- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Bill Clinton would have said, I feel your pain. A phone call received Sunday afternoon gave me a chilling firsthand experience of what President Bush and his subordinates have been going through as they have received warnings of various kinds about future terrorist attacks and considered what, if anything, to do about them.
The call relayed a message from someone knowledgeable about Verdic astrology. His assessment is that the planetary alignment for June 10 is nothing short of cataclysmic, portending, in his words, events that will cause "the Earth to shudder."
What does one do with such information? Discount it on the grounds that those who are steeped in Verdic astrological techniques (not to be confused with the pop versions that appear on cartoon pages) may be revered in Eastern cultures, but are generally regarded as kooks by Westerners and particularly the smart people in Washington?
As it happens, the call came in as I was on my way to see the new Tom Clancy film, "Sum of All Fears." In it, the city of Baltimore is devastated by a small atomic explosion. The vivid visual portrayal of what such a device could do in the hands of terrorists (changed in a remarkable sop to Hollywood's political correctness from the Islamist cell of the original Clancy novel to a polyglot fascist conspiracy) made the astrological forecast unsettling, to say the least.
Unfortunately, if one does take seriously this information, it is no more actionable than much of that available to the U.S. government in the months in some cases, even years before September 11. We now know, of course, that there were indications hijackers might commandeer airplanes for the purpose of attacking U.S. government facilities like the CIA or even the World Trade Center. (In fact, Mr. Clancy even wrote another best-selling book based on such a scenario.)
With hindsight, the warnings and clues stand out sharply, allowing congressional critics and others to excoriate the Bush administration for not having seen September 11 coming, to say nothing of its failure to do what could be done to prevent the terror that will always be associated with that morning. It is assuredly the case, however, that we have in our possession right now at least some evidence about the perpetrators, if not the exact source and nature, of the next, potentially far more deadly attack(s) whether it is June 10 or some other date that proves to be yet another Day of Infamy.
That being the case, it seems like a lousy time for CIA Director George Tenet to be meddling in the Middle East, especially for the purpose of trying to re-establish and re-empower the Palestinian Authority's paramilitary that Yasser Arafat has repeatedly used as instruments of terror. As the Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert put it in an Op-Ed in Monday's Wall Street Journal, "Hundreds of members of the Palestinian police forces have engaged in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including American citizens, during the last 21 months." The case for relieving Mr. Tenet of his day-job responsibilities at the CIA is getting ever-more-compelling (see, for example, Richard Miniter's essay in the New Republic concerning suspicions that Mr. Tenet was behind the leaking of the extremely closely held August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing). Until that happens, he certainly should be required not to neglect those responsibilities especially to the extent that, by so doing, he is actually undermining U.S. security interests in the Mideast.
The good news is that President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller have in the past week taken steps that should enable the bureau to perform the sort of internal security function that virtually every other democracy on the planet understands is needed.
The revised guidelines, internal reorganization and reforms will almost certainly infringe upon some civil liberties, including perhaps in ways we would find unacceptable in peacetime.
This is, however, not peacetime. And if the sort of indicators that have prompted a succession of Cabinet officers and others to warn of attacks that would make the Earth shudder whether based upon various intelligence intercepts, debriefings of al Qaeda detainees or even Verdic astrology are any guide, the next attack may make September 11 look like a day at the beach. And, if so, you can bet that afterward our civil liberties will be infringed upon to a vastly greater degree as the nation struggles to cope and to respond.
Accordingly, this is a moment for a maximum and highly synergistic effort to be made, marrying: the best intelligence collection, timely analysis and comprehensive "fusion" (the technical term for interagency sharing of information) of which we are capable; redoubled efforts to protect what we can here at home and prepare, wherever possible, for the orderly evacuation of populations after an attack and where necessary in situ emergency services for those who cannot relocate); and pre-emptive attacks on terrorists and their sponsors as called for last weekend by President Bush in his address to the graduating class at West Point.
We should consider ourselves warned. Now it is up to us to do what we can in the time available to prepare for, and if possible to stave off, the next Day of Infamy.



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