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Democrats Wield The Patriot Ax

October 7, 2009

Democrats Wield The Patriot Ax

6 Oct. 2009 | IBD

Homeland Security: Provisions of the law that spared New York another 9/11 are set to expire Dec. 31. So why do Democrats want to gut this law and remove the immunity telecom companies have for helping protect America?

To borrow a British expression from World War II, it was a very near thing. The capture, arrest and indictment of 24-year-old Afghan immigrant Najubullah Zazi before he could set off bombs made from store-bought chemicals prevented a tragedy of potentially devastating proportions.

It wouldn’t have happened if the critics of Patriot Act had their way. The capture of Zazi was made possible by the “roving wiretaps” and other methods authorized under the Patriot Act signed into law by President George W. Bush. “All the layers of defense President Bush set up after Sept. 11 are working,” noted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

According to documents filed in New York federal court, Zazi and others had journeyed to Pakistan in August 2008 from where he allegedly e-mailed himself bomb-making instructions and received training from al-Qaida. This was precisely the kind of communication the Patriot Act was designed to intercept.

Nine pages of handwritten formulas for homemade explosives, fuses and detonators were later found on his laptop, e-mailed from an account in Pakistan. Tailed by the FBI, Zazi bought large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, which together can make a highly explosive cocktail.

Zazi was found to have bookmarked a Web site on his computer for “lab safety for hydrochloric acid” — one of the ingredients used in the 2005 mass transit bombing in London. Also indicted was imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, who warned Zazi in a call interrupted by the FBI around Sept. 11 that he was under investigation.

A bill to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats there favor changes that would weaken the law that has kept Americans safe for eight years. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., says more protection is needed against warrantless searches of personal and business records and unwarranted electronic surveillance. Feingold says we “need to revisit the entire bill,” not just the expiring provisions.

Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would modify the government’s justification for obtaining business records and other items. Under his changes, authorities would have to provide a court a detailed statement and justify that the items requested were relevant to an authorized foreign intelligence investigation.

At a Sept. 23 committee hearing, freshman Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., questioned the legality of the roving wiretaps. Pulling a copy of the Constitution from his pocket, he contended they violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons. Presumably he would include terrorists like Zazi.

In a related move, Leahy, Feingold and Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have said they plan to introduce legislation to repeal a provision in a 2008 act granting immunity to telecom companies that helped the government listen in on conversations involving suspected terrorists.

Dodd [Dudd?] said he was introducing legislation to reverse this retroactive immunity because in granting it, “Congress violated the protection of our citizens’ privacy and due process right, and we must not allow that to stand.”

The government is not interested in listening to anyone wishing Mom a Happy Mother’s Day. Nor does it have the time and manpower. It is interested in hearing what terrorists like Najubullah Zazi are saying and to whom they are saying it.

The Constitution also has something to say about protecting the people from enemies, foreign and domestic.

The document is not a suicide pact, and no one’s rights have been violated in the eight years the Patriot Act has kept us and its critics alive.

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