by Robert Spencer

On January 5, 2005, a drug runner named Noel Exinia, who was engaged in transporting over five hundreds pounds of cocaine from Mexico to New York City, revealed in a telephone conversation that he was interested in other kinds of cargo as well. He spoke about twenty Iraqis, all between the ages of 25 and 33, who would pay $8,000 to get past the Mexico-U.S. border and into the United States. These Iraqis were, he said, in the Mexican cities of Monterrey, Chiapas and Puebla, and were ready to cross into Texas; ultimately, they hoped to get to the Northeast. According to Exinia, they were “la gente de Osama” — Osama’s people. What’s more, they were “dangerous…really bad people.” Even Exinia, with all his experience in the drug underworld as part of the Gulf Cartel, admitted he was afraid of them.

No one would have known any of this, at least until these Iraqis committed a terrorist act on American soil, had it not been for the fact that Exinia’s call was recorded. The recording was permissible under the U.S. Patriot Act.

And that, says Exinia’s lawyer, John Blaylock, is why no one should ever have heard anything about Exinia’s phone call. “This is an example,” he maintains, “of a lot of hot air with a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing….Terrorism is the flavor of the week. If they could have, they would have charged him with terrorism to justify the Patriot Act that is coming up for renewal.” However, Exinia’s previous lawyer, William May, said that he thought the terrorism allegations against his former client were true.

Meanwhile, Henry Crumpton, the State Department’s new counter-terrorism chief, has said: “I rate the probability of terror groups using WMD [to attack Western targets] as very high. It is simply a question of time. And it is not just the nuclear threat that bothers me. I think, if anything, the biological threat is going to grow.”

The FBI has declined all comment on the Exinia case; no one will even say whether “Osama’s people” made it into the United States or were headed off. But in any case, if any of them succeeded in carrying out a terrorist attack in the United States, particularly a nuclear or biological attack, would anyone be relieved that their rights had not been infringed by illegal wiretapping?

Apparently the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) would be, among others. With the five-week extension on the Patriot Act due to expire on February 3, they have filed suit against another, closely related and just as controversial element of President Bush’s anti-terror program: the recently-revealed program of domestic surveillance conducted without a warrant or other authorization. The names of the plaintiffs do not inspire confidence in the merits of the suit. The ACLU’s long-standing antagonism to America’s common defense is well documented; for its part, CAIR has had several of its officials arrested and convicted on various terrorism-related charges, and has never answered questions about where it really stands on jihad violence. The Fiqh Council of North America’s condemnation of terrorism that CAIR endorsed with much fanfare (and a great deal of mainstream media attention) was flawed, inadequate, and loaded with weasel words.

That such groups would come out against the Administration’s policies may be the strongest argument in their favor. However, thoughtful and patriotic Americans with a healthy understanding of the global jihad threat — notably Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation — have also expressed reservations about various aspects of the Patriot Act. Weyrich notes: “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, after 9/11, said if we gave up our way of life in order to catch terrorists the terrorists would have won.” Suspension of some civil liberties in wartime is nothing new: Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus; during World War I, Woodrow Wilson had enacted numerous provisions that would make ACLU lawyers blanch today. But in this era of an ever-expanding and ever-encroaching federal government, Rumsfeld’s warning is not just empty rhetoric.

If Judge Samuel Alito is confirmed as expected and takes a seat on the Supreme Court so that the Court again has its full complement of justices, the High Court should consider questions regarding the Patriot Act and domestic wiretapping as quickly as possible. The proper balance must be found between Constitutional protections and national security, such that the plans of the men who made Noel Exinia afraid are discovered and foiled well before they have any chance to come to fruition, but not in a manner that compromises any legitimate Constitutional freedom. Otherwise, we would simply be opposing one tyranny with another. The struggle against global jihad, although few yet realize it, is a great struggle, perhaps the last great struggle, to defend and safeguard the principles of universal human rights and the equality of dignity of all people that have been one of the greatest gifts that Judeo-Christian civilization has given to the world. Upon those principles our defense must be founded, or all is lost.