Chris Christie plays 9/11 card in bid to justify NSA surveillance of all Americans
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Chris Christie plays 9/11 card in bid to justify NSA surveillance of all Americans

Aspen : CO : USA | Jul 27, 2013 at 12:56 AM PDT
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US New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is starting to sound like a new version of a broken record, mouthing a variation on a theme covered by innumerable politicians from both major parties since the horrific Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Using emotional rhetoric designed to delegitimize “libertarian” politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for opposing constitutionally questionable National Security Agency Internet and phone data-gathering on all Americans, a headstrong Christie on Thursday invoked traumatic memories of 9/11, as if that settled the question on proper NSA policies once and for all.

“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” Christie said at a forum of GOP governors in Aspen, Colo., the Washington Post reported. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”

Christie, like Paul, is widely considered a top-tier Republican presidential candidate for 2016. He was chastising members of Congress who voted for an amendment to the defense bill that would have defunded part of PRISM, an NSA program that collects data on American citizens’ phone calls and Internet activity. The NSA justifies the data collection by saying it fights terrorism.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) nearly had the votes to pass the defunding measure, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi convinced several Democrats to oppose it, according to a blog on SFGate,com, and the amendment came up on the short end of a 217-205 vote. Pelosi was said to be echoing the White House claim that Amash was trying to "dismantle" an effective tool for fighting terrorism.

Christie may have scored with a dramatic sound bite, but the New Jersey governor is making a hollow argument in favor of PRISM. According to Christie’s flawed reasoning, because NSA data gathering wasn’t in place in 2001, terrorists were successful in carrying out their devious plans. But now that it’s in place, terrorist attacks on American soil are much less likely to occur.

But that wasn’t the case in Boston on April 15. PRISM failed to stop the Boston Marathon bombings, even though Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been questioned by the FBI and may have been on a watch list of suspected terrorists, according to The Daily Beast.

If Christie were interested in having an honest discussion about lapses in security, protocol and policies preceding the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, he would publicly question who in the FBI chain of command prevented Minneapolis field agent Coleen Rowley, a Time Magazine “Person of the Year" in 2002, from doing her job in August 2001. That’s when her office sought permission to search the computer of then-suspected and now-convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, but her superiors in the FBI denied her access. Had she been given the green light to look at Moussaoui’s computer, there’s a very good chance the 9/11 terrorists would have been nipped in the bud.

But rather than speak in a way that might actually lead to a safer nation with smarter policies, Christie opted for talking tough against Paul and others who are, at the very least, asking important questions.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

PRISM may or may not be worth keeping, but immediately invoking 9/11 as if to suggest opponents of the current NSA spying program are somehow inviting another major terrorist attack is cheap, undignified and, quite frankly, tiresome.

By posturing like some kind of tough guy know-it-all and discouraging reasonable debate with self-serving logical fallacies similar to those used by Bush surrogates who railed about non-existent weapons of mass destruction prior to the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, Christie shows himself to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. His in-your-face, I-know-best attitude increases the danger that the right questions won’t be asked and, even worse, that they’ll be ignored and trivialized when they are.

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