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Restoration Weekend: Prospects for a Safe, Free and Democratic Middle East, Con't By: R. James Woolsey
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 15, 2003

This is the continuation of fmr. CIA Director R. James Woolsey's speech at the 2003 Restoration Weekend. Click Here for Part One.

Unidentified Speaker:  You made the comment of the stress between security and liberty, and it seems to me one of the elements of that is for whom. The liberty, as long as we provide the same liberties for U.S. citizens on our territory as we do for non-citizens, we are then subjecting ourselves to a security issue that is appropriate for both citizens and non-citizens. As a consequence, we're going to lose, relatively speaking, liberties of citizenship in order to make up for the security required of non-citizens in the U.S. Could you comment on to the issues of the role of citizenship in that equation?

R. James Woolsey:  Very complex question. Generally speaking in American law, U.S. persons -- that is, citizens and permanent resident aliens, green card holders -- are treated pretty much the same as citizens, but there are, particularly in immigration law, special limitations on rights for those who are before the immigration courts. 


I represented eight Muslim Arabs and Kurds, Iraqi freedom fighters, who were put in prison by the Immigration and Naturalization Service based on flimsy evidence. Thanks to Sen. Jon Kyl, we had some hearings in the Senate. We retried the case. Most of the material was declassified, and we were able to get all of them out of prison. So I've seen the face of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the immigration court system, and it can be ugly. But I think that we have to distinguish between several things. 


First of all, when we're talking about illegal combatants, people who have been seized in Afghanistan who are the functional equivalent of the Germans who were smuggled into the country during World War II to try to blow up power plants and so forth; these were captured and tried before a special military tribunal, several of them executed in a process approved by the Supreme Court. 


When we look at illegal combatants, we have to have one set of procedures, and they will not be exactly like the full rights that individuals enjoy under American criminal law. The Supreme Court now has this issue before it again, but historically, I think what the administration is doing with respect to the people in Guantanamo definitely has constitutional sanction. Those people who have been captured in that way are far more like pirates under international law than they are like prisoners of war or certainly like American citizens. 


Then you have a very difficult situation that arises when someone like (Zaccarias) Moussaoui is prosecuted under the American criminal law system, because our criminal law system has a full set of rights for individuals as complete as anywhere in the world has ever had, and in certain terrorist situations, that creates really difficult problems. If you've been following the Moussaoui case, you can see how this can occur and create very serious difficulties for the continued precedent and law under which we operate for our own citizens and resident aliens here in the United States.


I think what's important is two things. 


First of all, we do have to realize there will be different sets of procedural rights for different people in these circumstances. Illegal combatants are going to get one set of rights. Prisoners of war of a real military will get others. The immigration law is going to have different characteristics than the criminal law, and sometimes people get into the wrong process, and the system doesn't work well. 


The second thing that's important, I think, is that as we follow what we have to do in the legal system, and with all of these prosecutions, we keep the terrorist provisions that are in statutes like the USA Patriot Act focused on terrorists, not on other kinds of lawbreakers. 


There was a case recently in which a lovesick young 20-year-old woman was taken by her parents on an ocean cruise because they wanted to get her away from a boyfriend that they didn't like. She did something really stupid. She wrote threatening notes about terrorism to the skipper of the ship because she so desperately wanted to get back and see her boyfriend. She was caught, she was prosecuted, and she was sentenced under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act that dealt with terrorism. Now, I would submit that's not what the Congress thought it was voting for when it voted for the reasonable provisions of the USA Patriot Act. It was not voting to be tougher on lovesick young women who do stupid things. 


So I think what we have to do is insist on the provisions that are passed for terrorism being used for terrorism and not for law generally, and we have to insist within whatever system someone is being prosecuted under or dealt with that they at least have the basic and minimal rights that are appropriate to that set of procedures. Sorry to go on, but I practiced law too long not to try to give a relatively complete answer to that one. 


We've got time for one more.  Yes, ma'am, right here.


Unidentified Speaker:  You talked earlier about what everyday Americans could do for contribution to the war effort, and you talked about the earlier administrations in previous wars and the collection of the aluminum foil, and what you would want. I think, what the Bush administration could ask Americans today to do to contribute in the war effort would be conserving on the energy and gasoline, etc., and things that might be a little too idealistic for the everyday American. With this war perhaps going into decades, what could we ask the everyday American to do to contribute to the war effort that could be more tangible?


R. James Woolsey:  Okay, let me refer you to a piece I had in Commentary magazine a little over a year ago, September of last year, called "Destroying the Oil Weapon." It's not a piece that suggests we can get away from using oil; we can't. But the problem is that in this part of the world, the Middle East, the uncertainties and the potential chaos are such that we could see extraordinary spikes and long-lasting ones in the price of oil in such a way as to seriously damage our economy. 


I'll refer you to Bob Baer, the former CIA officer's book, Sleeping with the Devil. Has an opening scenario, which is really quite troubling, but I'm afraid it's a reasonably realistic one, of a fully loaded 747 being flown into the sulfur towers in northeastern Saudi Arabia, where the sulfur is taken out of the oil. Bob says, and I have no reason to doubt it, that that could well take several million barrels a day off the world market for many months, the bulk of the Saudi production. And if you follow what is happening in the kingdom now as Crown Prince Abdullah tries to make some reforms -- perhaps if he had full authority he would be trying to move Saudi Arabia in the direction of Bahrain with more civil liberties and rights for women -- but he's having a great deal of difficulty because the Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia is opposed. Some members of the royal family are opposed to it. There are dissident movements getting started in various parts of Saudi Arabia, and you have real terrorism taking place there. The situation in Saudi Arabia is not necessarily stable.  There are people who would take the kingdom in a way that we can work with them, and there are also others that would not, would go the opposite direction. 


So we have to realize that for some considerable period of time, this part of the world is in play, at risk, in substantial difficulty, and potentially in chaos. Now, I think what that means is we ought to build up the strategic petroleum reserve.  The administration's doing it somewhat; I'd do it somewhat more. I think we ought to work hard on oil exploration in other parts of the world, including the heavy oil up in Canada. I think we ought to give things like tax credits for hybrid gasoline electric engines. There's nothing wrong with driving an SUV if you want to drive an SUV, but why not give Detroit an incentive to put hybrid engines in them so you get 30 miles to the gallon instead of 10? I think that some of the alternative fuels technologies are much further along now than people realize because they got locked in to thinking that they were not practical in the 1970s. There are several of those that are coming along and can be used in the existing infrastructure. The President said in his "State of the Union" last year that, you know, in 16 years, a child born this year might be able to drive an electric fuel-cell vehicle. Well, okay, but 16 years is a long time, and there are technologies that can be used within the current infrastructure, with the current types of engines we have now, the current types of fuel distribution systems we have now. 


All of these, I think, deserve support and effort. One might say not if the war weren't on. One might say, as I imagine many people here would say, "Let the market do it." But we're at war, and we are, I think, in a situation roughly parallel to what would exist if the only grain that Americans ate were rice, and in December 8 of 1941, we woke up and discovered that Japan controlled two-thirds of the world's rice. We wouldn't then ask ourselves, "Should we think about planting some of this stuff called wheat and corn? You know, maybe we ought to have some kind of grain, too." I would, frankly, try to move very thoroughly and decisively in the direction of expanding fuel use in the transportation sector, fuel economy and fuel use of fuels other than oil, from the Middle East. I think if we don't do that, we could be very, very surprised and saddened someday, waking up and looking at the headlines about some disruption or coup or anything else in the Middle East. Thank you.


Click Here to return to Part One.

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