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Civil Idiotarians
It's annoying and upsetting to deal with some of the "preventive" measures against terrorism since they mostly seem annoying, upsetting, (sometimes unconstitutionally) invasive and not very preventive at all. On an glaring incompetence note, for example, the TSA has proven very effective at finding bottled water in luggage, and not very effective at all at finding bombs. I sometimes think they'd have a hard time finding bin Laden himself if he strolled through the line in a Cubs shirt and a Disneyland baseball cap.

Still, the answer isn't dumping preventive measures, or sacrificing civil liberties willy nilly, but figuring out what is and isn't a must for fighting terrorism -- which most definitely is a threat, just read Jihadwatch for a week, and you'll get it. Cathy Young writes for Reason that civil libertarians shouldn't be cavalier about terrorism:

There is little doubt that the terrorist threat has been exploited by politicians—including the Bush administration, which has used the specter of September 11 to justify questionable policies both foreign and domestic. Half-baked plots by incompetent wannabe jihadists are hyped as imminent attacks with devastating consequences. Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff incurred much ridicule when he spoke of his "gut feeling" that a terrorist attack could be imminent.

This situation has led some civil libertarians, most notably Ohio State University political science professor John Mueller, to declare what left-wing enfant terrible Michael Moore was excoriated for writing a few years ago: There is no terrorist threat. In a 2006 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, Mueller notes that radical Islamic terrorists have not made a major attack on U.S. soil since September 11, and argues that this is unlikely to be due to the vigilance of homeland security. Mueller concludes that the Al Qaeda has been largely defanged and that terrorists are clearly not as determined, effective or ubiquitous as they are made out to be. Thus, he asserts, we may have authorized massive surveillance and detention programs and other restrictive policies in response to a phantom menace.

Yet a new National Intelligence Estimate contradicts Mueller's assessment of the threat level: according to the report, the Al Qaeda has regrouped and is now the strongest it has been since 2001. This is not Bush Administration propaganda. In fact, Bush critics, including The New Republic and New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, were quick to seize on the NIE as an indictment of the administration—for going after Saddam Hussein while failing to capture Osama Bin Laden, and for turning Iraq into a terrorist launching pad and recruiting tool.

This indictment may well be accurate, and quite damning for an administration that has used keeping Americans safe from terrorists as a catchall rationale. But is also a reminder that the terror threat is more than mere hype.

Most of the recent failed terror plots may have been inept exercises in fantasy. But even if one out of a thousand such plots succeeds, it could be a tragedy of horrific proportions, especially if biological weapons or suitcase nukes are involved. Clearly, not all terrorists are inept; besides, even the most inept of bumblers sometimes manage to get lucky. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which did only minor damage, was the work of amateurs of almost comical ineptitude. Eight years later, no one was laughing.

...In the past, wars and other national security threats led to far worse assaults on American liberties than anything being contemplated now. Already, the majority of Americans seem willing to accept at least some curtailment of civil liberties in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Even one more major attack, let alone three a year, could usher in some very dark days for freedom. If champions of civil liberties want to prevent that, they need to take a different approach: to show that the compromises we are being asked to accept will not make us safer, or that there are ways to make us more secure without sacrificing our bedrock principles. If they want to be heard when they warn about loss of liberty, they cannot afford to sound cavalier when they talk about loss of life.


Posted by aalkon at July 30, 2007 2:54 PM

Comments

You know what, shit happens. The only reason americans cared about 9/11 was cause it happened here. I see no reason not to activley purse such people but if we are willing to throw away our rights and princibles along the way then we hve already lost.

What use is mere survival if we have to surrender everything that set us apart?

And lets not forget the US is willing to employ terrorism tactics when the governmnet feels it would suit the nations interest, Iran Contra? Afgani jihad against the USSR? American Indians?

Posted by: lujlp at July 30, 2007 6:43 AM

Lincoln made sweeping attempts at limiting civil liberties during wartime. Suspension of habeas corpus, and imprisoning northerers who displayed confederate sympathies just to name two. He was slapped down several times by the supreme court.

During WW2, FDR's administration interned Japanese-American citizens.

Posted by: winston at July 30, 2007 9:40 AM

I'm not talking about "throwing away our rights and principles," but I think Young makes a very good point -- that we not pretend there is no threat (reminiscent of those who pretend that abortion isn't often troubling even for those who are pro-choice).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 30, 2007 10:16 AM

I agree with that. This is an issue that has been completely mucked up by the clueless left, and by idiot "conservatives" in the Bush administration.

Maybe Michael Moore will rethink his position when Pervez Musharraf is assasinated and jihadists take control of Pakistan, a current nuclear power. Gee, haven't heard much about that probability on the news lately! BUT i did hear that Lindsay Lohan got like, totally busted again. Peace!

Posted by: randySexer at July 30, 2007 2:05 PM

...when Pervez Musharraf is assasinated and jihadists take control of Pakistan, a current nuclear power. Gee, haven't heard much about that probability on the news lately! BUT i did hear that Lindsay Lohan got like, totally busted again.

Hey...it's cheaper to cover, plus gets more readers. First things first!

Posted by: Doobie at July 30, 2007 7:05 PM

It will be interesting to see how those on the left (and right, for that matter) behave toward potential terrorism when the next Democratic President is responsible for national security.

Posted by: winston at July 30, 2007 7:15 PM

Instapundit and others seem to believe that the Democrats will only get serious about national security when they are in a position to be held responsible for it.

Me? I doubt it. The left-wing of the Democratic party is of the belief that war never solves anything, and so will argue against it no matter the reason. The remainder of the Democratic party would rather spend the money on social programs than on defense, and fling a few cruise missiles if someone gets frisky with the self-detonation on our soil.

Then again, the Republicans seem to think that wars are more effectively fought in Washington than at the front.

So it's really a lose-lose situation, isn't it?

Posted by: brian at July 30, 2007 7:39 PM

There is little doubt that the terrorist threat has been exploited by politicians—including the Bush administration, which has used the specter of September 11 to justify questionable policies both foreign and domestic.

Calling them "questionable" is at least the understatment of the year.

Posted by: Patrick at July 30, 2007 10:52 PM

Speaking of which (from NOW, 7/2/2004):

"...And just last week, a new Luntz political memo leaked out. This one provides a strategy for explaining the 'policy of preemption and the war in Iraq' and it advises Republicans that 'no speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11.'

Something the Vice President had already mastered.

CHENEY: Our mission in Iraq is a great undertaking that is part of a larger mission that the United States accepted now more than two years ago. September 11, 2001 changed everything for this country.

"Luntz" is Republican political adviser Frank Luntz.


Link: http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript327_full.html#luntz

Posted by: Doobie at July 31, 2007 2:28 AM

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