Anyone who wonders whether the Democratic Party in general and Sen. Hillary Clinton in particular are really tough on terror or are just posing for the cameras needs to look at the vote by the entire Democratic Senate delegation (excepting only Nebraska's Ben Nelson and South Dakota's Tim Johnson) to prevent closure of their filibuster against the Patriot Act extension.
While the legislation President Bush proposed extends the entire act, certain key provisions are set to expire at year's end. (The rest of the act is good until September 2007.) By voting to allow these provisions to lapse, the Democrats have shown a total disregard for national security.
It is particularly galling that Sens. Clinton and Chuck Schumer whose New York constituents are in the terrorists' bull's-eye voted to let these vital protections expire.
How galling? One of the key provisions due to expire in two weeks is one that President Bill Clinton presented as the cornerstone of his response to the escalation of terrorism in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The measure allows "roving wiretaps" so that the FBI can tap all phones a suspect uses, rather than just one specific number. Hillary's vote to let this provision expire is incredible.
Back in the '90s, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to enact the legislation promptly and the Clintons excoriated the GOP for dragging its feet on this vital proposal.
After 9/11, the measure became law in the Patriot Act; it remains a centerpiece of the War on Terror. Yet now Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party in the Senate are voting to kill it, by preventing a vote on the measure to extend it.
As a further Christmas anti-present to New Yorkers, Clinton, Schumer & Co. are also killing the Patriot Act provision that demolishes the infamous wall erected by Clinton-era Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick between those who investigate terrorism and those who prosecute suspects.
The goal was to avoid tainting criminal prosecutions, by avoiding the collection of evidence without a full search warrant. But the result was to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand was doing when it came to preventing acts of terrorism.
Like the 9/11 attacks.
As a result of the wall, the FBI was unable to access the personal computer of Zacarias Moussaoui when it had him in custody before 9/11; that laptop reportedly contained the names of other hijackers.
The feds seized Moussaoui a full month before 9/11 but could not follow up on the leads his laptop would have highlighted because of the pernicious wall that Senate Democrats are now fighting to restore.
Equally irresponsible is the criticism Democrats are leveling at President Bush for his use of National Security Agency wiretaps to catch terrorists. Before Clinton and Schumer criticize this policy, they'd do well to reflect on the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge might well be rubble, with thousands dead, if Bush did not use these wiretaps.
In 2002, the feds (presumably the NSA) picked up random cellphone chatter using the words "Brooklyn Bridge" (which apparently didn't translate well into Arabic). They notified the New York Police Department, which flooded the bridge with cops. Then the feds overheard a phone call in which a man said things were "too hot" on the bridge to pull off an operation. Later, an interrogation of a terrorist allowed by the Patriot Act led cops to the doorstep of this would-be bridge bomber. (His plans would definitely have brought down the bridge, NYPD sources told me.)
Why didn't Bush get a warrant? On who? For what? The NSA wasn't looking for a man who might blow up the bridge. It had no idea what it was looking for. It just intercepted random phone calls from people in the United States to those outside and so heard the allusions to the bridge that tipped them off.
In criminal investigations, one can target a suspect and get a warrant to investigate him. But this deductive approach is a limited instrument in fighting terror. An inductive approach, in which one gathers a mass of evidence and looks for patterns, is far more useful.
But, if the Democrats are to be heeded, it will no longer be possible.