On Tuesday, Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant who
was a teenager in Queens during the Sept. 11 attacks, pleaded not guilty to
federal terrorism conspiracy charges in New York.
This is a scary story. Police stopped and searched Zazi's rented
car on the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 10, as the anniversary of the
Sept. 11 attacks loomed and President Obama was about to join world leaders
at a U.N. confab.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, Zazi flew to Pakistan in August
2008 to receive bomb-making instructions, returned to use the Internet and
nine pages of handwritten bomb-making notes he had e-mailed himself from
Pakistan to purchase and mix triacetone triperoxide (TATP) the explosive
used in the 2005 London transit bombings that killed 52 commuters.
Prosecutors have announced that they will use communications
obtained under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows for
secret wiretapping for national security reasons. The New York Daily News
reported that authorities had been watching Zazi for more than a year after
a "lucky hit" wiretap caught Zazi communicating with Osama bin Laden's
Meanwhile, in Washington, a group of Democratic senators are
working to undermine FISA. Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.;
Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; introduced the Retroactive
Immunity Repeal Act that would make the country free again for lawyers who
want to sue telephone companies for cooperating with the federal government.
As Dodd said in a news release: "We make our nation safer when
we eliminate the false choice between liberty and security."
Wrong; it is a very real choice. As Heritage Foundation fellow
Jena Baker McNeill told me, allowing lawyers to sue telecommunication
companies "would probably chill their willingness to participate in national
security investigations" which is not good because "the government can't
do this without their participation."
McNeill co-authored a Heritage paper in July that reported that
23 terrorist attacks have been foiled since 9/11. With Zazi's recent
arrest and that of two would-be bombers in Illinois and Texas the
number of thwarted attacks today would be 26.
Where does President Obama stand? In 2008, after he won the
Democratic primary, Obama flip-flopped on a promise to filibuster any FISA
reauthorization bill that granted telecom companies immunity to lawsuits.
Obama was one of 69 senators who voted for the FISA bill immunity wart
Leahy argued that he opposed that bill because it "stripped
Americans of their right to seek accountability for the Bush
administration's decision to illegally wiretap American citizens without a
Where is the accountability in squeezing companies that did what
the government told them to do? Especially after Washington passed a law
that granted them immunity last year?
With what is at stake, why would any U.S. senator want to give
phone companies a reason not to cooperate with law enforcement?