Commentary Magazine


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Anti-Terrorism Paralysis

Obama’s anti-terrorism policies have centered on tying our own hands (e.g., prohibiting enhanced interrogations), criminalizing our anti-terror activities (Mirandizing terrorist bombers), and trying to make grand gestures to the Muslim World (announcing Guantanamo’s closing). But mainly, his administration has been delaying, stalling, and frustrating the families of terror victims. A case in point:

The 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole on Tuesday conjured up painful memories for the families of the 17 Navy sailors who died in the terrorist attack, but it also revealed simmering anger at the Obama administration over the lack of concrete progress in bringing an alleged perpetrator to justice.

In February 2009, less than three weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama held an emotional meeting with family members of victims of the Cole bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Families said the new president promised swift action yet pleaded for their patience so his aides and Congress could overhaul the military commission system – which federal courts twice invalidated during the Bush administration.

Yet 20 months later, there are few signs the case against Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri – the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing who was captured in 2003 – has moved forward.

Likewise, the trial of KSM is stymied: no locale wants a civilian trial, and the Obama Justice Department is ideologically averse to military tribunals. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s promised review of Miranda warnings for terrorists has gone nowhere.

As in so many other areas of national security, it appears that the Obama team just doesn’t spend much time or effort on these matters. Perhaps once his domestic agenda is up-ended by a GOP-controlled House (and possibly Senate), he’ll have more time to devote to these issues.