Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Thought of the Day

With Speaker Pelosi caught in the web of her own deceit over what the CIA told her about “torture,” and the Obama administration in the middle of its latest 180-degree reversal over CIA interrogators (Attorney General Holder is now considering prosecutions despite Obama’s promise of no prosecutions), Democrats have trumped up a charge that the CIA, on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney, failed to notify Congress that it was contemplating — not implementing, but essentially brainstorming about — plans to kill or capture top al-Qaeda figures.

This is their most ludicrous gambit in a long time — and that’s saying something. Given their eight years of complaints about President Bush’s failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and given President Clinton’s indignant insistence (against the weight of the evidence) that he absolutely wanted the CIA to kill bin Laden, one is moved to ask: What did Democrats think the CIA was doing for the last eight years?


Intelligence activities are not reliant on congressional authorization or supervision. Like all executive power under the Constitution, the president is checked in this area by Congress’s enumerated powers, particularly the power of the purse. As is its wont, Congress tries to leverage this authority to usurp presidential prerogatives — to make itself a partner in the actual running of intelligence activities, albeit a partner with no accountability (see Nancy Pelosi, supra).


So, to score some political points, Democrats have put themselves in the position of opposing CIA efforts to defeat our enemies.


Third, after 9/11, even as President Bush’s warfare strategy decimated al-Qaeda’s top hierarchy, Democrats complained that the Bush administration had failed to kill or capture bin Laden. Now that the political winds have shifted, they have returned to their default position of complaining that government agents were trying to kill or capture bin Laden.

Fourth, this bizarre complaint comes in the form of grousing about a failure to notify Congress, voiced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others. But consider that back in February, Senator Feinstein publicly revealed that Pakistan’s government was allowing the United States to use Pakistani territory as a base for Predator drones being used for controversial targeted assassinations. Unlike Leahy’s aforementioned malfeasance, Feinstein’s unfortunate revelation was doubtlessly inadvertent. But it underscores the danger of informing Congress about intelligence activities.

The last point is a critical one, showing starkly the difference between Democrats and Republicans on national security. President Obama is clearly conducting a war in Pakistan, a country with which we are formally at peace. The legitimate existence of wartime conditions is crucial: If we are not at war, there is no basis in international law for killing Pakistanis (or non-Pakistanis) in Pakistan. But the Right is not accusing the president of conducting an illegal war, of failing to seek congressional authorization, or of committing war crimes. Nor did Republicans seek to exploit Feinstein’s gaffe — while there might have been political sport in it, doing so would have made it more difficult for Pakistan to cooperate with the Obama administration in an effort that advances American security interests.

That is, while Democrats politicize “torture,” “domestic spying,” the Patriot Act, and now the CIA’s efforts to defeat al-Qaeda, Republicans are generally supporting Obama’s Pakistan policy for the greater good of protecting our national security.

Eventually, people do figure out who the grown-ups are.

Andrew McCarthy


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