Games vs. Security
By Alan Nathan
December 22, 2005
Americans are great fighters. Just look at the efficiency
we apply to kicking our own backsides. Whether deciding how long
we should give enemies the benefit of the doubt before attacking
them, or weighing civil liberties against the security measures
necessary to protect those rights, political battles at home
will soon call for ringside doctors and a spit bucket.
example, the issue of imminent threat still haunts the
legitimacy of war argument in Iraq. Michigan Democratic
Sen. Carl Levin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean insist
that President Bush mischaracterized the Iraqi threat as
imminent through the manipulation of intelligence. There
is no record of the administration having done so and both
the Robb-Silberman and September 11 Commissions found no
evidence of such prevarication.
However, these points are relevant only to exposing the
vapidity of their charge. What's really paramount is the questionable validity
of imminent threat as the assumed standard for war because such a prerequisite
has already proven antiquated, misguided and dangerous to our nation's population.
On September 11 "imminence" came and went undetected.
This standard is fundamentally flawed because it's
at the mercy of an often-unattainable determination. If such a frequently out-of-reach
criterion must be achieved before action is justified, then by
consequence we're consenting to be hit first before acting.
What happens when we're locked into those periodic dynamics
of competing interests wherein reality leaves us having to choose the lesser
of two evils: either prematurely attack the enemy, or allow the enemy to attack
us right on time. The wiser standard for war should be something more flexible
granting us the option to err on the side of caution — caution
that favors our citizens before the enemy's.
Delaware Democratic Sen. Joe Biden has argued that better
intelligence would reveal an "imminent threat" more
effectively, thus removing the need for pre-emptive strikes.
Agreed. But we should rely on this only after our intelligence
community can read threats on a par with our enemy's ability
to write them. Until then, we should side with the odds that
serve us instead of those who are after us.
begs another question: What credible latitude was truly
granted to Mr. Bush when he, without warrants, ordered
the National Security Agency to implement the surveillance
of terrorist suspects over phones, e-mails and faxes? In
Article II, Section II of the Constitution it says that, "The
President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of
the United States, and of the militia of the several States."
military personnel under the president take an oath upon joining
to, "support and defend the Constitution of the United States
against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Given that during
time of war the military can perform searches and surveillance
operations without warrants, why is it that their commander in
chief can't do the same just because the enemy fluctuates between
foreign and domestic? These are the very two enemy categories
that our military is sworn to fight and their boss is no less
If the Civil War were fought today under such constraints,
the Democrats would be without one of their most vital constituencies.
White House says that it kept congressional intelligence
committee leaders abreast of these activities in accordance with
The National Security Act, Section 502. While acknowledging
these contacts with Congress, California Democrat Sen.
Dianne Feinstein said that the exception, "has
become increasingly used just to notify a very few people. There
are 535 Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives
of the United States. If the President of the United States is
not going to follow the law and he simply alerts eight Members,
that doesn't mean he doesn't violate a law."
to me like the committee leaders had an option to share the intelligence
on these secret activities with their colleagues. In light of
the New York Times report on it, there doesn't seem to have been
a shortage of "sharing."
the outrage over violated civil liberties seems especially histrionic.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does allow for these
activities to bypass normal Fourth Amendment protections against
unreasonable searches. However, the condition for this is that
any criminal activity discovered outside the scope of national
security cannot be given to a domestic prosecutor because that
would constitute evidence garnered without the conventional warrant
normally required — hence no real infringement of civil
The only privilege denied is the right to secretly
plot the demise of fellow Americans.
Please excuse the inconvenience.