Al-Awlaki Killing Is Intel Community Triumph

Friday, 30 Sep 2011 01:26 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Last year, two Washington Post reporters took two years to uncover this story: The intelligence community is big and secret and uses a lot of contractors.

Presented as an exposé, the series, “Top Secret America,” found no abuse. Instead, it presented the conclusion that the intelligence community is a “hidden world” that is “growing beyond control.”

A front-page subhead read: “The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe.”

With the killing of senior al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen and Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the intelligence community has provided the answer to that question. Besides bin Laden, the American-born cleric, who was killed in a CIA-led drone attack, presented the greatest threat to the U.S.

The 40-year-old al-Awlaki was believed to have inspired and plotted or helped coordinate recent attacks on the U.S., including the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner heading for Detroit, the plot to send mail bombs on planes from Yemen to the United States, and the effort by Faisal Shahzad todetonate a bomb in Times Square.

In addition, Nidal Hasan’s attack on Fort Hood was inspired by the Yemeni cleric.

Contrary to the Post’s series, the intelligence community is fully accountable to elected leaders and has kept us safe since 9/11. That is a tribute to the hard work of the men and women of the FBI, CIA, and other agencies, which constantly pinpoint and roll up terrorists.

In addition, as Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Friday, President Obama deserves credit for this latest triumph.

“This is an extraordinary victory, a great moment for the United States. Al-Awlaki has become more dangerous than bin Laden,” King told Politico. “Over the last year, he’s become the No. 1 terrorist in the world.”

King added, “The killing of al-Awlaki is a tremendous tribute to President Obama and the men and women of our intelligence community.”

Unfortunately, many Americans fail to connect the fact that we have been safe since 9/11 with the efforts of the intelligence community. Every few months, the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists, the latest being a Massachusetts man who allegedly plotted to bomb the Pentagon and Capitol with remote-controlled planes. Often, leads from the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) contribute to the arrests.

In many cases, instead of waiting years to nail them with terrorism-related charges, the FBI will charge them with lesser crimes that put terrorists away for years or result in deportations. As noted in my book “The Secrets of the FBI,” the arrests are the result of a new FBI mindset that emphasizes prevention over prosecution.

The unfortunate result of these successes is complacency. We have some Republican lawmakers complaining about body scanners and searches to uncover the kind of bomb secreted by Umar Abdulmutallab in his underwear on Christmas Day. If those Republicans’ loved ones were to lose their lives in an attack on an airplane, they would be the first ones demanding to know why the bomb was not detected.

Citing imaginary threats to privacy, many Democrats in Congress have sought to take away the tools the FBI needs to uncover plots. If FBI agents cannot be trusted to wiretap within the law, why trust them to carry weapons or make arrests?

Despite this short-sightedness and constant demonizing by the media, FBI agents and CIA officers work silently with the military around the clock and risk their own lives to keep us safe. Most could be making far more money in the private sector. Out of love of country, they continue on the job, protecting us, our families, and our friends.

They deserve full credit for this latest victory in the war on terror — and an apology from the authors of “Top Secret America.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Hislatest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email.
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