- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

While President Bush's proposal for a sweeping reorganization of U.S. "homeland defense" programs contains a number of positive points, it fails to address the most serious problems that undercut the United States' ability to prevent the September 11 attacks.
For one thing, there are the serious problems outlined by veteran FBI agent Coleen Rowley in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Mrs. Rowley described how senior FBI officials blocked agents at her Minneapolis field office from obtaining a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, who has since been indicted on six counts of conspiracy in connection with the September 11 attacks. "Seven to nine levels [of bureaucracy ] is really ridiculous," Mrs. Rowley testified, describing the obstacles field agents have to deal with to conduct a serious investigation of people like Mr. Moussaoui.
It's time for Mr. Bush, Mr. Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft to explain what if any reforms they are willing to propose in FISA, the 1970s-era statute that spawned the aforementioned bureaucracy and prevented the Minnesota agents from opening up Mr. Moussaoui's computer where they later found evidence that New York City was a possible target of attack and that he was studying wind patterns over the city. They need to understand that any meaningful reform of this statute will require an all-out battle, and is almost certain to face intense opposition from lawmakers like Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of the prime movers behind FISA's enactment, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who was kicked off the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaking classified information.
Furthermore, the Bush administration has yet to come up with a coherent way to address the issue of "racial profiling," particularly at airports. Given the reality that the terrorists who murdered more than 3,000 people on September 11 were Arabs and Muslim males from the Middle East, and that al Qaeda operatives all over the world are prepared to do the same thing, it is idiotic to continue to squander resources by forcing elderly ladies in airports to remove their shoes instead of focusing added intention on groups of individuals that are most likely to include terrorists. Unfortunately, Mr. Mueller's failure to make such distinctions Thursday when he was grilled by Sen. Russ Feingold, a liberal ideologue, seems to suggest that the administration has been intimidated into silence on this critical issue. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta remains one of the biggest obstacles to commonsense reforms on this score, and on the issue of allowing pilots to carry guns.
At the INS, Mr. Bush needs to come up with a way to reform an agency in meltdown. Last weekend, burglars stole ink stamps from an agency office in Tacoma, Wash., which allow automatic admission to the United States. Meanwhile, in homeland security chief Tom Ridge's home state of Pennsylvania, national guardsmen patrol nuclear power plants and airports with unloaded guns. Clearly, we have a long way to go in order to achieve real reform.

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