Patriot Act: Venona for the 21st Century
- 21 March 2006 by Author 0 Comments
The Patriot Act: Venona for the 21st Century
By Richard Larsen
Published in Idaho State Journal March 21, 2006
In his editorial criticizing the Patriot Act in the Sunday Journal, ISU political science professor David Adler unwittingly endorsed the need for the Act. Many remain uninformed on recent historical developments in the Joseph McCarthy era. Yet by citing the McCarthy era “Red Scare,” Adler in effect underscores the need for the provisions of the revised Patriot Act.
A post World War II project in part conducted by United States intelligence agencies and Britain’s MI5 tracked literally thousands of partially decrypted messages between the Soviet Union and agents working for the Soviets in the United States. The Venona Project, as it was called, proved the validity of most of Joseph McCarthy’s claims of Soviet espionage within the U.S. Manhattan Project, the U.S. State Department, Treasury Department, Office of Strategic Services, and even the White House itself. It also included members of the media, academia, the entertainment world, and industry.
In 1995 a bipartisan Commission on Government Secrecy, with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as chairman, publicly disclosed the existence of the project and the discoveries of the Venona project. In 1998, documents released by the Russian government corroborated the claims of Venona, including names of Americans working as spies and plants for the Soviets in the United States.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted and executed for Soviet espionage within the nuclear Manhattan Project without the benefit of the intercepts of the Venona Project. If the intelligence gathered by the Venona Project had been able to be used, the conviction of the Rosenbergs would not have been so controversial, but rather the evidence incontrovertible. Likewise, many other Communist Americans could have been successfully tried for espionage.
Terrorism is to the 21st century what the Soviet threat was to the post World War II era. With so many anti-Americans (both inside and outside of our country) seeking our destruction, it’s time to utilize the resources available to the government to protect us.
If you are engaged in questionable activity, you do have cause to fear. If you are not, you in all likelihood never will feel any effect of the Patriot Act. Those who will feel civil liberties infringement from the Patriot Act are those who are engaged in questionable activities.
For the past four years all we’ve heard is how horrible the Patriot Act is. Yet despite all the vilification, not even the ACLU can point to a single abuse of civil liberties under the Act. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner recently stated in an oped featured in USA Today that “…zero…[is the] number of substantiated USA Patriot Act civil liberties violations. Extensive congressional oversight found no violations…Intense public scrutiny has yet to find a single civil liberty abuse. Despite many challenges, no federal court has declared unconstitutional any of the Patriot Act provisions Congress is renewing.”
Yes, the provisions of the Act can be abused. Under an administration that is not as committed to protection from terrorists as this one is, it could be used improperly. We will need to remain attentive and vigilant as a citizenry.
However, in the hands of the Bush Administration, it appears that the Act and the NSA international eaves-dropping system is being used properly to identify and track illegal and terrorist-related activity. These programs in practice do what the Venona Project should have been used for during the Cold War: to identify, track, and disrupt illegal activities perpetrated against the United States, its interests, and its citizens.
It is no surprise that President Bush is as great a target to the left as McCarthy was. The Patriot Act is used as a criticism against Bush even though the slightly modified version was passed by the House with an overwhelming 280 to 138 vote, and passed the Senate 89 to 10. Pushing aside extreme bias, history will exonerate the President as it has McCarthy, although with much greater transparency.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.