Frank Gaffney

Congress and the public reacted vociferously when word got out concerning CAIR’s threats to those who fulfilled the oft-stated request by law-enforcement agencies across America to the effect that, “If you see something, say something.” Within days, it became clear that substantial majorities in both the House and Senate favored relief for the John Does.

Then as now, though, Nancy Pelosi and other, like-minded House leaders used their positions to try to prevent enactment of the needed legislation. In the case of the John Does, however, the outcry to protect the country and those who heed official appeals for help toward that end became simply irresistible. At the instigation of Reps. Peter King and Pete Hoekstra and Sens. Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl, the obstructionists were forced to allow a vote that overwhelmingly repudiated the nay-sayers.

Speaker Pelosi has evidently learned nothing in the intervening months about either the national security implications or the politics of obstructionism in the service of trial lawyers and at the expense of the common defense. All other things being equal, it seems likely that she will be rolled once again when Congress reconvenes in another week.

After all, as the Director of National Intelligence, Vice Admiral Mike McConnell observed on the Fox Sunday Morning program last weekend: “We cannot do this mission without help and support from the private sector….[I]f you think about the private sector global communications, many people think the government operates that. Ninety-eight percent of it is owned and operated by the private sector.” Therefore, cooperation of the telecoms with U.S. intelligence is not simply nice to have; it is essential.

The problem is that, even if Mrs. Pelosi is forced to relent relatively soon, our intelligence agencies’ “situational awareness” of terrorist activities may suffer lasting harm. As Andrew McCarthy, one of the prosecutors in the trials regarding the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, put it in a recent blog posting at National Review Online:

“…Every day we don't fix this problem, the problem – the investigative leads you don't get, the connections you don't make, the things you don't learn but which you should know – metastasizes. Intelligence is dynamic: you can't stop collecting for a day, a week, a month or more and then figure you are picking up right where you left off. What you have lost tends to stay lost.”

America can ill afford in time of war for the House Speaker to play games with legislation designed to ensure that patriots – be they individual John Does, telecommunications companies or other corporations – are not penalized for doing their civic duty. We can only pray that, by the time she gets around to doing hers, our enemies have not advanced undetected the plots that will put still more of us at risk.

Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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