Rarely do we get to see two stories on the same day providing such a clear contrast in the direction the two political parties take in national security. First, we have Republicans in the Senate offering an amendment to keep funds from the White House for the closing of Guantanamo Bay and the relocation of 148 of the worst terrorist detainees we’ve captured. The amendment would extend a ban Congress imposed in the spring when Barack Obama and his team attempted to bypass the legislature on their Gitmo-closing project:
Senators are again trying to stop the Obama administration from closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by blocking the money needed to transfer the remaining and most notorious prisoners to the United States, Sen. James. M. Inhofe said Tuesday.
The restriction is part of the Defense Appropriations Bill now being debated on the Senate floor and would extend similar legislation that expires Oct. 1.
Mr. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, supports the bill and thinks it will pass because the 148 remaining prisoners are what he calls “the real bad guys,” including accused al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
“I think we may be in a (good) position,” Mr. Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Washington Times “America’s Morning News” radio show. “Now that we’re down to the real hardcore, you’ve got to keep that thing open.”
Dianne Feinstein thinks differently, but that’s not a big shock. She probably will be in the minority, especially since Democrats have already put themselves in a bad enough position over health care and the upcoming cap-and-trade bill. Voting to bring the worst of the terrorists into American prisons would just about guarantee massive losses in the midterms, if not already certain.
And if that doesn’t do it, the latest effort to punish the telecoms for working with the Bush administration on national security has also hit the floor of the upper chamber:
Four Democratic senators have introduced a bill that would, if passed, repeal the legal immunity afforded the telecommunications industry for their participation in President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the measure Monday. In a release, they said the bill “eliminates retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.”
The four senators, all liberal Democrats, emphasized that they believed granting the industry immunity violated the law and due process.
They have great timing. The recent exposure of two terror plots by al-Qaeda this month highlighted how important those communication intercepts were in protecting American lives. Even though the American media chose not to focus on this, the conviction of al-Qaeda plotters in the 2007 conspiracy to blow up several flights from the UK to the US relied heavily on these intercepts as well as in uncovering the planned attack, as the UK’s Channel 4 and Wired Magazine reported this month:
The three men convicted in the United Kingdom on Monday of a plot to bomb several transcontinental flights were prosecuted in part using crucial e-mail correspondences intercepted by the U.S. National Security Agency, according to Britain’s Channel 4.
The e-mails, several of which have been reprinted by the BBC and other publications, contained coded messages, according to prosecutors. They were intercepted by the NSA in 2006 but were not included in evidence introduced in a first trial against the three last year.
That trial resulted in the men being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; but a jury was not convinced that they had planned to use soft drink bottles filled with liquid explosives to blow up seven trans-Atlantic planes — the charge for which they were convicted this week in a second trial.
According to Channel 4, the NSA had previously shown the e-mails to their British counterparts, but refused to let prosecutors use the evidence in the first trial, because the agency didn’t want to tip off an alleged accomplice in Pakistan named Rashid Rauf that his e-mail was being monitored. U.S. intelligence agents said Rauf was al Qaeda’s director of European operations at the time and that the bomb plot was being directed by Rauf and others in Pakistan.
The NSA later changed its mind and allowed the evidence to be introduced in the second trial, which was crucial to getting the jury conviction. Channel 4 suggests the NSA’s change of mind occurred after Rauf, a Briton born of Pakistani parents, was reportedly killed last year by a U.S. drone missile that struck a house where he was staying in northern Pakistan.
Which party is serious about national security, and which party isn’t?