This Washington Times editorial notes in passing Chuck Schumer’s claim that the New York Times story about the NSA’s spying on al Qaeda phone calls to the U.S. “greatly” influenced his vote to filibuster the Patriot Act. Schumer’s claim is almost surely false. Like many liberal Democrats, Schumer is an idelogically driven opponent of the president’s approach to the war on terror. Can Schumer point to any pronouncement suggesting that he was inclined to permit the Patriot Act to be extended until he read the Times’ piece? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
Nor does the Times’ story provide Schumer or anyone else with a rational basis for opposing the Patriot Act. The president’s decision to listen to terrorist calls to the U.S. without a warrant does not show the president to be too lawless to trust with the powers conferred on him by the Patriot Act. If Schumer read far enough into the New York Times story, he knows that the president bypassed the special security court because he wanted to be able to exploit the seizure of terrorists’ computers, cellphones, and personal phone directories as quickly as possible. Imagine what Chuck Schumer and other Democrats would say if a terrorist in the U.S. blew something up after talking about it with an overseas al Qaeda operative in a conversation our intelligence didn’t hear because the government was in the process of obtaining court approval.
The special intelligence court that issues these warants virtually always approves of the administration’s requests — someone on Fox News said last night that there was only one known exception. Thus, there is no reason to disbelieve the president when he says that the need to be fast, not the desire to pull a fast-one, was his motive for bypassing the court. Chuck Schumer should explain why he thinks the need for speed is an insufficient justification. Failing that, he should be “greatly influenced” to support the Patriot Act.