t talk about everything you know, but I would hope [Graham] would understand that that’s not a cover-up.”

Regarding the committee’s report, Kyl said, “The process of declassifying what went into that report is ongoing, and it takes a long time. I expect he’s frustrated because he can only talk about what’s unclassified. . . . I can tell you there is no smoking gun. There is no hugely interesting nugget of intelligence information that’s been kept from the public that would cause the public to think that there’s been a cover-up and if only they knew this information their views would be different.”

TAKING LIBERTIES

The next issue of NR includes an article of mine on the left-right coalition to protect civil liberties during the war on terrorism. Inevitably, however, some points of interest had to be cut from it in the interests of space. One of them concerned Paul Weyrich, the head of the Free Congress Foundation, who has been a leading spokesman for the conservative end of that coalition. In a notorious hit piece on John Ashcroft in the New York Times last summer, Weyrich was quoted saying this: “There is suddenly great concern that what was passed in the wake of 9-11 were things that had little to do with catching terrorists but a lot to do with increasing the strength of government to infiltrate and spy on conservative organizations.”

I note this only to ask whether Weyrich’s civil libertarianism may be in some, er, tension with his calls for government investigations of the antiwar movement?

In January, he wrote, “We need to know how these [antiwar] groups are financed. If Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge wants to do something useful with all his new powers, he ought to find out how these neo-Communists are being financed.

“If Ridge won’t act, then Congress should. Congress should hold hearings and compel the organizers to testify.”

“No legitimate group should be intimidated if Congress goes after true enemies of America. As much as I completely and totally disagree with, for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I would nevertheless defend their right to express their beliefs.

“But groups which are dedicated to the overthrow of the United States should not be treated as legitimate.”

I assume that this is one civil-liberties issue where the ACLU would not be shoulder-to-shoulder with Weyrich. I also wonder if there is anything, short of a socialist revolution, that would please the folks at ANSWER more than if Congress took his advice.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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