Trash talk

In a valid complaint about Michigan’s Federal Legislators conflating Canadian garbage being hauled to Michigan dumps with securing ourselves against Islamofascist terrorists, The Lansing State Journal Friday published an editorial entitled Terror threat: Airline plot a wake-up call to real dangers facing America.

Of the Canadian trash issue, it asked:

…is it really a security issue or simply a politically expedient way to work around the existing agreements regulating cross-border commerce?

Linking vital Homeland Security to trash regulation ultimately weakens our commitment to this serious challenge. We can’t afford these sorts of distractions.

This critique appears only after a repetition of the Democrat talking point that the battle of Iraq is a distraction from the war against Islamofascism:

Our national struggle against terrorism has been so clouded by the war in Iraq that it takes the discovery of a terror plot in Britain to reawaken us to the dangers facing America.

…It’s far too easy to feel safe nestled here in mid-Michigan. Terrorist threats often seem so removed from our world.

“A discovery of a terror plot in Britain” is supposed to refocus our attention on the “real” issues of terrorism. Too bad the LSJ doesn’t know what those are. To the LSJ this plot is apparently qualitatively different from plots hatched in Afghanistan, or Iraq, upon which not just the Brits, but the entire community of international intelligence agencies agreed before our invasion of those countries. It was, for example, the British who warned us of Saddam’s plan to acquire yellowcake in Niger. An opinion reaffirmed by a Royal Commission even after tail-gunner Joe Wilson lied about it in the pages of the New York Times.

That the LSJ gives a nod and a wink to the Lamontist trope of “Iraq is a distraction” is not a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that they have forgotten what they wrote on May 12.

They spy: President needs to explain why NSA tracks millions of phone calls

The newspaper [USA Today] reports tens of millions of Americans’ phone calls are being tracked by the government, with the full cooperation of three major phone companies. The government has records of calls made to friends, family members and more.

President Bush has some explaining to do. So do AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon*, which have contracted with the National Security Agency to provide phone records.

Previously, Bush has said the NSA focuses exclusively on calls between the U.S. and other nations. “One end of the communication must be outside the United States,” Bush explained when furor erupted last December over warrantless eavesdropping.

The USA Today story illustrates the NSA program is far more insidious.

However, as Time magazine reports, the apprehended plot to blow up airplanes greatly benefited from the fact that the NSA is keeping an eye on threats from abroad:

Britain’s MI-5 intelligence service and Scotland Yard had been tracking the plot for several months, but only in the past two weeks had the plotters’ planning begun to crystallize, senior U.S. officials tell TIME. In the two or three days before the arrests, the cell was going operational, and authorities were pressed into action. MI5 and Scotland Yard agents tracked the plotters from the ground, while a knowledgeable American official says U.S. intelligence provided London authorities with intercepts of the group’s communications.

This would be the NSA program the LSJ was so exercised about in May. Now, there is yet no evidence that any of these phone calls involved a person in the United States, so the LSJ might still argue that their concern was not about calls between London and Karachi where US residents were not involved. This would be sophistry, however, since we cannot know in advance – in time to get the warrants the Democrats have called for – where a terrorist call may originate or terminate.

To whatever extent Iraq is a distraction, it is much more so as a result of far left partisan politics in time of war. As politically expedient distraction goes, Canadian garbage is the least of our worries. It is the trash talk about issues like the NSA intercepts that is designed to distract, and it is that level of distraction that the LSJ endorses. If the LSJ is distracted by Iraq, thank God the NSA is not. It’s obvious which organization is in need of awakening.

*USA Today, also a Gannett paper, later retracted its charges against the phone companies it accused of cooperation in violating our civil liberties.