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Meese to Bush: Keep America Focused

Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM

In an exclusive interview with NewsMax.com, Meese, who knows Ronald Reagan as well as anyone in the coutry, recalled the tense discussions at top levels of the Reagan administration when the decision was made to invade Grenada, then being prepared as a Communist beachhead in this hemisphere.

A member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned President Reagan taht "using military force could have some dire political or public ramifications for the United States."

"General, is there any military reason why we shouldn't do this?" Reagan asked. To which the military man replied, "No, there's no military reason."

"Well," President Reagan replied, "you take care of the military things, and I'll take care of the politics."

Meese, who is now a Ronald Reagan distinguished Fellow in Public Policy with the Heritage Foundation, also said that for this "new kind of war" on terrorism per se, "not just terrorist groups," different tactics are required.

The president said in his speech to the nation that this war might be out of sight of the TV cameras, even when big victories are scored. "There has got to be a reinforcement" of what the president said "on a periodic basis," Meese believes.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, that wartime fervor, an important component, was kept at a high pitch because the enemies – Germany, Italy and Japan – were easily identifiable. Consequently, popular songs such as "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor" and "We Did It Before, and We Can Do It Again" found a ready audience. Appropriate music in the fight against terrorism is now being composed and arranged. But how do you keep that spirit going in a war that is less focused and largely covert?

"He [Bush] gained the trust of the people and their confidence, and that's a start," the close adviser to former President Ronald Reagan said. "The other thing I think he's going to have to do is, periodically, he or other officials in the government are going to have to keep people informed, through the news media or otherwise, of what is happening to the extent they can, or at least tell them generally what is going on even if they can't reveal the details."

When told of the 150-plus organizations that are calling for a balance between the internal security concerns Americans have and their cherished personal freedoms, he said that civil liberties and internal security need not be mutually exclusive.

He said the concerns of the groups are "well-founded in the sense that any time you increase the power of government, you want to be sure, number one, that it's necessary, and number two, that it doesn't infringe on vital civil liberties."

The man who was the nation's top law enforcement officer for several years says some of the ideas that have been proposed are necessary, but others "may be more questionable."

The 150 organizations in the coalition (reported by NewsMax Thursday) include some on the right and others on the left. Among those on the left is the American Civil Liberties union, which Meese once described as "the criminal lobby."

While the concern over civil liberties infractions "is justified," Meese warned, "it should not be a bar to doing things that [really] are necessary."

Extremists in the ACLU, for example, "don't want the police to do anything," in his view.

Meese made a distinction between those factions and "people like Paul Weyrich and Grover Norquist," leading conservatives whose organizations are also among the 150-plus privacy coalition.

They "understand freedom, and I would listen to their counsel very carefully. They [the Weyrichs and the Norquists] in the coalition rightly fear a rush in Congress just to pass these things without looking at them carefully."

Meese stopped short of advocating resignations at the top of any intelligence agencies, but he acknowledged significant changes would have to be made.

Bill Casey, Reagan's first CIA director, was a giant in the intelligence community, Meese agreed. He was a man who came into a CIA whose human intelligence had been emasculated under the Carter administration, and knocked heads together for cohesion and a sense of purpose.

"Bill Casey [began to] build up particularly the analyst portion" of the Intelligence Agency. A lot of information came in that "wasn't being analyzed."

There is no question in Meese's mind that there must be "a searching look at our whole intelligence situation" to begin to "rebuild the intelligence networks that were destroyed in the seventies." Much of that can take decades. He made these four points clear:

1. An exhaustive review of the CIA is in order.

2. Knowledgeable people in technology and development must look at "the technology things that can be used by the terrorists, but that we can also use to improve our security."

3. It is important that we have preventive measures, including additional caution in the airline industry.

4. Government officials should consider "an exhaustive chart of all the different types of response," such as sending teams into other countries to work with officials there in disrupting terrorist groups within their borders.

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In an exclusive interview with NewsMax.com, Meese, who knows Ronald Reagan as well as anyone in the coutry, recalled the tense discussions at top levels of the Reagan administration when the decision was made to invade Grenada, then being prepared as a Communist beachhead...
Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM
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