- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

Now we know. The Sunday morning CNN program hosted by Wolf Blitzer provided an explanation for at least some of the bizarre behavior in evidence lately in Washington.

In response to a video clip of Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, making the sensible point it is “nuts” in a time of war to disclose our intelligence sources and methods, former Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski declared “We are not at war.” While he acknowledged there are serious threats, he suggested talk of being at war was fearmongering, a practice used to justify otherwise insupportable infringements on the privacy and equanimity of Americans.

This is a useful prism through which to view this week’s hearings on the nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. We can expect Democratic senators and even some Republican ones to showboat as they take the nominee to task for his work in a previous incarnation as the head of the National Security Agency (NSA). In that role and at presidential direction, the general strove to use NSA’s powerful and exceedingly sensitive computing and eavesdropping tools to protect us against another terrible attack by enemies bent on our destruction.

Specifically, Gen. Hayden will be excoriated for using warrantless wiretaps to try to monitor the battlefield communications of such foes. Battlefield signals intercepts in time of war are the stock-in-trade of the National Security Agency and, indeed, of military intelligence more generally. That such intercepts involve phone calls, faxes and e-mails to or from people inside the United States simply underscores that we are, indeed, at war, one that amounts to a global conflict that is different —and potentially far more dangerous — than any we have fought before.

Legislators will also assail the general for having sought phone records — not wiretaps — for millions of Americans. Such information could allow the NSA to establish links between terrorist operatives and cells in this country based on calling patterns or connections between known targets and unknown associates.

Again, this is the sort of activity the public would expect of our government in time of war. Indeed, polling suggests the American people overwhelmingly support the NSA’s efforts on our behalf. Still, the denunciations of such eminently sensible and legal practices as unacceptable invasions of our privacy, as illegal activity and possibly as impeachable offenses are an important foretaste of what could happen if the critics get to run one or both houses of Congress after November’s elections: Instead of prosecuting the war for the Free World, official Washington will be consumed with prosecuting George W. Bush.

A Page One article in The Washington Post Sunday confirms what many have long believed: Those who disagree with the president’s view that we are at war with a very dangerous, state-sponsored Islamofascist ideology include “a camp within the Central Intelligence Agency that considers the war to be a diversion from counterterrorism activity.”

With no hint of irony, one of The Post’s reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for publishing classified information apparently leaked to the paper by one of those CIA operatives, Mary McCarthy, refers to such a cabal within the ostensibly objective, nonpartisan ranks of the agency by way of trying to rehabilitate Mrs. McCarthy — who was fired by former Director Porter Goss.

Mr. Goss was subsequently dismissed by President Bush at the insistence of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. Now, Mr. Bush seems about to accede to another, no less ill-advised recommendation by the DNI. Mr. Negroponte wants to rehire another member of the anti-Bush “camp,” former senior CIA official Stephen Kappes, to be CIA’s No. 2. Such an appointment would be, to use Sen. Kyl’s term, “nuts.”

After all, Mr. Kappes was reportedly removed from his previous post as CIA Deputy Director for Operations when Mr. Goss discovered he and his deputy were engaged in unauthorized disclosures of classified information to members of the press and Congress — then defiantly refused to desist when called on it. Fortunately, members of the congressional leadership have indicated strong opposition to the Kappes candidacy. They may insist he be subjected to the sort of polygraphing about Mr. Kappes’ alleged backchanneling of information to critics of the Bush administration that resulted in Ms. McCarthy’s confession to having done the same thing.

The fate not just of this presidency but control of Congress and the security of the country may depend on whether the public is clear that we are at war — and with whom and the exceedingly high stakes associated with losing. Toward this end, the president must make a redoubled effort to drive that message home, starting with assuring that his own staff and that of the nation’s intelligence agencies share his understanding of the nature of this war and his determination to win it — both of which seem to be true of Michael Hayden.

Those who feel otherwise are certainly entitled to their view. They are even entitled to work to advance it — just not from a vantage point inside the executive branch, especially by masquerading as objective, nonpartisan intelligence analysts and operatives.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. He blogs at www.WarFooting.com.

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