by Larry C. Johnson (bio below)

The spin being laid out by the White House and others, that the terrorists got a leg up on us because the New York Times’ Jim Risen leaked word that President Bush had authorized illegal domestic surveillance, is sheer, utter bunk. Deal with the facts people.

FACT 1: Risen did not reveal how the domestic electronic surveillance was being conducted. He may know specifically what they are doing, but he did not and has not disclosed the methodology used. What was disclosed is that the President was ignoring the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the FISA court. What is truly distressing is that the Democrats sat on their hands when they first learned of this program. I’m not a fan of Republican Senator Pat Roberts, but he has a point. Why didn’t the Democrats speak up then?

Even today, prominent leaders like Jane Harman insist they love the program … Continued below:
Even today, prominent leaders like Jane Harman insist they love the program and could not do anything at the time to signal displeasure.

Only Senator Jay Rockefeller felt compelled to pen a note expressing some discomfort. The rest of the lot was too damn scared to speak up. What good is an opposition party that has no conviction or courage to oppose a violation of the Constitution when they first learn about it? I think most of the so-called leaders of the Democrats are a bunch of mealy mouthed cowards. They are more interested in holding onto political office and unwilling to put their careers on the line over a principle as vital as defending the Constitution.

So, was Al Qaeda ignorant of the fact that the United States would be trying to listen in on their conversations?

FACT 2: Al Qaeda, according to its own training manual, was instructing its members in the early 1990s to be aware that the U.S. intelligence apparatus would try to listen in on their conversations and to take counter measures to avoid detection. One of these measures was the use of code words to disguise the conversation. Got it? They knew we were listening 15 years ago. Risen’s revelations only hurt the President, not the terrorists.

As we debate whether the President can do anything he thinks is necessary to protect the United States–including ignoring the Constitution–let us be clear on one fact; Al Qaeda and other terrorists did not learn from Jim Risen or the New York Times that the NSA (and others) were listening in on their various communications. They already knew that.

What we need to figure out is quite simple. Is every American, including a war time President, covered by the Constitution? Our answer to that question will determine if we can really remain a free society, ruled by law rather than strongmen.


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.

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