- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

“We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night,” Sen. John Kerry told Iowa voters last Dec. 1. “So it is time to end the era of John Ashcroft. That starts with replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time.”

Characteristically, Mr. Kerry now denounces the Patriot Act, although he voted for it. “Most of [the Patriot Act] has to do with improving the transfer of information between CIA and FBI, and it has to do with things that really were quite necessary in the wake of what happened on September 11,” Mr. Kerry bragged to New Hampshirites on Aug. 6, 2003.

Unlike the Tumbleweed-in-Chief, members of the new Coalition for Security, Liberty and the Law unswervingly advocate the Patriot Act as a shield against homicidal Islamofascism.

“We write to express our strong support for the U.S.A. Patriot Act and concern about misinformation about the necessary legal tools it provides to battle al Qaeda and other terrorist enemies,” states a Sept. 23 letter to congressional leaders signed by former New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, actor Ron Silver and 66 other leading Americans.

By boosting penalties for terrorism, dragging analog-era surveillance laws into the digital age and tearing down the wall that divided American spies from cops, the Patriot Act has helped thwart numerous terrorist conspiracies:

c The FBI began watching the Lackawanna Six al Qaeda cell in the summer of 2001. Separate teams probed their suspected drug and terrorist violations.

According to Justice’s July “Report from the Field: The U.S.A. Patriot Act at Work,” “there were times when the intelligence officers and the law-enforcement agents concluded that they could not be in the same room.” Under the Patriot Act, these officials exchanged data, pooled resources and jailed all six Upstate New York terrorists for pro-al Qaeda subterfuge.

c In the Portland Seven case, the Patriot Act let the FBI follow one terrorist’s plan to attack domestic Jewish targets while other conspirators tried to reach Afghanistan to help al Qaeda and the Taliban battle American GIs. The FBI and prosecutors jointly imprisoned six extremists, while Pakistani troops killed their comrade.

• The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Eight were indicted for materially supporting foreign terrorists. Earlier, the Patriot Act let the supervising federal judge quickly issue a search warrant in another jurisdiction, rather than consume time involving a local jurist.

c As Dick Morris recalled in the Sept. 12 New York Post, under the Patriot Act, federal intelligence agents in March 2003 gave information to the New York Police Department squeezed from al Qaeda honcho Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM).

New York’s Finest then patrolled the Brooklyn Bridge and arrested Iyman Faris before he could blast it into the East River.

Similar intelligence-sharing helped the NYPD unravel an al Qaeda plot to use a lawful Manhattan garment company to ship bombs and Stinger missiles into New York. Details massaged out of Khalid Sheik Mohammed foiled Islamist designs to fire these Stingers at jetliners departing Newark’s airport.

Civil-libertarian purists nonetheless see the Patriot Act as the birth certificate of an American police state. But the Justice Department’s inspector general found only 17 Patriot Act-related complaints through December 2003 that merited investigation and substantial review. That’s a rather low error rate, given millions of contacts over two years between Justice employees and average citizens.

Reauthorizing the Patriot Act every five years would help Congress guard against potential abuses. Journalists also would howl if overzealous feds ever began examining library reading lists without search warrants.

That said, wouldn’t it have been nice had FBI agents on, say, Sept. 1, 2001, learned Mohamed Atta had borrowed books on Boeing 767 flight techniques and high-rise firefighting challenges?

While Americans ponder legal niceties, those who want you dead likely weigh the relative merits of explosives vs. poisons. Remember the enemy against whom the Patriot Act is deployed. Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against the United States is icily clear:

“The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”

The Patriot Act stands between that and you.

Deroy Murdock is a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University and a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.

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