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February 25, 2008

The Fear Merchants

Today’s Downsizer Dispatch . . .

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Quote of the Day:

“It will be necessary for us to be a nation of men, and not laws.”
— Vice President Richard Cheney, reacting to the 9-11 attack (reported on “Frontline”)

Subject: The Fear Merchants

Since 9/11/2001 some of our politicians have been in the business of selling fear. The profit they have gained from this business has come in the form of vast new powers and massive new resources with which to reward friends and punish opponents.

Other politicians, while not participating in the fear business directly, have nevertheless failed to do all that they could to oppose the fear merchants. They have been passive, out of a fear of their own, that they would be blamed for the next terrorist attack when it comes.

But the next terrorist attack has not happened yet, and so the sales pitch for fear has grown tiring. Fortunately, some in Congress have started to resist. The biggest example of this so far was the decision of the House Democratic leadership to allow the “Protect America Act” to sunset out of existence.

We have applauded and supported this decision, and must continue to do so, because . . .

The Fear Merchants are still pushing to have PAA reinstated and strengthened. As in the past, with other “Fear Based” sales pitches, the Fear Merchants are telling many lies. President Bush, and others in his administration, have been claiming that the country is now vulnerable to attack.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat from Texas, and also the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has written a letter to President Bush, correcting these lies. We will quote the relevant sections . . .

“Today, the National Security Agency (NSA) has authority to conduct surveillance in at least three different ways, all of which provide strong capability to monitor the communications of possible terrorists.

“First, NSA can use its authority under Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance abroad of any known or suspected terrorist. There is no requirement for a warrant. There is no requirement for probable cause. Most of NSAs collection occurs under this authority.

“Second, NSA can use its authority under the Protect America Act, enacted last August, to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This authority does not expire on Saturday, as you have stated. Under the PAA, orders authorizing surveillance may last for one year until at least August 2008. These orders may cover every terrorist group without limitation. If a new member of the group is identified, or if a new phone number or email address is identified, the NSA may add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately. We will not go dark.

“Third, in the remote possibility that a new terrorist organization emerges that we have never previously identified, the NSA could use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor those communications. Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the FISA Court has approved nearly every application for a warrant from the Department of Justice. In an emergency, NSA or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may begin surveillance immediately, and a FISA Court order does not have to be obtained for three days. The former head of FISA operations for the Department of Justice has testified publicly that emergency authorization may be granted in a matter of minutes.

“As you know, the 1978 FISA law, which has been modernized and updated numerous times since 9/11, was instrumental in disrupting the terrorist plot in Germany last summer. Those who say that FISA is outdated do not understand the strength of this important tool.

“If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we dont have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations including al Qaeda — that have gained strength since 9/11. We do not have nearly enough linguists to translate the reams of information we currently collect. We do not have enough intelligence officers who can penetrate the hardest targets, such as al Qaeda. We have surged so many intelligence resources into Iraq that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, you have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself on your watch.

“You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.”

It’s good to see this growing resistance to the Fear Merchants in Congress. We must encourage this positive trend. Please send another message to Congress today urging them to hold the line, and do nothing to replace PAA.

You can send that message here.

But let’s do one thing more, because . . .

  • It is virtually certain that there is going to be another terrorist attack at some point.
  • There is no question that the terrorists are evil fanatics who intend us harm. They will strike again.
  • Our foreign policy continues to provide an incentive for more people in the Middle East to radicalize and provide support for terrorism.
  • The general incompetence of government as an institution makes an effective defense unlikely
  • Even if our government was smaller, more focused, and more competent, another attack would still be hard to stop

There will be another terrorist attack. And when that day comes, the fear and the hysteria will start all over again. In the end, the only way to defeat terrorism is by not being afraid of it. Please send a message to Congress on our “I am not afraid” campaign. Tell Congress that you are NOT afraid of terrorism, and that you want them to stop being afraid on your behalf.

They need to hear this from you so as to better resist the Fear Merchants.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

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