Obama Waves White Flag in Terror Fight

Tuesday, 05 Jan 2010 06:35 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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The failure to stop a Nigerian terrorist from boarding Northwest Flight 253 is an expected result when the president wages war against terrorists waving a white flag.

John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism chief, has said there was no “smoking gun” to show that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was “going to carry out this attack against that aircraft.” Brennan has said the failure to take appropriate action before the flight is not comparable to the communication breakdowns that occurred before 9/11.

But no one has claimed there was a smoking gun. If there were, the proper action would have been to arrest the Nigerian before the flight. What did happen is that a clear warning from the suspect’s distinguished father that his son had fallen in with Islamic radicals was not acted upon. Abdulmutallab’s name should have been placed on the “no-fly” list or on the list to receive additional scrutiny before boarding a plane.

As outlined in my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” intelligence sharing has improved vastly since 9/11, as Brennan suggested.

But the breakdown that occurred on Christmas Day was even more egregious than the failures leading up to 9/11 because it was much more clear-cut: If pieced together, the bits of information that were known about the 9/11 plot may or may not have been enough to stop it.

In the case of Abdulmutallab, what was known about him definitely should have prompted his being barred from the flight or at least to his being searched thoroughly.

Why did the failure occur? In my view, it’s because the president has imposed a risk-averse atmosphere that makes intelligence operatives think twice before taking action that might result in criticism that constitutional rights were violated.

In the case of Abdulmutallab, he has no constitutional rights. He is a Nigerian al-Qaida trained to carry out the attack and therefore should be considered an enemy combatant. But Obama and key officials in his administration have made it clear that — with the laudable exception of Predator drone strikes — they are more interested in appeasing al-Qaida than wiping it out.

As Brennan has said, the administration does not want to refer to a “war on terrorism” because he says that would serve the purposes of al-Qaida. By that reasoning, we should never have referred to the enemy as Nazis during World War II.

In a similar vein, Obama has ordered the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay on the grounds that the model facility feeds al-Qaida propaganda. If that is true, so what? Does Obama really think al-Qaida will stop using prisons to recruit if they are located on U.S. soil?

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has decided that holding the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City is a way to show the world what a great country America is. He thus places his version of good public relations over the need to protect the city from further attacks and to ensure the conviction of the admitted architect of the 9/11 attack.

Finally, Obama and Holder have sanctioned possible prosecution of CIA officers for using enhanced interrogation that was approved by the president, the Justice Department, and key members of Congress. What message does that send to the intelligence community?

“The lesson [CIA] officers are learning is, when you are asked to do anything that entails risk — whether it has to do with the reputation of the agency, the risk of personal failure, or the possibility of criminal liability because people will revisit all the assurances they gave you up front — the lesson is, don’t take those risks to protect America,” says a former CIA officer. “Find a way not to do it, or you’ll be sorry.”

Now the administration says it will move dozens of names to the no-fly list and to the list to receive extra scrutiny. As it is, the no-fly list has only 4,000 names, and the list to receive extra scrutiny has only 14,000. When one considers how many hundreds of thousands of people are known to have suspicious ties to terrorists, those numbers are laughable.

Obama is fighting this battle to protect America waving a white flag of truce. The outcome of such a misguided tactic can only be defeat.

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



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