February 12, 2009 4:42PM

Taking Cues from Terrorist Playbooks

Tony Blankley writes in today’s Washington Times that we need to emulate the federal Office of Censorship employed in World War II and screen all press outlets for pieces ostensibly favoring those that oppose us in our fight against terrorism. Apparently, things have gone too far when newspapers allow a representative of Hamas to publish an op‐​ed and media outlets publish sensitive information about government programs. As he puts it, “American newspapers should foster a free debate on government policies, not act as agents of enemy sabotage.”

I am unclear as to how requiring Uncle Sam’s say‐​so on any controversial discussion of national security policy is a “free debate.” I am even less certain that all of this would be constitutional.

Worse yet, broad restriction of liberty is the response that terrorists want. Terrorists don’t fear government overreaction; they bait it and incite it. They need it. With broad measures that restrict the freedom of movement of the population and tax our every move, they portray themselves as patriots and freedom fighters. Talk of Wars on [a Noun] and “existential threats” only enhances the rhetoric of our enemies and incites public hysteria.

Don’t take my word for it. Carlos Marighella, Brazilian insurgent and author of the Mini‐​Manual of the Urban Guerrilla, said as much decades ago:

The government has no alternative except to intensify its repression. The police networks, house searches, the arrest of suspects and innocent persons, and the closing off of streets make life in the city unbearable. The military dictatorship embarks on massive political persecution … [t]he armed forces, the navy and the air force are mobilized to undertake routine police functions… [t]he political situation in the country is transformed into a military situation in which the “gorillas” appear more and more to be the ones responsible for violence, while the lives of the people grow worse.

Instead of calling for censorship, Mr. Blankley ought to limit his response to criticizing the newspaper or countering the op‐​ed directly. This is infinitely better targeted at his enemies and, let’s be honest, it isn’t hard to find contradictions between Hamas’s actions and whatever whitewash they put in an op‐​ed.

Mr. Blankley also points to the alleged probability of a nuclear bomb being set off in an American city within the next five years. Benjamin Friedman has already debunked this unfounded claim in great detail.

As for protection of secret information, the abuse of the State Secrets privilege often has little to do with national security, and a lot to do with governmental liability.