Wow, talk about divine providence — on the day after George Bush moved immigration reform and border control to the top of his agenda, the Washington Post managed to write about a memo from Reagan-era deliberations that Jo Becker and Amy Goldstein claim shows some sort of animus against foreigners. Headlined by a statement that Alito opposed rights for foreigners, the Becker/Goldstein report reviews Alito’s recommendation to accept fingerprint cards from refugees living in Canada:
As a senior lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, Samuel A. Alito Jr. argued that immigrants who enter the United States illegally and foreigners living outside their countries are not entitled to the constitutional rights afforded to Americans.
In an opinion that offers insight into the Supreme Court nominee’s view of an area of law that has gained new significance with the Bush administration’s policies to combat terrorism, Alito gave his approval to an FBI effort in the 1980s to collect from Canadian authorities fingerprint cards of Iranian and Afghan refugees living in that country.
The program to collect background information was constitutional, Alito wrote in a January 1986 memo to the FBI director. And because the refugees were nonresident immigrants of a third country, he reasoned, the FBI could disregard court decisions that prohibited it from spreading “stigmatizing” information about citizens.
So this memo has little to do with “foreigner’s rights” as the headline states, and more to do with the kind of information sharing that we so badly lacked leading up to 9/11. In this case, as clumsily presented by the ever-biased Becker/Goldstein team that turned in one hack job after another on John Roberts, Canada apparently offered to share its fingerprint cards that it had taken from Iranians and Afghanis that fled to our northern neighbor in the 1980s. Given the nature of the conflicts occurring at that time, and the kind of people who might feel motivated to flee to North America, this data might have proven invaluable had we taken Islamofascist terrorism seriously during the 1990s.
Canadian authorities had no problems with getting the fingerprints in the first place. Why should sharing the data with our ally risen to a Constitutional issue at all? This kind of hypersensitivity shown by success administrations led to the Gorelick wall and the foolish and arbitrary limits on cooperation between intelligence and law-enforcement assets that kneecapped our counterterrorism efforts until after 9/11. Yet the Becker/Goldstein article says nothing about this context, instead focusing on Alito’s supposedly “broad and aggressive” view of the law.
Well, if that’s so, we need more jurists like Alito on the Supreme Court to put an end to this politically-correct nonsense that left us blind and deaf to external threats such as the al-Qaeda plots that killed 3,000 Americans. The idea that we should sniff at fingerprint cards collected legally by an ally (with no indications of torture) because they possibly might have been challenged had they been collected in the United States is, we now know, feel-good dippiness at its worst and most self-destructive. The people who argue this point against Alito should be made to answer for the Gorelick wall and the shackling of our counterterrorism efforts over the past two decades.
UPDATE: Fixed bad link; thanks to Eric.