Tag Archives: 2002

Cheney Wanted Tanks in Lackawanna

25 Jul

Remember the Lackawanna Six?

They’ll be out of jail sooner rather than later, and some of them will end up in the witness protection program for testimony they gave at military commissions in Guantanamo.

But the New York Times reports today that the Bush Administration – specifically former Vice President Dick Cheney – agitated for the government to send the US military to apprehend the suspects and declare them enemy combatants.

Tanks rolling down the streets of Lackawanna.  Troops marching down Ridge Road – not National Guard, but the actual full-time Army.  That would have been quite a sight.  A sight not seen on American soil since the Civil War, and probably violative of the 4th Amendment and the Posse Comitatus Act.

Still, at least one high-level meeting was convened to debate the issue, at which several top Bush aides argued firmly against the proposal to use the military, advanced by Mr. Cheney, his legal adviser David S. Addington and some senior Defense Department officials.

Among those in opposition were Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser; John B. Bellinger III, the top lawyer at the National Security Council; Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

“Frankly, it was a bit of a turf war,” said one former senior administration official. “For a number of people, crossing the line of having intelligence or military activities inside the United States was not worth the risk.”

The cooler head of George W. Bush prevailed over Dick Cheney in that instance.

They were arrested in September 2002, just before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and people’s memories were still vivid and emotions very raw about jihadist terrorism at the time.  I’d go so far as to say that a majority of Americans probably wouldn’t have had a problem with any of this at the time.

But there are a few things I think have happened since that time.  I wouldn’t call it complacency, although some would.  Speaking for myself, living in fear of a terrorist attack hurting me or my family is something I don’t really feel like doing.  If something bad happens, it happens.  But I won’t let it overtake my thoughts or my actions.

Living in fear is a sucky way to live, and it sometimes makes you think and do dumb things.

In addition, I think that the military, law enforcement, and intelligence services have adjusted for this new world in which we live.  I wonder if in the era of the internet we still have spies doing dead drops in obscure Washington Parks or meeting in public places, greeting each other with code phrases.  It was a shift from cold-war era intelligence-gathering to contemporary counter-terrorism intelligence, a lot of which is done online.

But using the military against American citizens on American soil would have been going too far.  Kudos to Bush and those who agreed with him for killing this horribly misguided idea.  But it speaks volumes of Dick Cheney and his vision of a jackbooted America where fear trumps the Constitution and any civil rights violation is acceptable so long as it’s couched in the rhetoric of national security.