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Equating Civil Liberties And Terrorism

Reported by Ellen - September 18, 2005

The politics of demonization were in full view Friday night (9/16/05) on Hannity & Colmes during a discussion of Governor Mitt Romney's remarks suggesting the US should conduct surveillance of mosques and foreign students. Everybody seemed to agree that monitoring is OK so long as the legal standards of probable cause are followed. But, at the same time, substitute co-host Rich Lowry (subbing for Hannity) and guest "former CIA operative" Wayne Simmons attacked as terrorism-abetters those who care about ensuring that our laws are followed.

Lowry started off the segment by saying that "civil libertarians and immigration advocates, of course, condemn the governor's comments which Lowry later described as "perfectly reasonable."

Yet, Alan Colmes pointed out that Romney didn't mention any specific threats and that our laws require specific, credible evidence of a crime being committed before wiretapping can begin. He read Romney's statement: "What about people in settings - mosques, for instance - that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror. Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping?" Colmes said wiretapping can't be done "based on hate speech or what you deem to be hate speech."

Guest Wayne Simmons, a "former CIA operative," said condescendingly, "This is a time of war. Alan, here you go again... In today's environment, we know for a fact that mosques today, right now - I know where some are, you probably do, as well as - certainly intel agencies do - are practicing speech, hatred speech, domestic attacks."

When fellow guest, Kareem Shora, of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said "mosques are not inherently dangerous places," Simmons responded indignantly, "So you say."

What mosques are dangerous and where? Are there any in Romney's state of Massachusetts? Simmons never said. He and Lowry seemed more interested in demonizing the backers of civil liberties than in discussing the hard evidence, if there is any, that mosques are being used as terrorist havens.

Lowry: Wayne, it seems to me that whenever there's a controversy like this and someone makes perfectly reasonable comments like the governor, and you have these groups going crazy, it serves as a sort of brushback pitch to the government and tends to make mosques an area that's off limits, which WOULD (his emphasis) serve the interests of terrorists if (my emphasis) they wanted to use those mosques.

Simmons, who always reminds the audience that "I know what it takes to stop these animals," never seems to find any tactic too brutal so long as it's used against someone he considers a terrorist. (Do a site search of his name for many other examples of Simmons' extremist views.) As usual, he deemed those who don't agree with him as aiding terrorism. "What I don't like, and it continues to happen, is that every time we get a leader who steps forward with these bold, new ways to combat terror, we have this constant outcry of 'Oh, Gee, we need a fair and balanced way to trap these guys.' The only country in the world that allows that attitude to happen is the United States and they use it against us every time. They will continue to use it against us and, make no mistake about it, if we do not implement some type of what used to be called 'domestic operations division' and though it was a bad program used by the CIA because it was (sic) spied on Americans, it could still be implemented with restraints and with guards - safeguards to watch out for these, these criminals and these terrorists."

Comment: I wish someone had pinned Simmons down on exactly how, in his view, the terrorists have used our concern for civil liberties "against us every time." The 9/11 Commission Report details a myriad of government failures in response to evidence of threats of terrorism in the summer of 2001. I could not find any evidence that the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks was the result of the government's inability to collect enough information or being blocked by civil liberties. In fact, it says the opposite, that the government had plenty of information but failed to use it correctly:

Because the amount of reporting is so voluminous, only a select fraction can be chosen for briefing the president and senior officials. During 2001, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet was briefed regularly regarding threats and other operational information relating to Usama Bin Ladin.1 He in turn met daily with President Bush, who was briefed by the CIA through what is known as the President's Daily Brief (PDB)... There were more than 40 intelligence articles in the PDBs from January 20 to September 10, 2001, that related to Bin Ladin...

As Tenet told us, "the system was blinking red" during the summer of 2001...

...No one working on these late leads in the summer of 2001 connected the case in his or her in-box to the threat reports agitating senior officials and being briefed to the President. Thus, these individual cases did not become national priorities. As the CIA supervisor "John" told us, no one looked at the bigger picture; no analytic work foresaw the lightning that could connect the thundercloud to the ground.113

We see little evidence that the progress of the plot was disturbed by any government action. The U.S. government was unable to capitalize on mistakes made by al Qaeda. Time ran out.

I fail to understand why Democrats don't drive this point home every time the Republicans try to make further inroads in our civil liberties.

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