- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

On a day that has lived in infamy for 65 years, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,400 Americans. The result was an unshakable commitment by the American people to defeat a daunting and resourceful enemy. Reassuring his country in a time of war, President Franklin Roosevelt said: “Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”

Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the day al Qaeda attacked America and extinguished the lives of almost 3,000 people in acts so calculated they challenge Pearl Harbor in their brutality. As I reflect on Roosevelt’s words, I wonder why some Americans today don’t have that same steadfast dedication to the presumptive victory Roosevelt took for granted.

In the aftermath of September 11, President Bush expressed our nation’s collective outrage and resolve. To his credit, he invaded Afghanistan, al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and then Iraq, where the leadership fomented regional instability and terrorism and, indisputably, employed weapons of mass destruction against its Kurdish population. I believe the president’s actions — coupled with significantly enhanced intelligence, military and law enforcement antiterrorism preparedness — have made America safer and prevented similar attacks. But in contrast to the Roosevelt era, our response to September and its equally lethal enemy is now dangerously wavering.

Recent events demonstrate that the United States and its allies are far from achieving victory. In the past several weeks, American, British and Pakistani intelligence services uncovered a plot in the UK to blow up 10 airliners bound for U.S. cities. Other plots to blow up the Holland Tunnel and the Herald Square subway station in New York, the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami have also been thwarted. These cases serve as stark reminders that al Qaeda and its thousands of globally distributed acolytes continue to pursue more American deaths. Meanwhile, in Great Britain, Spain, the Philippines, Israel, and the Middle East, thousands have been killed in the terrorists’ pursuit of global jihad.

Remarkably, the antiterrorism programs Mr. Bush instituted that have proven most effective at preventing follow-on “spectacular attacks” on America are at risk of being dismantled. The Patriot Act, the National Security Agency’s foreign electronic eavesdropping program targeting al Qaeda’s communications and programs that track the e-mail and money trails of transnational terrorists are only a few of these defensive tools under attack.

Despite the success of these programs, some on Capitol Hill and in the media — blinded by a combination of misplaced priorities and politics — have begun to minimize the magnitude of the ongoing threat and are attempting to disable the very programs that have been instrumental in identifying terrorists and frustrating their missions. Despite the presence of an enemy at our doorstep, their fixation is not on saving American lives, but on attacking perceived encroachments on American civil liberties.

As I reflect upon the fifth anniversary of September 11, and the tragic deaths of so many friends, coworkers and innocents, I am grateful not only for the protection these programs have offered, but also for those first responders and our military valiantly fighting a global war, the outcome of which is no less important than the one Roosevelt faced 65 years ago.

Let none of us forget that the enemy living among us, looking to exploit cracks in our national commitment, is the same enemy that killed more people on September 11 than were killed at Pearl Harbor. On behalf of future generations, we must do everything in our power to prevent another day of infamy.

Bernard B. Kerik, chairman and president of the Kerik Group, served as the New York City Police Department’s 40th police commissioner during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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