Saturday, September 5, 2009

We Were Safer 10 Months Ago

I’m not an expert on terrorism or intelligence gathering. But I am an expert on the impact of terrorism on Americans. As I’ve mentioned before on this program, my brother-in-law was one of the 2,996 people that were murdered on September 11th, 2001. He was working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11, piloted by an Al-Qaeda terrorist slammed into it. The effects of his death and the deaths of all those lost in both World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, American Flights 11 & 77 and United Flights 175 & 93 are still being felt by my family and all the 9/11 families to this day.
By most credible accounts, there was no actionable intelligence that the attacks were going to be carried out on that day in the way that they were. There were many factors that prevented our intelligence agencies from having the information we would have needed to prevent the 9/11 attacks. I personally think that the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which distracted his administration, the Congress and the public, as well as a general apathy, both in the government and in the public were contributing factors. We thought we were safe, we thought we were invincible and the government to that point had treated terrorism like a law enforcement issue. Likewise, most had forgotten Al-Qaeda’s first failed attempt to bring the Towers down in 1993. I was working in a pharmacy, directly across the street from the Manhasset Long Island Railroad station at the time. I can clearly remember the people, many of whom I knew on a first name basis, streaming into our store with soot on their faces and especially their noses that evening. The looks on their faces, stunned and frightened said just one thing they now understood what terrorism was.But the biggest single factor preventing us from being ready on September 11th, 2001 was the lack of human intelligence. Our foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies weren’t on the same page and weren’t communicating the things they knew and connecting the dots. Prior to 9/11 the CIA and FBI weren’t permitted, or inclined to share information. And a few do-gooder politicians, most notably former NJ Senator Robert Torricelli, had made rules regarding who the CIA could and could not use as paid informants. This policy was enacted by President Clinton and became known as “the Torricelli Principle”. The Torricelli Principle grew out of an alleged conspiracy between the CIA and the Guatemalan Army. The conspiracy theory concerned the CIA's supposed illegal funding of the Guatemalan army in its fight against guerrilla groups. As it turned out, the CIA wasn't funding the Guatemalans. It was simply paying a Guatemalan officer for information on drug smuggling. But the conspiracy buffs managed to convince Torricelli to buy their theory about the back-channel funding and the informant's role in killing an American citizen. This allegation turned out to be untrue. But Senator Torricelli managed to get the CIA Director to adopt a policy that said they couldn’t employ terrorists as sources. How can we expect our intelligence agencies to infiltrate terrorist organizations, to gather the information they need to keep us safe, if they can’t employ terrorists?
Post 9/11, the Bush Administration put in place policies designed to make the CIA and FBI share information on terrorists and employed techniques, though controversial in the minds of some, that kept this nation from being attacked again. They treated international terrorism as a war, utilizing the military to track down terrorist leaders and training camps around the world and taking them out. They recognized that this is a very different war. Waged by people that don’t wear uniforms and who haven’t signed the Geneva Conventions. Our enemies deliberately target civilians and don’t represent nations, but instead an ideology.
Now eight years after 9/11 the CIA is being defanged and demoralized yet again by liberals that live in a fantasy world, where the bad guys are playing by some sort of rules. Al-Qaeda beheads anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. The US gives captured terrorists, medical care, good food and the chance to practice their religious beliefs. With the approval of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the same guy that okayed the Marc Rich pardon, has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA, the agents that interrogated high value terror detainees, like Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the attorneys that gave the Bush administration guidance on which Enhanced Interrogation Techniques could be used. Those techniques got KSM to reveal information that prevented additional attacks on the US and our allies, when less aggressive techniques failed. In short a little discomfort applied to the mastermind of 9/11 kept hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people from being killed.
At the same time the CIA is being investigated, the Obama administration is releasing dangerous detainees from Guantananmo Bay back to countries like Yemen, that harbor terrorists and that won’t even guarantee the former detainees will be imprisoned when they get home.As the 8th anniversary of 9/11 approaches this coming Friday, I fear that we’re much less safe than we were just 10 months ago. I think that this administration and this Justice Dept. have returned us to a pre-9/11 footing and that the results will be more American families suffering the same losses that the 9/11 families suffered and continue to suffer. I hope that I’m wrong, but I think I may actually be understating the danger.

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