Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Selective outrage?

With the hand-wringing from the Left over the National Security Agency database of phone calls and recordings of international phone calls regarding al Qaeda, I have to wonder where the American Civil Liberties Union was during the administration of disgraced ex-President Clinton.

Rewind back to the 1990's. Nine hundred FBI files appeared in the Clinton White House, many on prominent Republicans. This led to an investigation of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and raised serious civil liberties concerns. Was the Clinton Administration using the Federal Bureau of Investigation to dig up dirt on political opponents?

In December of 1996, a Florida couple illegally taped a cell phone conversation involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The recordings were provided to Democratic Representative James McDermott and then turned over to the New York Times. While President Bush ordered intelligence agencies to monitor the phone conversations of people connected to the terrorist group that destroyed the World Trade Center, Democratic activists in Florida illegally recorded a cell phone conversation for political purposes.

The logical validity of arguments against surveillance operations directed at terrorists does not depend on whether or not opponents of such policies are consistent. Nonetheless, I am much more concerned about abuse of power against political opponents than I am with whether or not the federal government has overstepped its bounds and violated the privacy rights that the American people hold dear. The reason for this is a malevolent rather than benign intent.

The corruption of the Clinton White House is one of the reasons I have opposed the PATRIOT Act since it was introduced in the fall of 2001. It was strongly suspected that disgraced ex-President Clinton used the Internal Revenue Service to harass conservative political groups that were critical of him and his policies. Should America be forced to endure another President like Bill Clinton, I am concerned with the increased power of the PATRIOT Act being in the hands of someone who would abuse it. This is especially important since Hillary Clinton as a favorite to win the Democratic nomination for President.