- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

After the May 2010 arrest of would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, congressional Democrats and the White House touted their national security credentials. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, immediately claimed that the Obama administration has been better in combating terrorism than the George W. Bush administration: “We’re tough on terrorists. That’s our policy. That’s our performance. And, in fact, we’ve been more successful.”

Reality check: The Times Square bomber was foiled by a food vendor who alerted authorities to an abandoned SUV with keys left in the ignition.

My new book, “Duped America,” shows that Democrats actually have a dismal 40-year track record with regard to national security. Beginning in the 1970s, the Democrat-led Church and Pike committees “reformed” our intelligence agencies to the point where they became impotent. They erected a “wall of separation” preventing FBI agents from communicating with their CIA counterparts. Thus, when the FBI wanted to search the computer of the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, arrested in 2001, the wall - raised even higher by Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick in 1995 - denied FBI agents the ability.

Its contents would have disclosed the Sept. 11 plot, likely preventing that atrocity.

More disastrous, however, was Jimmy Carter and Democrats’ withdrawal of support for our ally, the shah of Iran. Mr. Carter encouraged Ayatollah Khomeini to return in 1979 to proclaim Iran an Islamic nation. This miscalculation is the major reason we are now dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Mr. Carter’s ineptness and appeasement also emboldened the Soviets to invade Afghanistan in 1979 - leading directly to the rise of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Democrats passed the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which restricted our ability to wiretap foreign enemies operating in the United States. Previously, Franklin D. Roosevelt had openly wiretapped domestic Nazis and Communists, and every successive president had the same powers. FISA raised the standards so high that it has become more difficult to collect intelligence necessary to protect our country.

During the Clinton administration, Islamic attacks against the United States gathered momentum. The World Trade Center bombing and killings of Americans in Somalia in 1993, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudia Arabia, the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole resulted in many American deaths.

Terrorists were making it plain they were at war with the United States, but President Clinton apparently didn’t believe it. He treated the burgeoning jihad as though each attack were an isolated incident, rather than a war being waged by Islamic religious fanatics. As a result, Mr. Clinton’s only substantial response to those attacks was to bomb an aspirin factory in Sudan.

This “law enforcement approach” to terror is one of the primary reasons Osama bin Laden is still at large. In March 1996, Sudan offered to extradite him to the United States. Mr. Clinton refused the offer because bin Laden hadn’t committed any crimes against America. According to Michael Scheuer, head of the bin Laden unit, Mr. Clinton had at least eight to 10 chances to capture or kill bin Laden in 1998 and 1999 and refused to act.

Mr. Clinton also made a disastrous decision regarding national security unrelated to Islamic terror: He allowed the Loral Corp., whose chairman was the largest donor to the Democratic Party, to export advanced missile technology to the Chinese, ignoring the Pentagon’s warnings against doing so.

During the George W. Bush years, congressional Democrats voted against policies that would have made America safer. They refused to approve tapping terrorists’ phone calls to the United States, tracing terrorists’ money flows between foreign banks and using “enhanced interrogation” methods (aka waterboarding) on captured combatants.

Such ideologically-driven incompetence has continued during the Obama administration. For example, waterboarding has been suspended, even though half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those types of interrogations. FBI agents now are required to read Miranda rights to high-value foreign fighters captured on the battlefield. CIA operatives who interrogated terrorists in overseas locations have been threatened with criminal prosecution for their actions, making them less willing to risk their careers to protect America. And in 2010, Democrats cut the missile defense budget by $1.2 billion and virtually eliminated the very promising Airborne Laser program - both of which are crucial components in protecting this country from missile attacks.

National security is one of the principal obligations of the federal government. Over the past 40 years, Democrats have demonstrated they cannot be trusted with keeping America safe.

Richard Bernstein is the author of “Duped America: How Democrats and the Mainstream Media Have Duped the American People and Are Harming Our Country” (Forrester, 2010).