Exclusive: Obama's National Security Policies Threaten America's Safety

by STEPHANIE HESSLER September 29, 2008
Sen. Obama’s national security policies will not protect America. Because we have not suffered another attack since September 11, 2001, some have erroneously concluded that our country is no longer at risk; that the terrorists will not try to strike again. This is a dangerous misconception. We face, just as we did seven years ago, an enemy that is both determined and patient. Let us not forget that our enemy waited for eight long years between the first world trade center bombing in 1993 and the attacks of September 11, 2001. Our enemy is one who infiltrates our borders and then patiently waits and waits for an opportunity to strike. Luckily, in the past seven years, such an opportunity has not arisen. The question is, could such an opportunity arise in an Obama administration. The scary fact is, it very well could. 
Obama endorses at least three policies that would not safeguard our security. First, Obama supports tying the hands of our intelligence agents in tracking potential terrorists. Initially, Obama opposed updating the primary law that governs how terrorists are traced, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA. After September 11th, it became clear that FISA, a 1978 law, was dangerously out of date. FISA failed to account for modern technology, such as cell phones and fiber optic cables, and instead referred to such obsolete concepts as “radio” and “wire” communications. The irony could not be more obvious: we face an enemy that is hostile to all modern advances; but this same enemy is adept at using the most advanced technology to achieve its sinister goals. Meanwhile, while weseek to protect the most advanced society the world has ever known, our hands were tied by an outdated, 30-year-old law. Experts on both sides of the aisle agreed that we needed to modernize FISA to give ourselves the necessary tools to fight our enemies and protect our nation. 
But, Obama opposed updating the FISA law. In fact, he pledged to filibuster the Senate to stop the new modernized version of FISA from passing. Quite characteristically, in the end, he flip-flopped and voted in support of the bill (while Sen. Biden voted against it). But, Obama’s last minute change of heart does not make his initial stance any less troubling. This issue will recur again: over the next several years, technologies will continue to evolve, and with that, so will the terrorists’ techniques for plotting attacks. We need a leader who understands that our intelligence gathering must evolve too in order to stay one step ahead of our enemies. Obama has opposed modernizing our intelligence laws, showing that he is not such a leader.   
Second, Obama opposed granting immunity to the telecommunication companies that helped the United States government track terrorists’ calls after September 11. In the fall of 2001, the U.S. called upon the telecom companies to help them trace calls made by suspected al Qaeda members abroad to people within the United States. Quite obviously, it is people within our borders who speak regularly to al Qaeda who pose the gravest threat to our national security. According to General Hayden, former Director of the CIA, if the surveillance program had been used before September 11th, "we would have detected some of the 9/11 al-Qaeda operatives in the United States." The telecom companies fulfilled their patriotic calling and fully cooperated with the government. In return, the government wanted to shield the companies from lawsuits that were brought years later by the ACLU, and others, challenging their actions. If the telecom companies are subject to lawsuits, the practical effect, of course, is that they will no longer be able to cooperate with our intelligence branches when they are called upon to do so. 
Obama, however, opposed protecting the telecommunication companies from such lawsuits. In fact, he voted for legislation that would effectively open flood gates of litigation for these companies. Luckily for Americans, this proposed law failed in the Senate by an overwhelming margin of 32 to 66. But again, we see Obama advocating an unpopular policy that would hinder our intelligence efforts and harm the safety of Americans.  
Third, Obama supports letting alien enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay enter our court system to challenge their detention. In fact, he praised the controversial Supreme Court decision, Boumediene v. Bush, which extended such privileges to alleged foreign terrorists. It is unprecedented in our nation’s history to allow alien enemies held abroad access to our courts. Ironically, such a policy accords terrorist more rights than POWs have under the Geneva Convention. The practical effect is disastrous both here and abroad. As an initial matter, our courts will now be inundated with lawsuits brought by enemy combatants. Moreover, our brave men and women who are fighting in the field to protect our nation will now be dragged into the courts to defend their military decisions to detain our enemies. Finally, this burden on our military resources will be unsustainable and will result in more unlawful enemy combatants being released from Guantanamo. The tragic consequence will be that released detainees will return to their mission to harm Americans, just like Abdul Ghaffar, a former Guantanamo detainee, who returned to Afghanistan to allegedly become a leader of the Taliban. As Justice Scalia said, allowing enemy combatants to enter our courts “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”
We all hope that we never suffer another tragedy like the one we suffered on September 11th. But hope is not enough. We need a president who will implement policies to keep Americans safe. Again and again, Obama has shown that he cannot be trusted with the great task of protecting our great nation. 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Stephanie Hessler is a former Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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