Are we serious about defending ourselves from terrorism? The various departments of the executive branch, from the CIA to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security, have had their lapses, and we have had ample occasion to explore some of those here.
But Congress is a coequal branch, and some of the bizarre shortcomings of the executive branch –for example, the fixation on instituting racial quotas inside our intelligence agencies, first initiated by the Clinton administration — are sustained by constituencies on Capitol Hill.
Last week, Michael Chertoff, the man charged with the awesome responsibility of running the Department of Homeland Security, was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. The Washington Times offers a snapshot of the proceedings:
Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, led off his questions to Mr. Chertoff by demanding that the secretary’s staff stand up to be scrutinized. Minutes later, during his own questions, Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat, said the point was to prove that none of the 10 staffers who stood met his definition of diverse.
“You brought 10 staff people with you, all white males. I know this hearing is not about diversity of the staff, but I hope you’ve got more diversity in your staff than you’ve reflected here in the people you’ve brought with you,” Mr. Watt told the secretary.
According to a National Intelligence Estimate issued last July, al Qaeda has significantly reconstituted itself in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and is working hard to find a way to attack the United States again.
“We assess,” the document warns,
that al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.
We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.
The only thing more frightening than this assessment is the behavior of Congress in response.
But where’s the outrage? The answer is: there is none. Seven years after 9/11, we’ve seemingly become inured to the clowns now running the circus.