Foiled Terror Attack Should Be Wake-Up Call

Monday, 28 Dec 2009 08:40 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ever since 9/11, the Democrats’ mantra has been that the FBI’s and CIA’s efforts to protect us are threatening our civil liberties.

As recently as two months ago, John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill to gut key Patriot Act provisions which the FBI has used successfully to obtain intelligence quickly.

“Over the past eight years, Americans grew tired of the same old scare tactics, designed to fool the public into believing that we needed to give up freedom to be safe from terrorism,” Conyers said. “It is a new day and an opportunity for reform.”

The truth is that since the days of J. Edgar Hoover, no abuse by the FBI — meaning an act done for political or other improper purposes — has ever been uncovered. The Democrats’ bill would essentially require the FBI to already have evidence of a crime before it can obtain the information necessary to determine if a crime has been committed.

This is the same no-win situation the FBI was in before the 9/11 attacks. Yet Democrats who tied the FBI’s hands behind its back back then had no compunction about criticizing the FBI and the Bush administration for failing to connect the dots before the 9/11 attacks.

In the same vein, President Obama has signaled to terrorists that even if they have knowledge of impending attacks, they will never face the same interrogation techniques used on our own troops as part of training exercises.
By threatening prosecution of CIA officers for following orders approved by the president, the Justice Department, and key members of Congress, Obama has undermined the CIA’s incentive to obtain vital intelligence by taking risks.

Now after witnessing the effort to take down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, Americans are seeing what can happen if we let our guard down. The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, has claimed links to al-Qaida, but Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano in the past has dismissed the entire notion of terrorism by referring to it as “man-caused disasters.”

Even before Obama came into office, civil liberties advocates had succeeded in limiting two tools that could have prevented the foiled attack by the suspect. One is whole-body imaging scanners that use radio waves or X-rays to reveal objects under a person’s clothes.

These scanners could have pinpointed chemicals that were apparently strapped to the suspect’s body.

The government has sought to expand use of imaging scanners, but privacy advocates and Congress have raised objections. The question is, Would passengers rather have their private parts scanned by security personnel or be blown up 40,000 feet above the earth?

The second tool is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, which lists about 550,000 individuals, objects like cars, and addresses. From that list, the FBI develops the Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSDB), from which consular, border, and airline watch lists are drawn.

The Transportation Security Administration maintains its own “no-fly” list of about 4,000 people who are prohibited from boarding any domestic or U.S.-bound aircraft. Another list of about 14,000 “selectees” has been compiled. They require additional scrutiny but are not banned from flying.

Based on a warning from the suspect’s father to U.S. embassy officials in Nigeria that his son had fallen prey to radical Islam, Mutallab should have been on the list to receive additional scrutiny. But while he was in the TIDE database, he was never placed on the list to receive such scrutiny.

In placing individuals on these lists, intelligence officials receive constant pressure from the ACLU and other civil liberties advocates. Backed by Democrats, they have complained that there is something inherently insidious about the number of names on the lists.

“Terror Database Has Quadrupled In Four Years; U.S. Watch Lists Are Drawn From Massive Clearinghouse,” a March 25, 2007 headline in the Washington Post warned.

Timothy Sparapani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel for privacy rights, has called the numbers “shocking.”

So blind are the Democrats to the need to protect the country that they have delayed extending the provisions of the Patriot Act by two months while they work on healthcare legislation, which would not begin to provide benefits to the uninsured until 2013.

Privately, FBI agents and CIA officers have been saying for some time that it will take another attack to awaken the country to the fact that we are putting ourselves at risk. If the Democrats have their way, nothing will change until another attack takes place. Then we will again see children on TV holding up photos of their parents, hoping that someone will say they are still alive.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.


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