Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Preventing Future Attacks

WSJ: The Cheney Imperative

With intelligence officials in Washington increasingly alarmed about the prospect of another major attack on the U.S. homeland, and public support for the Bush administration's anti-terror efforts reclaiming lost ground, we need more Dick Cheney.

The policies he has advocated have been controversial. But they have also been effective. Consider the procedures put in place to extract information from hardcore terrorists. Mr. Cheney did not dream up these interrogation methods, but when intelligence officials insisted that they would work, the vice president championed them in internal White House debates and on Capitol Hill. Former CIA Director George Tenet--a Clinton-era appointee and certainly no Cheney fan--was asked about the value of those interrogation programs in a recent television appearance. His response, ignored by virtually everyone in the media, was extraordinary.

"Here's what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the president of the Untied States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. . . . I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us."

Surveillance may come at a modest price, but it pays dividends...
And what about the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program? Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush instructed his top intelligence officials to be aggressive in their efforts to track terrorists and disrupt their plots. Michael Hayden, NSA director at the time, took that opportunity to propose changes to the ways his agency monitored terrorist communications. A little more than a year before the 9/11 attacks, while Bill Clinton was still president, Mr. Hayden dramatized the NSA's dilemma in congressional testimony.

"If, as we are speaking here this afternoon, Osama bin Laden is walking . . . from Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Niagara Falls, New York, as he gets to the New York side, he is an 'American person.' And my agency must respect his rights against unreasonable search and seizure as provided by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution."

Once President Bush took office, Messrs. Hayden and Tenet took the problem to Dick Cheney. The vice president walked them in to see Mr. Bush and in short order the changes were implemented. The results were almost immediate. The New York Times article that exposed the surveillance program in December 2005 also reported that "the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches. What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program."

H/T: Pat Dollard.

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