The Corner

‘This Administration Acts Like Violating Civil Liberties Is the Way to Enhance Our Security’

With news that Iran is now bragging about its nuclear program, and that North Korea is bragging about its nuclear-missile program and that Syria is an ungodly mess, I am reminded of President Obama’s 2007 denunciation of the U.S. policy of supposedly shunning those countries: 

The lesson of the Bush years is that not talking does not work. Go down the list of countries we’ve ignored and see how successful that strategy has been. We haven’t talked to Iran, and they continue to build their nuclear program. We haven’t talked to Syria, and they continue support for terror. We tried not talking to North Korea, and they now have enough material for 6 to 8 more nuclear weapons.

And with recent disclosures that the Obama administration has drafted a secret  contingency policy of executing even U.S. citizens, without due process, predicated on unnamed top-level officials’ suspicions that they might be terrorists, and mindful that the Obama administration did not close down Guantanamo, and  embraced or expanded preventative detention, renditions, tribunals, wiretaps, and intercepts, while killing through Predator drone attacks about ten times more suspected terrorists in four years than Bush did in four, I remember Obama’s grand critique of his predecessor in the same 2007 speech:

I also will reject a legal framework that does not work. There has been only one conviction at Guantanamo. It was for a guilty plea on material support for terrorism. The sentence was nine months. There has not been one conviction of a terrorist act. I have faith in America’s courts, and I have faith in our JAGs. As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.

This administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.

That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national-security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America, and that is why the fifth part of my strategy is doing the hard and patient work to secure a more resilient homeland.

Too often this administration’s approach to homeland security has been to scatter money around and avoid hard choices, or to scare Americans without telling them what to be scared of, or what to do. A Department set up to make Americans feel safer didn’t even show up when bodies drifted through the streets in New Orleans. That’s not acceptable.


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