- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2003

Thenexusofterrorism, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile threats to the United States continue to dominate our discussion of U.S. domestic and foreign policy responses following the attacks of September 11. Much effort has been made to find fault with our intelligence services and law enforcement, particularly the CIA and the FBI, for the lack of warning about the attacks nearly two years ago. And what of previous terrorist attacks, from the seizure of our embassy in Tehran to the USS Cole. Where are the hearings and investigations into those supposed “intelligence failures?”

This criticism is very wide of the mark. The current administration inherited a set of policies and legal restrictions on US counterterrorism and counterproliferation that made it, while not impossible, extraordinarily difficult in the near -term to stop terrorism, either at home or abroad. Even as al Qaeda moved its operations to Sudan, the Clintonistas eliminated our entire HUMINT capability from Africa.

President Clinton’s adviser, Dick Morris, details the former president’s complete lack of interest in dealing with al Qaeda, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan in his new book, in which he concludes “Clinton left us naked and unprepared for the peril of terrorism.” The most obvious problem, he noted, was the Clinton administration’s benign neglect toward state-harbored and state-sponsored terrorism. The World Trade Center attacks of 1993, the bombing of our embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, the downing of TWA 800, the attack on Khobar Towers—all were treated as the disparate actions of deranged individuals acting apart from and without connection to any organized state or criminal/terrorist fraternity.

Therefore, the former attorney general refused to consider the Iranian government’s role in either Khobar Towers or the African embassy bombings, despite the pleas from FBI Director Louis Freeh to do so. Thus, it was that former Clinton aide and “win the news cycle at all costs” assistant George Stephanopolous could argue with Mr. Morris that the World Trade Center attack of 1993 was “not a successful bombing.”

In North Korea, Mr. Clinton pulled the rug out from under any possibility of a verifiable deal on diverted plutonium, missiles and nuclear devices when he traveled to Pyongyang and caved in to the demands of the communist ruling nut cases. This was then compounded by the Clinton administration’s structuring of a one-sided deal where the establishment of safeguards and inspections of the North’s nuclear program was left to some indeterminate future date, with carrots and carrots from our side and empty promises from the North.

Domestic legal restrictions on our law-enforcement folks didn’t help either. While 11 of the frequent flyer thugs who flew American jetliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Centers used Mohammad Atta’s credit card, phone number and address in a dry-run purchase of airline tickets some weeks prior to the “real thing,” law enforcement did not secure a record of these transactions from the credit-card companies because the threat from terrorism was not taken seriously.

So too, with information about potential terrorists held by our intelligence agencies. Such data was often not shared with local law-enforcement, Customs or the consular office at the State Department because it was deemed “hearsay” and not sufficiently credible under the standards for a criminal proceeding. In that granting visas to foreign terrorists should be within our discretion, we are hamstrung again by the same set of liberal members of Congress terrified that some clown from Cuba, Vietnam or Zimbabwe will be denied the right to come to some American college or university and give a lecture about American imperialism. In fact, amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Service Act were done to preserve the “rights” of such bogus intellectuals to come and go freely. American law-enforcement officials stopped a number of the September 11 terrorists for traffic violations. But because of rampant political correctness and inane policy rules inherited from the past, they were unable to access the databases where the terrorists’ affiliations would have been identified.

The New York Times also got into the act, carrying a July 10, 2001 op-ed by a former CIA and State Department official, Larry Johnson, complaining about our concern with Islamic terrorists, saying “Americans have little to fear.” Blaming the anti-terrorist fever as the basis for building missile defenses (would he rather have our forces in the Gulf be totally vulnerable to Iraqi missiles?) he then went on to assert that Syria, Iraq and Libya are no longer providing help to terrorists, seemingly oblivious to their support for al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. And then, in a real whopper, Mr. Johnson said that all the concern about terrorism is simply a backdoor means of justifying budget growth for the U.S. military. And in an amazing admission of his own stupidity, he said that nuclear warheads “aimed across continents” remain the biggest threat — never mind that they were aimed across continents by ballistic missiles, the very threat against which, we were earlier told, we need no defense.

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis and Senior Defense Associate at the National Defense University Foundation. These views are his own.

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