Thursday, December 22, 2005

More Justification for the NSA Program (If You Really Need It)

As most of you know, Richard Miniter is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has written three best-selling books on the War on Terror. His latest work, Disinformation: 22 Media Myths that Undermine the War on Terror is required reading for anyone concerned about the impact of the MSM on our military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Unlike many of the talking heads who appear on cable news programs, Miniter is well-versed in such areas as intelligence, counter-terrorism, military tactics and homeland security. He's done yeoman work exposing media inaccuracies and distortions in Iraq, including the claim that "no weapons of mass destruction were found," and "there were no 9-11 ties between Iraq Al-Qaida.

Mr. Miniter appeared on Sean Hannity's radio program last night, to discuss the NSA surveillance program. He reminded guest host Kirby Wilbur of two salient facts regarding the domestic surveillance effort. First, everyone targeted for eavesdropping by the NSA had known ties Al-Qaida, and secondly, there is ample evidence of continued contact between terrorist leaders and operatives/sympathizers in the United States. Case in point: former Al-Qaida operations director Abu Zubaydah, captured in Pakistan in 2002. Examination of Zubaydah's cell phone provided a treasure trove of information, including some 300 American phone numbers the Al Qaida leader had either called or taken calls from in the months before his capture.

I'm going out on a limb here, but it's probably resonable to say Zubaydah wasn't calling the States to get stock quotes or baseball scores. That steady stream of communications--plus more calls and e-mails from other terrorist leaders--provides a powerful argument for the NSA program. Why not rely the FISA court (as civil libertarians might argue)? Securing a warrant through that process is often cumbersome, and can take from three weeks to six months. In the aftermath of 9-11, the U.S. needed a proactive, flexible approach to gather intelligence information on developing terrorist operations, and the NSA program met those requirements.

Relying on the FISA process alone, there is reason to believe that we would have missed a significant number of terrorist communications over the past three years. The NSA program is hardly perfect, but it's a better mechanism for collecting intelligence information on known and suspected terrorists, with built-in safeguards to protect our civil liberties. In a world where terrorists plot against us (both within and outside our borders) we have no other choice.

BTW, I haven't found any audio files of the Miniter interview, either on Hannity's site, or at the webpage of KVI radio, the Seattle station where Kirby Wilbur serves as morning host. Hopefully, someone will post them in the coming days.

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