Defense & National Security

Dems’ Big Risk

Congressional liberals must think Americans have very short memories.  For years the Left trashed the Bush administration for not capturing and killing Osama bin Laden.  Democrats claimed they could get the job done.  Campaigning for president, Barack Obama made “We will kill bin Laden” a regular part of his foreign policy stump speech.   

But as the political winds have shifted, so has the nature of the Left’s indictments.  Congressional Democrats continue to attack the Bush administration.  Only now they are blaming it for trying to kill Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.  

Theirs is a dangerous game. The Democrats’ attempts at political point-scoring will backfire if America is attacked on their watch.  Democratic congressmen presently in full-throated attack mode may then appreciate what the Bush administration did to keep America safe. But if not, they may wish they had kept their mouths shut about how to keep a country safe.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats claim to be aghast over revelations that the Central Intelligence Agency considered assassinating top enemy leaders, whom we should recall were trying to kill American citizens.  The Democrats’ feigned outrage only underscores how desperate they are to distract Americans from their own deficiencies with continued assault and battery of the reputations of Bush, Cheney and Co.   

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the CIA considered starting a program that would have involved sending squads of operatives overseas to track and capture or kill al Qaeda leaders.  After some preliminary discussions, however, the program was deemed infeasible and dropped.  Meanwhile, actual American soldiers were on the ground fighting and dying in the war on terror. Surely the Democrats noticed that battle had been engaged.

In June, CIA Director Leon Panetta officially ended the program and told members of Congress at a briefing that the CIA had practiced “systematic deception” in not informing Congress of its existence.    

Last week, seven Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee publicly accused top CIA officials of hiding “significant actions” from Congress dating back to 2001.  

The accusation is patently false.  Democrats in Congress are angry for being kept in the dark about efforts to kill our enemies, but it was public knowledge that we were looking for ways to eliminate those thugs.  The Washington Post reported it on the front page on October 21, 2001.  In that article was this quote: “‘The gloves are off,’ one senior official said. ‘The president has given the agency (the CIA) the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now underway.’”  The Post did a follow-up story on this very program one week later.

Also, the CIA decided not to hold congressional briefings because the program never became fully operational.  As the New York Times reported about the program, “the plans were vague and were never carried out.”  While it is debatable whether it would have been legal for the CIA to carry out such operations without officially informing Congress, it is certainly not illegal for the CIA to consider a program without informing Congress.  

Congressional Democrats are frantic to score cheap political points by tethering the entire program to the one man they’ve spent eight years demonizing, Dick Cheney, whom they allege ordered the CIA to keep mum about the program.  The allegation is also meant to protect Speaker Pelosi for her unfounded accusation that the CIA is “lying all the time.”  Now Pelosi wants lawmakers to “take whatever actions they believe are necessary” to find out what happened.

Of course, the left has routinely politicized some of the Bush administration’s most effective national security efforts.  In 2005, The New York Times outed the administration’s warrantless wiretapping of terrorist communications.  A report released last Friday by an independent federal investigator found no wrong doing by the administration, and that the program produced useful information about terrorist activities.  

Yet, five national security agencies that authored the report allege that the Bush administration may still have broken the law by ordering the warrantless wire taps.  But as John Yoo, a former Justice Department official, wrote Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, the outdated law “created a wall between domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence” and “proved dysfunctional and contributed to our government’s failure to prevent the 9-11 attacks.”  

Undeterred by the fact that a terrorist attack was prevented in Los Angeles, Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate criminal actions by CIA officers involved in enhanced interrogation of terrorists.  He may proceed even though Justice Department attorneys five years ago concluded that no prosecution was warranted.

Not surprisingly, the Democratic Party in recent years has had to strain to convince Americans that they are as committed as Republicans to keeping America safe.  In the first six months of the Obama administration, Democrats have done little to change the perception of their national security weakness, appearing most interested in reading Miranda rights to everyone from Al Qaeda terrorists to Cheney, while the President tours the world apologizing for America’s “sins.”

These tactics will surely backfire on the Left if their playing for cheap political points results in lives lost.  

If the unthinkable happens, these games will only punctuate how unserious they have been about protecting America.  They will undoubtedly try to pin any attack on the Bush administration (as they preemptively do now with their mantra that the Iraq war has made America more vulnerable to attacks).  But most Americans will be left wishing that Pelosi and Obama’s Justice Department had gone after terrorists with the same tenacity with which they pursue Dick Cheney and the Bush administration. 

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