Speaking to press on Air Force Two yesterday, Vice President Cheney lashed out at critics of the administration’s warrantless domestic spying program. His message was simple: people who don’t support our policies don’t believe terrorism is a threat.
There’s a temptation for people to sit around and say, well, gee, that [9/11] was just a one-off affair, they didn’t really mean it.
Now we’ve gotten to the point where four years beyond the attack, people are saying, well, gee, maybe there’s not a threat here after all.
Either we’re serious about fighting the war on terror or we’re not. Either we believe that there are individuals out there doing everything they can to try to launch more attacks, to try to get ever deadlier weapons to use against, or we don’t.
Here’s the problem. No one in the Bush administration can explain how this program helped America fight terrorists. Under existing law, surveillance can begin immediately. (The government just has to obtain a warrant from the FISA court with 72 hours). The secret program didn’t save time — it just avoided checks on abuse. Cheney’s cartoonish characterization of his critics arguments doesn’t change that.
Our laws gave the Bush administration the power to instantly start surveillance on people suspected of communicating with terrorists. If something in the law prevents us from addressing the threat we should change the law. But everyone, including the President and the Vice President, should follow the law.