woody_zimmerman_118_2007Try to summon up a mental picture of your school librarian. (Right - she was the fussy old dame with her hair in a bun and her eyeglasses on a chain, who went around saying "Sssshhhh!" to everyone.) Now imagine her as head of one of the most important national security arms in the country. Do you feel more secure?

That fantasy (or nightmare) has come true for the United States. Our Secretary of Homeland Security is now Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona. The Guv has acted decisively to make the homeland safe. With drugs and illegals flooding across our common border with Mexico, and with gun battles raging on both sides of that border, Mrs. Napolitano has issued a report identifying the potential threats her department considers most dangerous to the country. At the top of the list are: returning American veterans of the war on terror (oops, I mean our Overseas Contingency Operations); followers of single-issue causes (e.g., pro-life, anti-tax, anti-bailout, anti-illegal immigration, etc.); and assorted others whose views the Obama administration considers "subversive" and potentially dangerous. This probably includes attendees of the various "tea parties" held across the country on Tax Day (April 15). More than one commentator has said the timing of the Homeland Security report is suggestive, coming right before the protests.

American citizens exercising their Constitutional right to associate with people of their own choosing, to assemble peaceably, and to seek redress of grievances are now branded "enemies of the state" because their political views differ from those of the current administration. They are purveyors of "badthink" (as George Orwell termed it). Had George W. Bush's government issued such a report, denunciations from Mainstream Media outlets, liberal politicians and others of the chattering cognoscenti would have boomed across the land. Today, the silence of those fearless watchdogs of our civil liberties is deafening, save for a few congressmen who had the temerity to ask what Mrs. Napolitano means by this outrage. Richard Nixon was infamous for his "enemies list," but he never dreamed of anything on this scale. We live in amazing times.

Because her report attracted a lot of criticism, Madame la Commandante has been busy this week with interviews in which she has explained that the "wording" of the report was unfortunate and that she certainly did not mean to "offend" veterans." Translation: a poor choice of words was the whole problem, not the inflammatory concept of targeting American citizens as terrorist threats on the level of Al Qaeda. Obamanistas think everything is just a matter of correct "wording" (a teleprompter issue) - never of content or meaning. To put this in perspective, imagine the uproar if people of Middle Eastern or West African origin had been profiled as potential terrorist threats.

In point of fact, the report was not meant for release to the general public. It was leaked by an unknown person (or persons) inside either Homeland Security or another agency (e.g., FBI, NSA, CIA, etc.) to which it was forwarded. Someone correctly recognized it as incendiary, and refused to let it fly below the radar. Homeland Security legal beagles had already raised red flags about calling veterans a potential security threat, but Mrs. Napolitano issued the report anyway. Later, she said releasing the report over her legal staff's objections was a "process breakdown" that will be fixed. (In that case, of course, all is forgiven. Anyone can have a "process breakdown.")

Unless she was specifically ordered to create another diversion for the Obama administration, this was not a good week for the Director of Homeland Security. In typical fashion, the Obama White House disavowed any knowledge of the report and attempted to skate free of it. Our "hands-on" president somehow was not "in the loop" on this dangerous and divisive report. (Naturally not, since he is a uniter, not a divider.)

Another action taken to keep us "safe" has been presidential downgrade of previously Top Secret intelligence memoranda and opinions about Bush administration interrogative practices that the left calls "torture." Mr. Obama hammered this issue in his high-minded, feel-good run for the White House. Use of "torture" was un-American, he said, no matter how many lives might be saved by it. The White House paints the release of the Top Secret memos and legal opinions as the first move toward the sunshine and openness Mr. Obama promised. The people have a right to know what was done in their name.

Others take a different - or, possibly, a wider - view. One of these is former Vice president Dick Cheney, who has called for release of companion memos and reports which detail the results obtained from the use of extreme interrogation measures, including "waterboarding." Mr. Cheney insists that a fair evaluation of the now-denounced interrogation procedures can be made only if the public sees what they produced. Which planned attacks did we learn of because these procedures were used on terror captives and suspects? Thus far, the Obama administration has declined to release the requested documents, however.

Closely related to these so-called "torture" techniques is the possible prosecution of Bush administration lawyers who advised their use. Mr. Obama originally said he wanted to look "forward," not back. As recently as Sunday, April 19, senior White House advisor Rahm Emanuel said the president did not want to pursue prosecution of any Bush administration staff. But a mere two days later, Mr. Obama seemed to leave the door open for such prosecutions when he said no one should be "above the law." Asked whether this could include President Bush, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave no clear answer except to say we should look to what President Obama has said. On that basis, I should say a long, contentious ordeal of financial ruin could lie ahead for people who acted in good faith. Columnist Charles Krauthammer doubts that the Obama administration can convict anyone, since policy differences are not crimes. But the "trials" will be used to keep Mr. Bush painted as a villain far into the Obama presidency.

This is an extremely dangerous direction to take - one which will do nothing to make the country safer and, indeed, might actually make it less safe. By criminalizing policy differences it will instill fear and caution into lawyers who should have the country's protection uppermost in their minds in extreme moments. Who will go out on a limb to learn when an atomic bomb from Iran will be shipped into Baltimore Harbor, via container-ship, if they anticipate being hauled into court by a future administration because the country has forgotten the taste of its 9/12/01 fear?

Finally, we do have the good news that Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, the sole surviving Somali pirate of a band that recently kidnapped an American ship captain, has been brought to New York City for arraignment. He is being called a "teenager" in media reports, although his precise age is not known. Already we are being deluged with "background" reports on Muse's pathetically poor home and his valiant attempts to reach a new life via piracy. Can there be any doubt that some appeals court will rule that he is actually a juvenile who can't be tried in adult court?

This could be reminiscent of the DC sniper case in which Malvo, the younger member of the murder-team that killed ten innocent people in the fall of 2002, escaped execution because he was under 18. Thus, a cold-blooded killer - who laughed about how "surprised" his victims looked when they were mortally hit - will live in air-conditioned comfort on into middle age, when some judge who was in diapers when Malvo mercilessly slaughtered innocent mothers and fathers will let him go free.

Ronald Reagan liked to say the Constitution was not a "suicide pact." I'm not as sure of that as I used to be. By the way, in case you're thinking about trying to get involved in taking the country back, you might want to keep Mrs. Napolitano's "terrorist" list in mind. You could be on it.