by Larry C. Johnson (bio below)
Do you think that John Yoo, the guy who authored the Department of Justice memo justifiying torture, believes that pedophilia is okay as long as the President believes it is necessary to save the nation? That my friends, as absurd as it sounds, is the thrust of the logic underpining the arguments Woo and his buddies are making. Their assault on the traditional conservative view that the power of Federal Government should be limited is truly frightening. In the name of saving the nation they insist that international accords against torture and inhumane treatment no longer apply. They are also on board for holding American citizens in prison indefinitely without a chance to confront their accusers in court. If it is done in the name of “national security” it is okay.
It is too bad that the term “fascism” is such a hot button term, because it is a word that appears to accurately define Woo’s views on Presidential supremacy. I guess we are resigned to labeling him a neo-conservative imperialist, because he believes that the President’s status as the Commander in Chief grants an inherent manifest destiny to wield unbridled power.
Joining Woo’s war wagon are David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who write in an op-ed in today’s NY Times that the President can collect foreign intelligence, even in the United States, without worrying himself about pesky laws and bureaucratic hurdles.
How do they justify this? Because they believe in the myth that we live in a “new day and age” where the threats move so fast we can’t be troubled with legal contraints. According to Rivkin and Casey,
Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance. More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate “spy versus spy” world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy’s military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.
I realize that Yoo is a relative youngster and was barely able to legally drink when the Soviet Union collapsed and does not remember the Cold War, but what is Rivkin’s excuse? Amnesia? … continued below …
The “neo-conservative imperialists” live in a fantasy world where terrorism is the most deadly, horrific threat we have ever faced. Heavens, it is far worse than anything we faced back in the good old days of the Cold War. Yes sir, we only had thousands of nuclear tipped missiles on a hair trigger pointed at each other. Let’s not forget the B-52s that were aloft with bombs in their bellies. Goodness gracious, that’s not the kind of threat that requires quick action or fail safe communication system, such as a “hotline” is it?
It would help if we could put the threat of terrorism in a proper historical perspective rather than create a fantasy land of fear. While there is no denying that the radical Muslims would like to cause us great harm, they do not have an air force with long range bombers nor do they have an armada of aircraft carriers. They also do not have submarines armed with submarine launched ballistic missiles. Their ability to attack us is greatly constrained. Even if they get their hands on one or two nuclear devices, they face significant obstacles delivering them. Let’s not ignore this threat, but neither should we surrender our civil rights to it just because we’re afraid.
Yet, night after night we are confronted with some thick headed TV reporters and pundits who repeat the nonsense that because the threat is new spying is justified. Enough already! We can accept the fact that terrorism is a threat that must be taken seriously but it should not be employed as an excuse to pursue any activity that is cloaked in the aura of “security”. If we use the fear of terrorism to excuse torture and permanent imprisonment then we are only a hop-skip-and-a-jump to making sex with children okay as long as the President believes it will keep us safe from Osama.
Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm that helps corporations and governments manage threats posed by terrorism and money laundering. Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism (as a Deputy Director), is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management. Mr. Johnson has analyzed terrorist incidents for a variety of media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, ABC’s Nightline, NBC’s Today Show, the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and the BBC. Mr. Johnson has authored several articles for publications, including Security Management Magazine, the New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. He has lectured on terrorism and aviation security around the world. Further bio details.