As we count our blessings on Thanksgiving, let’s remember why we can do so in safety.
Although the military has played a large role, the people most responsible for preventing another attack during the eight years since 9/11 are the men and women of the FBI and CIA.
Those who ascribe that record to luck or an accident forget that the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists every few months. Most recently, the FBI arrested five men in separate alleged plots to blow up federal buildings or subways, attack Americans, and create mass destruction. All the plotters shared allegiance to radical jihad and devotion to al-Qaida.
Since 9/11, the FBI, the CIA, and the military have rolled up about 5,000 terrorists worldwide — a headline you will never see in The New York Times. Thus, many plots never are hatched, because terrorists have been killed, arrested, or sent back to their own countries and imprisoned.
Instead of hailing the efforts to connect the dots, the establishment media and many Democrats demonize those who are trying to protect us and portray the tools that uncover clues to plots as “spying on innocent Americans.” When a plot is rolled up successfully, the media minimize it. When the FBI foiled a plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport in June 2007, The New York Times buried the story on page A37 of its final edition.
Behind the successes are sweeping changes that have taken place in the intelligence community since 9/11. The FBI has become more prevention-oriented. Although the FBI always wanted to stop terrorist plots and did so in many cases, when it got the bad guys, as it did in the first World Trade Center bombing, it usually closed the case. Now every case becomes the basis for developing new sources who may be run out for years to infiltrate terrorist groups.
As Art Cummings, who heads the FBI’s national security operations, told me for my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” before 9/11, the first consideration was, “I got an indictment in my pocket. . . Slap it down on the table, pick the guy up, you throw him on an airplane. You bring him home, you put him in jail, and you go, ‘Okay, I’ve done a great job today.’”
If that were to happen today, Cummings says, “I would have told my agents they basically just put Americans more in jeopardy rather than less in jeopardy. It’s a completely different approach and bears little resemblance to the previous one.”
Now when an agent wants to make an arrest, Cummings tells the agent, “Your objective is not to make the arrest. Your objective is to make that suspect our collection platform. That guy now is going to tell us just how big and broad the threat might be. He now becomes a means to collection, instead of the target of collection. I want you to understand his entire universe.”
Rather than not talking to each other, 200 analysts from the CIA and FBI sit side by side analyzing threats 24 hours a day at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. A secure video conference takes place three times a day with all members of the intelligence community and the White House to analyze threats and parcel out leads.
The USA Patriot Act has torn down the so-called wall imposed by Attorney General Janet Reno, a wall that prevented FBI agents from sharing information with each other and with the CIA. The much-maligned Patriot Act has allowed the FBI to wiretap a terrorist regardless of what phone he uses, an authority the FBI already had in organized crime cases. The National Security Agency intercepts that President Bush ordered opened for the FBI a window on terrorist activity within the United States.
While clearly more should have been done to follow up on e-mails sent by accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan to a radical cleric, the guidelines that discouraged blowing the whistle on him were inspired by fears that the FBI would be accused of interfering with the practice of religion.
Contrary to the left’s assertion that Bush’s policies have not made any of us safer, the war on terror has been an astounding success. But with that success has come complacency and the sort of recklessness that led the Obama administration to decide to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 plot, in federal court in New York.
As outlined in the Newsmax story “Terror Trial Endangers New Yorkers, Former FBI Official Says,” convening the trial in New York and giving Mohammed the same constitutional rights as American citizens raises the danger to New Yorkers dramatically.
Despite such self-imposed peril, FBI agents and CIA officers work 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 patriotism, they continue to do their jobs, protecting us, our families, and our friends. At the same time, they try to ignore outrageous criticism from the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who claimed the CIA routinely lies to Congress.
On Thanksgiving, they have our gratitude.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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