Last Friday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Patriot Act had already been adjourned, but Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic blimpish congressman from New York and one of the leftmost members of the House Judiciary Committee, was too wound up to care: “We are not besmirching the honor of the United States, we are trying to uphold it,” bellowed the hefty Nadler.
By this, Nadler meant to defend his attacks on the alleged abuses of the (in fact) privileged prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Thanks to the efforts of the left-wing panel witnesses invited by Judiciary Committee Democrats to address the hearing (among them Arab American Committee head James Zogby and Amnesty International chairman Chad Pitt) Guantanomo became its focus, -- even though Guantanano is irrelevant to the Patriot Act. Rather than debate the merits of the Patriot Act, sections of which are set to expire in September, the witnesses and the Democrats (who gave speeches along the same lines) turned the occasion into a harangue against the War on Terror. When frustrated Republican chairman James Sensenbreener abruptly adjourned the hearing, Nadler protested that the majority had violated a “point of decency.”
It was an odd statement coming from Nadler. Since the September 11 attacks, few politicians have matched him in their incendiary and frequently unscrupulous opposition to counterterrorism legislation. Few, moreover, have done as much as Nadler to bend the law to the service of convicted terrorists.
Along with many of his fellow Democrats, Nadler wasted no time politicizing the September 11events. “If the White House had knowledge that there was a danger or an intent to hijack an American airplane and did not warn the airlines, that would be nonfeasance in office of the highest order,” Nadler proclaimed in 2002, adding, “That would make the president bear a large amount of responsibility for the tragedy that occurred.” Nadler had no such concerns over the eight years the Clinton Administration turned a blind eye to more than half a dozen major terrorist attacks including the World Trade Center itself, failed to put in place simple airport security measures that would have prevented 9/11, and put a wall between intelligence and law enforcement agencies that made 9/11 possible and which the Patriot Act was designed to fix.
Not surprisingly Nadler has been relentless in his efforts undo the Act itself. In 2003, Nadler, urged on by a left-wing activist collective that included the ACLU, and People for the American Way, introduced legislation aimed at defeating the Bush administration’s Terrorism Information Awareness program. The program, which seeks to broaden the investigative tools available to federal investigators, links together and cross-references databases of information about private commercial transactions, such as purchases of airplane tickets, and tracks donations to charities and political causes—in short, everything that Nadler has accused the administration of failing to do before 9-11.
Nadler came out squarely against it. Having previously asserted that the Bush administration had not done enough to protect Americans from foreign terrorist threats, Nadler now took the position that it was doing too much. In this spirit, Nadler claimed that the TIA program amounted to a massive “assault on our rights,” and “represents perhaps the closest realization of an Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ government to date.” On Nadler’s political balance sheet, the Bush administration had replaced terrorism as the greatest threat to the United States.
Nadler has held fast to this radical line. In speech after speech, he has denounced the Patriot Act as an instance of “government intrusion”—a peculiar charge coming from a partisan of big-government who has sponsored bills to extract reparations for slavery from private companies and has called for United Nations representatives to monitor the U.S. presidential elections. Especially outrageous to Nadler is a Patriot Act clause enabling FBI investigators to access to library records in the course of a terrorism investigation. The fact that the clause calls for compliance with the First Amendment—and has never been used—has not precluded Nadler from imprudently assailing it as “little more than the institution of a police state.”
Similarly, Nadler has opened up a legislative front against the Patriot Act. Along with other assaults, Nadler has sponsored legislation to eliminate the “national security letter” provision of the Patriot Act, against which the ACLU, which has mounted its own legal challenge. But while the ACLU at least acknowledges that the provision, which allows FBI field office directors to collect information on terrorist suspects, antedates the Patriot Act, Nadler has dishonestly denounced it as “unprecedented and dangerous.” Nadler escalated his campaign against the Patriot Act just in time for the election. Following a failed July 2004 congressional insurrection against the Patriot Act, in which he played a key role, Nadler defended his efforts by stating: “We don't want tyranny.” In recent months, Nadler has emerged as the leader of a group of lawmakers vying for an overhaul of many of the surveillance powers enacted under the Patriot Act.
But Nadler’s efforts to undermine domestic counterterrorism reach far beyond his war on the Patriot Act. In 2003, for instance, Nadler joined forces with two liberal Democrats, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), and Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) in authoring an angry demarche to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, demanding that he “terminate” the Justice Department’s policy of using 56 FBI field offices to count the number of Muslim mosques, religious organizations and community groups in their locals districts. Wrote the authors: “We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in terrorist activities.” Of the well-documented ties between U.S.-based mosques, many of them financed by Wahhabi money, and Islamist terrorist groups, there was no mention. Instead, the authors cautioned the Justice Department “to follow the constitutionally prescribed channels of investigation.” That the FBI’s counting policy ran afoul of no constitutional directives was likewise ignored.
Like other leftwing opponents of the Patriot Act and inflamers of passions over alleged injustices to captured terrorists, Nadler claims all of this effort is to defend America’s image and ideals. The explanation is hardly credible. Exaggerating America’s faults by claiming that Guantanamo is “the gulag of our time” as the Amnesty International chairman did at the hearing without contradiction by the Democrats (Republicans Mike Pence and Howard Coble were left to this task) obviously damages America’s image and encourages our enemies.
In Nadler’s defense one might say that since these captured terrorists haven’t been convicted in a court of law some benefit of the doubt should be afforded to Nadler himself. One would be wrong. Nadler has gone to bat for convicted terrorists as well.
It speaks to Nadler’s political priorities on terrorism that some of his most fervent advocacy has been spent in a successful effort to secure the presidential pardons of two leftwing bombers serving long sentences for conducting a war against America that prefigured the post 9/11 jihad.
Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg were members of the Weather Underground, the Marxist-Leninist group of mostly middle-class revolutionaries that had declared war on “Amerikkka” in 1969. Of the numerous crimes in which Rosenberg and Evans were suspects, perhaps the most famous—and deadly—was a 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored car in Nyack, New York. Carried out by several members of the Weather Underground, the heist resulted in the murders of Peter Paige, a Brinks guard, and two Nyack police officers, Edward O'Grady and Waverly Brown, whose deaths left nine children without fathers. Authorities indicted Rosenberg, then on the lam, as an accessory to the bloody crime, and suspected that she drove the getaway car.
When the law finally caught up with Rosenberg smuggling a weapons cache in New Jersey in 1984, she was defiant: “We’re caught, but we’re not defeated. Long live the armed struggle!” Rosenberg declared. Rosenberg was still devoted to the revolution’s cause in prison where she was serving a 58 year term and told an interviewer, “I don’t want you to come away thinking that I’m repudiating revolutionary struggle for the United States because I'm not.”
Nor, since her Clinton pardon has Rosenberg expressed remorse about her radical past. To the extent that she admits to her crimes, she places the blame wholly on the American “system.” Thus, of her past involvement with violence, Rosenberg has said: “I think it’s the system that’s responsible for a multitude of these faces of violence.”
As for Linda Evans, arrested in 1985 on charges that ranged from weapons possession to military training aimed at triggering a war against America from within, she too clings to her radical past, nostalgically referring to her Weathermen confederates as “comrades.” Now working with the Center for Third World Organizing, a radical activist organization that holds terrorists like herself to be "political prisoners," she expresses sentiments like the following: “The prison industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests [with] a monumental commitment to lock up a sizeable percentage of the population.” In March 2002, Evans organized a conference in Cuba declaring solidarity with “political prisoners” who had been “incarcerated because of their involvement in political activities which challenged the unjust nature of the US socioeconomic system and its hegemonic policies around the world.” Topping the list of these supposed “political prisoners” were Evans’ fellow Weather Underground battler Kathy Boudin, Symbionese Liberation Army member Kathy Soliah (aka Sara Jane Olson), and convicted cop-killers Mumia Abu Jamal and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown).
For their unearned freedom, both women owe a debt to Jerrold Nadler. In the 1990s Nadler, a member of the socialist-aligned congressional Progressive Caucus, used his post on the Judiciary Committee to oppose the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. His loyalty did not go unrewarded. On his last day in office, Clinton acceded to Nadler’s request to commute the sentences of both Evans and Rosenberg. Evans, arrested with 740 pounds of dynamite intended for, among other targets, the Capitol building, had 24 years left in her 40-year sentence when Clinton pardoned her; Rosenberg, arrested for weapons possession, had 42 years yet to serve on her 58-year sentence.
Nadler’s initial response was to insist that he took no position on the controversial pardons. In fact, however, Nadler had met with a rabbi, dispatched by Rosenberg’s mother Bella Rosenberg, Nadler’s constituent on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The rabbi, head of New York’s liberal Congregation B’nei Jeshurun, of which Nadler too is a member, had lobbied on Rosenberg’s behalf, even showing Nadler accounts of parole hearings supposedly attesting that Rosenberg had been a model prisoner. (It was no accident that following her release Rosenberg was granted a job a B’nei Jeshurun.) Faced with these facts, Nadler attempted to cast himself as a humble courier between the Rosenberg family and the White House. This version failed to impress even the normally indulgent New York Times, which denounced the pardons in an editorial.
When it comes to the war on terrorists, Jerrold Nadler is a hypocrite; and because of his position on the Judiciary Committee, a dangerous one as well.