To civil-liberties alarmists, Viet Dinh is a traitor. To me, he is an American hero.
Dinh, 35, is widely known -- and reviled -- as the primary architect of the Patriot Act. Until May, he was an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy in John Ashcroft's Justice Department. (He stepped down to return to his law school post at Georgetown University.) Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Dinh told The Christian Science Monitor, "our nation's ability to defend itself against terror has been not only my vocation but my obsession."
This Fourth of July holiday, I will give thanks for those like Dinh who have worked tirelessly to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty that no other country in the world can match.
A constitutional law expert, Dinh's office had been mostly concerned with judicial nominations before Sept. 11. After the mass murder of 3,000 men, women and children on American soil, Dinh became an instrumental member of the brain trust that designed the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies. Most importantly, the Patriot Act revised outdated rules that fatally hampered surveillance of suspected terrorists in America. Dinh also helped craft plans to monitor the entry and exit of foreign students and to register and track non-immigrant visitors from high-risk Middle Eastern countries.
An immigrant himself who escaped from communist Vietnam a quarter-century ago aboard a rickety boat, Dinh notes that foreign visitors to our shores are guests obligated to obey the laws -- some which "have not been enforced for 50 years." It was time, Dinh and his colleagues decided, to start enforcing them.
The results speak for themselves:
-- The feds have busted more than 20 suspected al Qaeda cell members from Buffalo, N.Y., to Detroit, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
-- More than 100 other individuals have been convicted or pled guilty to terrorist related crimes.
-- The United States has deported 515 individuals linked to the Sept. 11 investigation.
-- Hundreds of foreign criminals and suspected terrorists, plus one known member of al Qaeda, were prevented from entering the country thanks to the National Entry-Exit Registration System -- which Sen. Ted Kennedy attempted to sabotage earlier this year.
-- Long overdue fingerprint cross checks of immigration and FBI databases at the border have resulted in the arrest of more than 5,000 fugitives, wanted for crimes committed in the United States.
-- And nearly two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, there has not yet been another mass terrorist attack on our homeland.
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