On Sept. 20, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress following the attacks on America on 9/11. I sat two rows behind first lady Laura Bush as the president spoke of “a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.”
He spoke of a new and unconventional enemy and said, “They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.”
He said, “These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.”
Well, for the past two weeks, we have learned of a carefully organized and massive plot to bomb a number of targets across the United States by a 24-year-old, Afghan-born Al-Qaida operative named Najibullah Zazi, precisely the enemy Bush spoke of in 2001.
Throughout the course of this investigation by the FBI and New York City Police Department, we have heard that Zazi had several pages of hand-written notes of bomb-making instructions inside a computer that he kept in his possession. He allegedly wrote those notes last year when attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.
"You're talking about subway stations, public places where potentially thousands of people could be killed," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett. "And in addition to that, when you add multiple locations, you're talking about potentially a horrendous number of people dying.”
Since Zazi’s arrest, federal agents have tracked down a number of beauty supply stores in Colorado where Zazi and accomplices purchased unusually large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, which would be used to create improvised explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement that, “We believe an imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted,” and added, “we are investigating a wide range of leads.”
Based on reports, it appears that Zazi was the ringleader of this al-Qaida cell and had a number of co-conspirators in Colorado and New York, and that the principal targets were probably in New York.
That being said, perhaps it’s time to look at things a little differently when it comes to keeping our country safe and free from the threats of this new and unconventional enemy.
Immigration, criminal profiling, and the Patriot Act are just for starters.
Our immigration laws have loopholes the size of Texas. Putting aside our inability to prevent intruders from illegally crossing our borders, many of our immigration policies are no better.
For example, a military commander from Saudi Arabia comes to the United States to attend a military course and brings his wife, who is eight months pregnant. Their baby is born a U.S. citizen, the family travels back to Saudi Arabia, and the child can return anytime during their lifetime with no restrictions. If by chance that child is raised or infested with the radical Islamic beliefs of Osama Bin Laden and his followers, there is nothing we can do about it. That child has the same rights and any other U.S. citizen.
Another example, based on a true story, is that a naturalized Pakistani father living in Georgia takes his two U.S.-born teenage sons to Karachi, Pakistan, drops them in a madrassa (an Islamic learning center) for four years to be indoctrinated in radical extremists beliefs. The two young men return to the United States with an incredible hatred for our country and there is nothing we can do about it.
Another example: A family from Syria is chosen thru the U.S. immigration lottery to acquire a green card. They come to the United States and acquire their green card with the understanding that they will live in the U.S. However, as soon as they receive it, they head back to Syria (using their Syrian passport) and return every six months to show up for immigration interviews until they become U.S. citizens. They then live in Syria and keep the U.S. citizenship in a drawer in case they need it.
Since political correctness has scared our legislators to death, they can’t find the courage to say publicly that we as a country must begin profiling to identify the new enemies we face, both here and abroad.
Call it criminal profiling, terrorist profiling, or whatever you wish, but don’t confuse it with racial profiling. Take the sex, age, religion, education, place of worship, travel history, and an assortment of other things that resemble the personal pedigree of Najibullah Zazi, Mohammed Atta (one of the 9/11 ring leaders), and a few of the Islamic extremist bombers in Madrid and London, and throw them into a massive super computer of every public and law enforcement data base in the U.S., and I promise you will identify a number of people we should be watching that we are not.
The civil rights advocates will scream constitutional violations, racial profiling, big brother watching, and on and on. So what! I’d rather find these people before they strike than be conducting investigations after a device was activated somewhere in the New York City mass transit system.
As for the Patriot Act, every time we hear of a plot that involves an extremist group that intends to attack our country from within, I look at how the Patriot Act has helped in the investigation. This one probably takes the cake.
The CIA observed Zazi in Pakistan frequenting a location known to be a hangout for al-Qaida operatives. The CIA relayed that information to the FBI in the United States and a target is born. Roving wiretaps, CIA-FBI communications and coordination, local and state involvement in the federal investigation, and more led to the arrest and uncovering of what could be the most substantial al-Qaida attack plot in the U.S since 9/11.
Since the details continue to filter in, only time will tell how big this plot was, but one thing is for sure: the Patriot Act was a viable tool in allowing the federal agents to accomplish their goals of taking down this cell.
Unlike World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, or even the first Gulf War, this is a new enemy that far surpasses the others in numbers. It’s an unconventional enemy and must be fought by unconventional means. Immigration, the Patriot Act and profiling are just some of the tools that local, state, and federal authorities will need to do their job.
If we are going to beat them, we must think like them, create laws to combat them, and understand that the days of battling a foreign enemy through conventional means are over. Our military must change, our local, state and federal law enforcement must change, and most importantly, our political leadership on both sides of the aisle must change.
In concluding his speech in 2001, Bush said he was “confident of the victories to come.”
For your sake and mine, I just hope he was right.
Bernard Kerik served as New York City’s 40th police commissioner and Iraq’s interim minister of interior following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Today he is the chairman of The Kerik Group LLC. Visit his Web site at www.thekerikgroup.com.
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