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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.

The Hawks and the Doves Are Aflutter over U.S. Iran Policy

July 23, 2004
AEI
Danielle Pletka



Every few years, with soothing regularity, a prominent research institution comes along to recommend that the United States reengage with Iran. The gist of such reports usually follows the same line: Isolation just isn't working; reformists (or sometimes they're called moderates or pragmatists) need Washington's help in the battle against hard-liners; the country is not (nor will it ever be) on the verge of a new revolution; and only relations with the U.S. will provide incentives for better behavior.

This week, it was the Council on Foreign Relations that sounded the call in a 79-page report from a task force chaired by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates.

Given the seriousness of the threat Iran poses, fresh ideas from the Council on Foreign Relations and elsewhere are, of course, welcome. Iran, after all, is Terror Central: It has become an operational headquarters for parts of Al Qaeda, continues to sponsor Hezbollah and Hamas, and senior officials remain under indictment in U.S. court for masterminding the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia of the Khobar Towers military housing complex, in which 19 Americans died. According to U.S. and European officials, the regime also remains bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and is well down the road to doing so.

Clearly, U.S. policy in Iran has been a failure. Its problems have persisted notwithstanding four years of tough talk from the Bush administration, a continued embargo on U.S. investment and virtual diplomatic radio silence. It's time to try something new; on that much, we can agree with the pro-engagement groups.

But that's where our agreement ends. They insist, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that dialogue and trade would succeed where a hard line has failed. Yet dialogue and trade are the hallmarks of Europe's fruitless engagement of Iran. Neither European diplomatic outreach nor cordial trading relations have achieved results. Carrot-and-stick offers, like a proffered "trade and cooperation agreement" in exchange for a stand-down on nuclear proliferation, have also failed. Engagement is a proven bust.

The fact is, neither tough love nor tough talk will achieve results in Iran because decision-makers in the government--not just the so-called hard-liners but the "moderates" and "pragmatists" as well--are committed to supporting terrorism, developing nuclear weapons and annihilating Israel. Any opening from the U.S. will only lend credibility to that government and forever dash the hopes of a population that, according to reliable polls, despises its own leadership.

So what to do? President Bush has taken the first step by making clear that the Iranian clerical regime is anathema to the U.S. national security. But we're not likely to invade for a variety of practical reasons, among them a shortage of troops and an absence of targeting information about Iran's nuclear sites. Nor can we count on Iran's weary and miserable population to rise up unaided and overthrow its oppressors; virtually all analysts agree that's not about to happen.

Instead, a new three-part policy is needed.

First, the administration must ante up promised support for the Iranian people. Just as we supported Soviet dissidents, we must use the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to embarrass the regime for its abysmal human rights abuses, rally behind dissident student groups and unions and let them know that the U.S. supports their desire for a secular democratic state in Iran.

Second, the administration must persuade the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency to stand firm in their confrontation over Iran's nuclear program. Iran has made commitments to end the production and assembly of nuclear centrifuges. It has reneged on those promises, and the next step is for the IAEA to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council. There is quiet talk of economic sanctions in European capitals; the EU must know that a failure to follow through would mean an Iranian nuclear weapon within a few years.

Finally, the U.S. must lead in the containment of Iran. Iranian weapons imports and exports should be interdicted; financial transfers to terrorists must be identified and confiscated; terrorists traveling into and out of Iran should be aggressively pursued and eliminated.

These steps would not deliver quick solutions, but they are the only rational course available to the U.S. and its allies. We have seen that engagement with the current leadership of Iran would not achieve policy change; all it would do is buy an evil regime the time it needs to perfect its nuclear weapons and to build a network of terrorists to deliver them.

Danielle Pletka is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Column
 
CHANNELING JIMMY CARTER

BY AMIR TAHERI

New York Post

July 29, 2004 -- Carter: Policies echoed in Dem platform.
EVER since Sen. John Kerry emerged as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Republicans have accused him of hoping to restore the Clinton foreign policy. But the Democratic Party's platform, "Strong At Home, Respected In The World," envisages a Kerry presidency whose foreign policy would more resemble Jimmy Carter's.

Nearly half the document, approved at the convention, is devoted to foreign policy, twice that of its predecessor in 2000. It is mainly designed to persuade voters that Kerry would be at least as tough as President Bush on national security and the War on Terror. Nevertheless, it offers some insight into a Kerry foreign policy.

The focus is on the Middle East and the related issues of oil and terrorism. Other issues — NATO's future, U.N. reform, the emergence of China and India, the global environment — are mentioned, but hardly tackled.

Kerry's foreign policy would differ from Bush's in at least three areas:

* Under Kerry, the United States would foreswear the right of pre-emptive action against its foes. It will employ its military only in a multilateral context, with the U.N.'s consent.

Such a policy would give the United Nations and the allies (who are not identified) a veto on America's use of force. It also means that America will act only after it is attacked, and not to prevent attack on itself or its allies.

 

Afghanistan is offered as an illustration of a "good war": The U.S. invasion was right because the 9/11 attacks had been orchestrated by al Qaeda from Afghan territory, and because the United Nations approved it and the allies agreed to take part. The Iraq war, however, was a bad one: America should have waited until after an attack from Iraq before reacting.

This "Pearl Harbor Doctrine" would offer insurance to such regimes as North Korea and Iran: They'd know that, short of attacking the U.S. directly, they need fear no military retaliation.

* A Kerry administration would abandon Bush's commitment to promoting democracy, including by military pressure and/or action. Instead, America would adopt the "soft power" method, using public diplomacy, education, development aid and human rights. (Here, the platform echoes themes developed by Jimmy Carter in 1976.)

This takes us back to the Cold War, when preserving the status quo was more important than reshaping the world on the basis of democratic ideals. "Democracy will not bloom overnight," the platform insists, echoing Kerry's statement that spreading democracy would not be among his priorities.

The document says a Kerry presidency will help "sustain voices of freedom against repressive regimes." The word "sustain" is meaningless in this context, and the label "repressive regimes" (instead of "anti-democratic regimes") is unfortunate: "Voices of freedom" will be sustained to shout until they are hoarse, but never supported to actually prevail.

* In the war against terror, Kerry would put the emphasis on measures that the United States and its allies must take within their own realm rather than impose on others. This means police cooperation among the 60 countries with active terrorist cells. America would orchestrate the freezing of terrorist assets and the closing of terrorist channels of communication.

The problem is that one man's terrorist is often someone else's "freedom fighter." For example, Syria and Iran will never admit that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and almost all Arab states refuse to label Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorist.

There are also thousands of front groups (charities and NGOs, enjoying high patronage in their respective countries), part or all of whose activities could be regarded as terrorist. Those governments are unlikely to disband them to please Washington, especially if refusal entails no cost. The platform's call to "name and shame" countries that finance terror is no deterrent: Many Arab leaders would love to be singled out as supporters of Hamas or Islamic Jihad; it would give them an almost heroic profile in their neck of the woods.

Though mostly concerned with generalities, the platform can't avoid three specifics:

On Iraq, it states that "people of goodwill will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq." This is bizarre. Both Kerry and his running mate John Edwards are people of goodwill, and yet did not disagree on the issue. Both voted for the liberation of Iraq twice and have said nothing to indicate regret on that score.

A Kerry administration may not have a clear policy on Iraq. The document proposes the nomination of an International High Commissioner, a kind of U.N. pasha to rule Iraq for an unspecified period. But we are long past that in Iraq. The Iraqis have an interim government and are preparing for elections within six months. So, who is going to impose a new pasha on them, and how?

The idea of a U.N. pasha was first aired by France's President Jacques Chirac before liberation. To try to set the clock back two years is no way of going forward in Iraq.

Perhaps anxious not to antagonize the Howard Dean wing of the party, the document is vague about the role of U.S. troops in Iraq. Kerry would keep them there, but in the context of " an international presence." Yet, this is already the case. With the end of occupation, the U.S. and other Coalition forces are in Iraq on the basis of a Security Council resolution.

The United Nations has also appointed a new representative to Iraq. The problem is that he cannot go there because the U.N. doesn't want him to be protected by American and Coalition troops, but no one else is offering soldiers for a U.N. "protection force."

All the 198 members of the United Nations are welcome to contribute troops to Iraq. But, apart from the 34 members of the U.S.-led Coalition, none seems willing to do so. Thus, the Democrats' proposal could mean only one thing: putting the existing U.S. and Coalition forces under the U.N. flag.

On Iran, the platform says, "A nuclear-armed Iran is an unacceptable risk to us and our allies." The use of the word "risk," instead of "danger" or "threat," is interesting. Risk has some positive connotations because it could involve both losing and winning, but "danger "or "threat" cannot but be negative.

The term "unacceptable" is also interesting: In the diplomatic lexicon, it represents the lowest level of dissatisfaction. E.g., if members of a friendly government boycott a Fourth of July cocktail party at a U.S. embassy, this is "unacceptable" behavior.

What will Kerry do about a nuclear-armed Iran? The answer is: nothing, unless we take into account the senator's recent proposal (not in the platform) to supply Iran with as much enriched uranium as it wants provided the U.S. gets custody of the spent fuel. (Tehran dismissed the idea as "arrogant musings." )

On the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the platform takes back President Clinton's pledge to give part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians as their future capital. It calls for a democratic Palestinian state under a new Palestinian leadership, echoing the Bush policy. It also calls for the revival of the special envoy tradition, initiated by Carter and abandoned by the current president. That does not amount to much of a policy.

The platfrom mentions Saudi Arabia twice — first, in reference to Bush's "kid-gloves approach to the supply and laundering of money" for terrorism, and second in the context of a wish to reduce dependence on oil from OPEC. The first is too vague to stand analysis. The second is a pious hope, first expressed by Carter in his failed re-election campaign.

On intelligence, Kerry will adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, although some are either duplications or contradictory. But that is another story.E-mail:

amirtaheri@benadorassociates.com