White House counter-terrorism security advisor, John Brennan, spoke to reporters in Martha’s Vineyard today about the controversy regarding the proposed Ground Zero Mosque and Pan-Am Lockerbie bomber Libyan Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison one year ago from a Scottish prison on the expectation that he was dying of terminal cancer.
According to reports on Friday afternoon, Mr. Brennan said that the release of Megrahi was “unfortunate, inappropriate and wrong.” (h/t Jake Tapper) Mr. Brennan’s remarks come one month after media overseas reported that the White House had actually backed the release the Lockerbie bomber. According to The Australian:
THE US government secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be “far preferable” to free the Lockerbie bomber than jail him in Libya.
Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison.
The intervention, which has angered US relatives of those who died in the attack, was made by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, a week before Megrahi was freed in August last year on grounds that he had terminal cancer.
The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were “surprised, disappointed and angry” to learn of Megrahi’s release.
Scottish ministers viewed the level of US resistance to compassionate release as “half-hearted” and a sign it would be accepted.
The US has tried to keep the letter secret, refusing to give permission to the Scottish authorities to publish it on the grounds it would prevent future “frank and open communications” with other governments.
In the letter, sent on August 12 last year to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and justice officials, Mr LeBaron wrote that the US wanted Megrahi to remain imprisoned in view of the nature of the crime.
The note added: “Nevertheless, if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose.”
Once again the administration is showing itself to be more than just flaky when it comes to the country’s national security. Mr. Brennan proved this when he visited the Washington Times Editorial board on June 24. He took issue with our writers on our June 11 editorial titled Terrorists are the real victims? The piece describes how the Obama administration, particularly John Brennan himself, believe:
“United States cannot be at war with terrorism because terrorism is only a ‘tactic.’”
The editorial is critical of a speech a Mr. Brennan delivered in May on why individuals turn to terrorism. Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism advisor disapprovingly pointed to the particular piece below, in the editorial, where we discuss his ideas relating to why individuals turn to terrorist activities:
Mr. Brennan also asserted that “violent extremists” are victims of “political, economic and social forces.” This dense statement implies that counterterrorism should focus not on terrorists themselves but the underlying causes that purportedly “victimized” them. It’s similar to the discredited argument that the way to fight urban crime is through big-government social programs rather than putting more police on the beat. Making terrorists into victims also legitimates their grievances, which is a strange way to fight them.
Interestingly, Mr. Brennan agrees that if the United States helps improve such factors like education, health, and other basic services, there would be less terrorists. Not only does this show the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism official not view acts of terror as acts of war but the administration is also treating international terrorism like local crime that can be solved through feel-good but expensive federal initiatives similar to Bill Clinton’ midnight basketball program that was part of the 1994 anti-crime bill.
“I think John Brennan should be fired. I think John Brennan does not do a good job. He’s arrogant and egotistical,” said Rep. Peter King, New York Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee. During an interview with me, Mr. King explained his criticisms of President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor.
Listen to Rep. Peter King: AUDIO Pt1 AUDIO Pt.2
“Here’s the problem…and this is from people from the intelligence community too. John Brennan is running intelligence policy from the White House. He is getting in the weeds in different intelligence organizations that are out there. He’s doing this from the White House. Obviously, he is not subject to Congressional scrutiny, because he’s on the White House staff, and it’s a very dangerous situation, where you have a homeland security advisor who is beyond the reach of Congress actually making, running, and carrying on intelligence policy. It’s wrong. I’m not aware of it happening before.”
At our offices on New York Avenue in Washington, Mr. Brennan had a contentious disagreement with Washington Times deputy editorial page editor David Mastio over Mr. Brennan’s belief that social, political, and economic factors have more to do with creating terrorists than anything else. He later stormed out of our offices following an exchange with senior editorial writer Jim Robbins (see video and transcript here).
TWT: The concern that I have is your comments that we misrepresented you in the editorial, and what I understand the concern is about whether you described terrorists as victims. Is that?
BRENNAN: Yes, it was the one reference you made.
TWT: We have a copy of your speech here from whitehouse.gov, which I assume is the correct speech and the way I read this, and I think the plain English reading is : ‘This includes addressing the political, economic and social forces that can make some people fall victim to the cancer of violent extremism.’
BRENNAN: Right…victim to the cancer of violent extremism. Victim to that cancer as opposed to…
TWT: But, you’re not talking about dead bodies here. You’re talking about the people who fall under the sway of the terrorist ideology and…
TWT: …and commit acts of terror.
BRENNAN: Absolutely…as you say fall under the sway of, and what you say in your editorial was that ‘the terrorists are victims of political, economic, and social forces.’ That is not what I said.
TWT: That’s exactly what you said.
BRENNAN:That is not exactly what I said.
TWT: Immediately afterwards, you start talking about how you’re going to address this, and you say that ‘we need to show that legitimate grievances can be resolved, that we need to have good governance, that we need to reduce corruption, we need to renew partnerships and improve education, health, and basic services.
BRENNAN: Right, but don’t you think those are worth while endeavors? And don’t you think that some factors do contribute to the spawning of terrorists and extremist forces?
TWT: You’re saying that the people who are terrorists are victims of these things.
BRENNAN: I didn’t say that. Read what I said literally
TWT: We did read what you said.
BRENNAN: And you still don’t get it…do you?
TWT: No. Particularly since, if my knowledge of history is anything, that the terrorists who strike us over and over again are not people who are victims of these things. They are people who have the opportunity to become westerners. They are people who have the opportunity to…
BRENNAN: Opportunity to become westerners?!?! Boy if that is not an arrogant attitude. Opportunities to become westerners…people who strike us wherever they’re from?
TWT: People who are so oppressed, that they have college educations at western schools. People who are so oppressed that people that they have middle class lifestyles even in that places that they come from that are poor.
BRENNAN: Right. They are ideologically driven by a perverse and distorted version of Islam. Absolutely.
TWT: That has nothing to do with their social situation. Their social situation is just fine.
BRENNAN: So you don’t think that people who become ideologically driven are influenced at all by the political, social, and economic forces of their environment? You’re saying that they do this irrespective of their environment…of those social, political, and economic forces that are out there?
TWT: You’re not accurately describing their environment.
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