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Opinion
 
The Patriot Act Has Saved Lives

By Paul Rosenzweig
New York Newsday | July 29, 2004


Falsehood, according to Mark Twain's famous dictum, gets halfway around the world before the truth even gets its shoes on. Time and again, outlandish stories seem to grow legs and find wide distribution before the truth can catch up.

A good example is the USA Patriot Act. It's so broadly demonized now you'd never know it passed with overwhelming support in the days immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.

Critics paint the Patriot Act as a cauldron of abuse and a threat to civil liberties. Advocacy groups run ads depicting anonymous hands tearing up the Constitution and a tearful old man fearful to enter a bookstore. Prominent politicians who voted for the act call for a complete overhaul, if not outright repeal.

But the truth is catching up. And the first truth is that the Patriot Act was absolutely vital to protect America's security.

Before 9/11, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies were limited by law in what information they could share with each other. The Patriot Act tore down that wall - and officials have praised the act's value.

As former Attorney General Janet Reno told the 9/11 Commission, "Generally, everything that's been done in the Patriot Act has been helpful, I think, while at the same time maintaining the balance with respect to civil liberties." And as Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent report to Congress makes clear, this change in the law has real, practical consequences.

Information-sharing facilitated by the Patriot Act, for example, was critical to the successful dismantling of terror cells in Lackawanna, New York; Portland, Oregon; and northern Virginia. Likewise, the information-sharing provisions contained in the act assisted the prosecution in San Diego of those involved with an al-Qaeda drugs-for-weapons plot involving "Stinger" anti-aircraft missiles.

It also aided in the prosecution of Enaam Arnaout, who had a relationship with Osama bin Laden and used his charity organization to obtain funds illicitly from unsuspecting Americans for terrorist groups.

These are not trivial successes. On the contrary, they're part of an enormous, ongoing effort to protect America from further terrorist attacks.

We cannot, of course, say that the Patriot Act alone can stop terrorism. But every time we successfully use the new tools to thwart a terrorist organization, that's a victory.

Yet, remarkably, some of these vital provisions will expire at the end of next year. So here's a second truth: If Congress does nothing, then parts of the law will return to where they were on the day before 9/11 - to a time when our government couldn't, by law, connect all the dots. Nobody wants a return to those days, but that is where we are headed if Congress does not set aside its partisan debates.

But what of the abuses, you ask? Time for a third truth: There is no abuse of the Patriot Act. None. The Justice Department's inspector general (who is required by the Patriot Act to examine the use of the act and report any abuse twice a year) has reported that there have been no instances in which the Patriot Act has been invoked to infringe on civil rights or civil liberties.

Others agree. For example, at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Patriot Act, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said: "I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me. My staff...asked [the ACLU] for instances of actual abuses. They...said they had none." So the fiction of abuse can be laid to rest. The government is not, to take but one popular myth, invading libraries and scouring your book records. It's a convenient fiction that calls to mind (as Joseph Bottum, a contributor to The Weekly Standard, has written) the appealing image of "white-haired...[librarians] resisting as best they can the terrible forces of McCarthyism, evangelical Christian book-burning, middle-class hypocrisy, and Big Brother government." But no matter how appealing the image, it has no more reality than any good Hollywood movie.

Government's obligation is a dual one: to provide security against violence and to preserve civil liberty. This is not a zero-sum game.

We can achieve both goals if we empower government to do sensible things while exercising oversight to prevent any real abuses of authority. The Patriot Act, with its reasonable extension of authority to allow the government to act effectively with appropriate oversight rules, meets this goal.

And the truth eventually catches up to the fiction.

Opinion
 
A Regime Built on Terror
Symbiotic relationship links Iran's tyrants, the terrorists they aid

by Michael A. Ledeen
Benador Associates
July 31, 2004

WASHINGTON - Last week's 9/11 Commission report had a considerable amount of new news about the connections between al-Qaeda and Iran. Earlier leaks had flagged the discovery that Iranian border guards had assisted at least eight of the 9/11 terrorists as they crossed Iran on their suicidal mission; the report added the detail that their passports were not stamped. It is possible this was an oversight, or that the guards were bribed. Such things happen. But it's more likely that there was active co-operation, especially since it turns out that al-Qaeda personnel were trained by Iranians and Iranian surrogates, first in Iran itself and then in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, where Hezbollah -- a wholly owned subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran -- has long operated terrorist training centres. Moreover, the commission reported, such top al-Qaeda leaders as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed spent time in Iran, and parked his family there for several months while he travelled elsewhere.

There are other details, but you get the point. For those who have followed the assembly of the al-Qaeda mosaic, these new tiles are beautiful, but do not change the overall design we have come to know over the past few years. Indeed, the Iranian regime, knowing there is abundant proof that al-Qaeda leaders have spent a lot of time in the Islamic Republic both before and after 9/11, has long since proclaimed that fact, all the while claiming the terrorists were actually "in detention" in Iran. When things got alarmingly hot for Tehran, they even promised to hand over the a-Qaeda killers to the United States (at the same time that the regime's leaders constantly praise the terrorists and call upon the people of the Middle East to do everything necessary to drive out the Coalition forces from Iraq). But of course the promises were never kept, and for good reason: Iran's tyrants can no more surrender the terrorists than amputate their own limbs. Terrorism is the essence of the Iranian regime, and the terrorists are there because the regime wants them, helps them and guides them.

On the Iraqi front, all you have to do is listen to the Defence Minister, who puts it quite clearly: Hazim Shalan was quoted in The Washington Post recently saying Iran has taken over Iraqi border positions, sent spies and saboteurs into the country and infiltrated the new government -- including his own ministry. Iran remains "the first enemy of Iraq," he declared.

It is not just terrorism in Iraq. Hardly a week goes by without new information concerning Iran's active support for the leaders of the intifada against Israel, and the Israeli government has said categorically that Iran is now the leading supporter of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And why not? Both were created by Iran.

The details are new, but, after all, we already knew the mosaic. Each year, the State Department compiles a list of state sponsors of terrorism, and Iran always wins the blue ribbon.

Alongside the new news about Iran's support for terrorism is the ongoing comic routine about Iran's nuclear program. Here again, the facts are not in dispute. Iran acknowledges its nuclear program, which it claims is necessary for domestic energy generation, even though Iran has a near-inexhaustible supply of natural gas and huge petroleum deposits. The regime faithfully promises to provide the United Nations watchdogs with all the details, and to provide full access. But time and time again the inspectors find the regime has lied, and has lied about components of a program to build atomic bombs. Whenever the International Atomic Energy Agency asks to visit a sensitive site, the Iranians either declare it off limits, or delay the inspection. They talk like virgins, but act like streetwalkers.

President Bush says there is a linkage between terrorism and tyranny, and that the most effective way to win the war against the terrorists is to bring freedom to the Middle East. Nowhere is the accuracy of the linkage, and the importance of a policy of supporting democratic revolution, so evident as in Iran.

The Canadian people have had this point driven home to them by the horrible story of Zahra Kazemi, a brave female journalist who was brutally murdered by the mullahs when she dared to look at the repression under way in Iran.

Time after time, Iran has spit in the face of any Canadian who even hinted that the mullahs should behave in a civilized way. The Iranians told Kazemi's family to get out of the country, for the affront of asking for Zahra's body. The Iranians buried her, destroying the evidence of their crime and humiliating her mourners. Then the regime staged a farcical trial, banned foreign observers, warned the press not to report on it and cleared the only (low-level) person they had bothered to charge.

Faced with this dreadful and dangerous regime, the Western world has punted, combining occasional denunciations and warnings with a constant leitmotif of appeasement. Yet Iran has long been the Middle East's prime candidate for democratic revolution. The mullahs have wrecked the country and alienated the overwhelming majority of its citizens. Given a free choice, Iranians would almost certainly throw the mullahs into history's dust bin. The West should do everything possible to give them that opportunity, just as was done in the Soviet Empire, the Philippines, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Chile and many other former tyrannies that are now much freer and more democratic. If the Iranian people heard the leaders of the West denounce Iran's oppression, its support for terror and its race to build atomic bombs, coupled with calls for regime change in Iran by peaceful means, they might well find ways to accomplish it.

Otherwise we shall soon confront the world's biggest Islamist tyranny, and the world's leading supporter of terrorism, armed with nuclear weapons.

Shouldn't be a tough decision.