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Friday, December 30, 2005

Time for President Bush to Call His Critics' Bluff on Warrantless Anti-Terrorist Spy Programs

Yes, The Washington Post has another "Bush spying is out-of-control" story this morning, the latest installment in the mainstream media establishment's campaign to generate impeachment pressure against the Chief Executive.

The editorial leadership of the Post, The New York Times and their mainstream media allies, as well as the leadership of the Democrats in Congress and the virulently anti-Bush elements of the liberal advocacy community better hope the White House doesn't read Tony Snow's Townhall.com column today.

Snow, the current Fox News tv and radio news host and analyst and former Deputy Editorial Page Editor at The Detroit News and Editorial Page Editor The Washington Times, says it's time for Bush to call his critics' bluff:

"... the president ought to open his State of the Union Address by asking Congress to give him official authority to approve warrantless searches of known and identified terrorists, or of people in regular contact with those terrorists whom authorities reasonably suspect of plotting to commit acts of murder, terror or sabotage.
"These activities ought to be subject to monthly review by the attorney general. The administration also ought to be required each month to brief the top four congressional leaders, both intelligence committees and the head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
"The proposal would codify the status quo - but shorten the reporting periods to 30 days from 45 - and place the impeachment crowd in a sticky situation. The public would support both proposals overwhelmingly, leaving the president's most hysterical critics isolated utterly."


Snow points to one of the most under-reported aspects of the current controversy, which began in earnest with the Dec. 16 publication of this article in The New York Times:

"Note who has not spoken against the NSA program since the Times story broke. The list includes Harry Reid and Dick Durbin in the Senate; Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer in the House; and members of both intelligence committees. In other words, Democrats in the know either have supported the surveillance program or just kept their mouths shut."

The SOTU gambit suggested by Snow would reorient the poles of the debate from the current "Bush is out-of-control versus Bush is just trying to defend America" context to the more accurate "Do the American people want Bush to use every available weapon to save innocent American lives or cower behind the Clintonistas' Sept. 10 legal foppery"?

"A straightforward vote would shut up the rest, highlighting vividly the gulf that separates a president responsible for national security from critics responsible to nobody. Civil libertarians are right to fret about abuses of government power, which is why successive administrations have brought Congress, the courts and the Justice Department into the review process. But the Great Bluff-Caller is right about an even more fundamental point: If we try to fight the war on terror with eyes shut and ears packed with wax, innocent people will die."

I think Snow has dotted the eyes and crossed the tees on how this debate should culminate. Mr. President, are you listening?

UPDATE:

Speaking of calling bluffs, the U.S. Justice Department confirmed today that it is investigating the sources of the leaks that led to the Dec. 16 Times story. Michelle Malkin has an excellent roundup of predictions about what is likely to be the responses among the commentariat of the mainstream media, as well as a useful compilation of her previous posts on the issue.

UPDATE II:

Here's another piece of the puzzle that ought to give pause to those among the Bush critics who depend upon some form of public approval for their continued viability. The latest Gallup survey of most admired man and woman puts Bush on top among both Republicans and Independents and second among Democrats, trialing only Bill Clinton.

HT: Everything I Know is Wrong

UPDATE IV:

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters is ready for the Justice Department "to put an end to this wholesale dismantling of the national defenses that have kept the US safe from attack for the past four years, and do it quickly."

It appears something very like that is exactly what is now being done by the Bush administration, which is why there are some very nervous folks in several of America's most famous newsrooms tonight.

Ed also focuses on the harsh irony involved: Bush is now only doing what The New York Times editorial page and numerous supporting choirs in the upper echelons of the Mainstream Media demanded in Plamegate - identify the leakers, frog march them out of their offices and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Will any of the reporters who could now face jail time for not disclosing their sources be able to hold out as long as Judith Miller? Frankly, I doubt it, as Miller was caught up in a misguided Special Prosecutor drama that had everything but an actual crime.

This time around there is no question about serious crimes having been committed and only the most blindly obstinate professor of journalism will insist on the right of the relevant journalists at the Times, Post and elsewhere to protect the guilty parties.

I am generally a supporter of the strongest possible shield laws for journalists, but in these newest cases it seems most likely there will be no such legitimate place to afford cover for the recipients of the illegal leaks that almost certainly damaged national security and endangered the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans.