Commentary Magazine


Topic: Times Square

Memo to Congress: Do Nothing!

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

Read Less

The Policies That Keep Us Safe

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

Read Less

70 Years Ago Today

On August 3, 1940, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky — one of the towering figures in the history of Zionism — died in New York of a heart attack at age 59.

He had been in New York since March, pushing his plan for a Jewish army to fight Hitler, giving speeches that drew huge crowds at the Manhattan Center. On June 20 — under the headline “Jabotinsky Asks Jews for Army of 100,000 – Zionist Leader Calls for Men to Fight as a Unit — 4,000 Hear Plea” — the New York Times reported his words from the prior evening:

I challenge the Jews, wherever they are still free, to demand the right of fighting the giant rattlesnake, not just under British or French or Polish labels, but as a Jewish Army. Some shout that we only want others to fight, some whisper that a Jew only makes a good soldier when squeezed in between Gentile comrades. I challenge the Jewish youth to give them the lie.

The day before his death, he had contracted to publish his book on the Jews and the war. On August 3, he collapsed at an upstate New York training camp for the Zionist youth movement he created. His last words, reported in Shmuel Katz’s monumental biography, were “I am so tired.” Katz believed the real cause of death was “stress and overwork.”

More than 12,000 people stood on Second Avenue three days later outside his funeral services — conducted by three rabbis, with 200 cantors chanting and 750 people in attendance, including British, Polish, Czech, and other diplomats. As he had requested, there were no eulogies or speeches. The New York Times reported the next day that:

At the end of the chapel service, the coffin, draped with a Zionist flag, was carried from the funeral home, surrounded by an honor guard of 50 boys and girls. … Many men and women wept … a throng of 25,000 followed the cortege or lined the route. …

A motorcade of fifty cars and eight buses left for the New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I., where a military service was held.

Jabotinsky’s 1935 will stipulated that he should be buried “wherever death finds me and my remains may not be brought to Palestine except by the order of that country’s eventual Jewish Government” — reflecting his faith in the eventual re-creation of the Jewish state. But it was not until 1964 that his body was transferred to Mount Herzl for burial.

It was a hero’s homecoming. In New York, the casket was carried through Manhattan to Kennedy airport in a hearse drawn by four white horses, with Times Square renamed “Jabotinsky Square” for the day; in Paris, the French government and Jewish community held a ceremony as the plane landed there on its way to Israel. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recalled the reception in Israel:

I clearly remember the immense funeral procession in the streets of Tel Aviv, which was unparalleled; I remember the tremendous emotion, sometimes tearful, of students and admirers, headed by the Chairman of the Herut Movement, Menachem Begin, who accompanied the coffin. A huge audience … came to pay their respects to the great Zionist leader; a bit late but wholeheartedly.

In a 2009 Knesset speech, Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 1964 homecoming, which “made a tremendous impact on me.” On this day, we too should remember: read Midge Decter’s 1996 article (“one of those remarkable Eastern European Jews on whose like the world will never look again”); Hillel Halkin’s 2005 review (“one of the most intelligent, talented, honest, and likeable of all twentieth-century politicians”); Anne Lieberman’s extraordinary 2009 essay (which virtually channels Jabotinsky); and the resources at Jewish Ideas Daily.

On August 18, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., Americans for a Safe Israel will hold a special memorial at Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street, with Douglas Feith as the keynote speaker.

On August 3, 1940, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky — one of the towering figures in the history of Zionism — died in New York of a heart attack at age 59.

He had been in New York since March, pushing his plan for a Jewish army to fight Hitler, giving speeches that drew huge crowds at the Manhattan Center. On June 20 — under the headline “Jabotinsky Asks Jews for Army of 100,000 – Zionist Leader Calls for Men to Fight as a Unit — 4,000 Hear Plea” — the New York Times reported his words from the prior evening:

I challenge the Jews, wherever they are still free, to demand the right of fighting the giant rattlesnake, not just under British or French or Polish labels, but as a Jewish Army. Some shout that we only want others to fight, some whisper that a Jew only makes a good soldier when squeezed in between Gentile comrades. I challenge the Jewish youth to give them the lie.

The day before his death, he had contracted to publish his book on the Jews and the war. On August 3, he collapsed at an upstate New York training camp for the Zionist youth movement he created. His last words, reported in Shmuel Katz’s monumental biography, were “I am so tired.” Katz believed the real cause of death was “stress and overwork.”

More than 12,000 people stood on Second Avenue three days later outside his funeral services — conducted by three rabbis, with 200 cantors chanting and 750 people in attendance, including British, Polish, Czech, and other diplomats. As he had requested, there were no eulogies or speeches. The New York Times reported the next day that:

At the end of the chapel service, the coffin, draped with a Zionist flag, was carried from the funeral home, surrounded by an honor guard of 50 boys and girls. … Many men and women wept … a throng of 25,000 followed the cortege or lined the route. …

A motorcade of fifty cars and eight buses left for the New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I., where a military service was held.

Jabotinsky’s 1935 will stipulated that he should be buried “wherever death finds me and my remains may not be brought to Palestine except by the order of that country’s eventual Jewish Government” — reflecting his faith in the eventual re-creation of the Jewish state. But it was not until 1964 that his body was transferred to Mount Herzl for burial.

It was a hero’s homecoming. In New York, the casket was carried through Manhattan to Kennedy airport in a hearse drawn by four white horses, with Times Square renamed “Jabotinsky Square” for the day; in Paris, the French government and Jewish community held a ceremony as the plane landed there on its way to Israel. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recalled the reception in Israel:

I clearly remember the immense funeral procession in the streets of Tel Aviv, which was unparalleled; I remember the tremendous emotion, sometimes tearful, of students and admirers, headed by the Chairman of the Herut Movement, Menachem Begin, who accompanied the coffin. A huge audience … came to pay their respects to the great Zionist leader; a bit late but wholeheartedly.

In a 2009 Knesset speech, Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 1964 homecoming, which “made a tremendous impact on me.” On this day, we too should remember: read Midge Decter’s 1996 article (“one of those remarkable Eastern European Jews on whose like the world will never look again”); Hillel Halkin’s 2005 review (“one of the most intelligent, talented, honest, and likeable of all twentieth-century politicians”); Anne Lieberman’s extraordinary 2009 essay (which virtually channels Jabotinsky); and the resources at Jewish Ideas Daily.

On August 18, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., Americans for a Safe Israel will hold a special memorial at Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street, with Douglas Feith as the keynote speaker.

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No, It’s Not Because He’s a Muslim

You could waste a lifetime doing nothing but debunking Roger Cohen’s inanities, so I don’t usually bother. But this time, the star New York Times columnist ostensibly poses a reasonable question: why aren’t the official America and the media raising an outcry over the death of an American citizen in Israel’s May raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla?

Cohen’s answer is that Americans don’t care because Furkan Dogan was a Muslim. And to prove it, Cohen does his best to paint the 19-year-old as a secular saint whom Americans ought to care deeply about: Dogan “was proud of his American passport and dreamt of coming back [to America] after completing medical school. … [He] had just completed high school with excellent grades. … [He was] little interested in politics, but with an aspiring doctor’s concern for Palestinian suffering.”

Yet anyone who knows anything about the flotilla knows that Dogan was almost certainly nothing of the sort. The video footage of Turkish “humanitarians” aboard the Mavi Marmara – who carefully prepared their weapons and then brutally beat the commandos who rappelled from a chopper from the moment they landed — makes it clear that: a) the Turks attacked first with malice aforethought; and b) pretty much everyone on deck participated in the attack. Indeed, passengers and crew members later testified that the thugs had ordered all noncombatants below deck before the Israeli forces approached.

Moreover, photos of the battered, bloody Israeli commandos make it clear they had good reason to think their lives in danger and to open fire in self-defense.

And there’s another pesky fact Cohen should certainly know, as his own paper reported it: Dogan’s brother Mustafa was quoted by the Turkish daily Zaman afterward as saying that “we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr.”

Americans have become all too familiar over the last decade with the kind of Muslims who laud “martyrdom.” They’re the ones who committed the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood Massacre; the ones who tried and failed to blow up an airliner last Christmas and to explode a bomb in Times Square this spring. And therefore, most Americans don’t have much use for the type.

In short, anyone who knows anything about the flotilla lacks sympathy for Dogan because of his behavior, not his religion.

But what about that vast majority of Americans who don’t know any of the above? Why don’t they care?

It’s very simple: they don’t care because Dogan moved back to Turkey with his family 17 years ago at the age of two. In other words, he’s primarily a Turk, not an American. It’s the same reason official America and the media have never shown any interest in the many American-Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers: Americans tend to conclude that someone who has chosen to live outside America is primarily the responsibility of the country he (or, in this case, his parents) adopted, not the one he left.

It’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Only Roger Cohen could make it into evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

You could waste a lifetime doing nothing but debunking Roger Cohen’s inanities, so I don’t usually bother. But this time, the star New York Times columnist ostensibly poses a reasonable question: why aren’t the official America and the media raising an outcry over the death of an American citizen in Israel’s May raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla?

Cohen’s answer is that Americans don’t care because Furkan Dogan was a Muslim. And to prove it, Cohen does his best to paint the 19-year-old as a secular saint whom Americans ought to care deeply about: Dogan “was proud of his American passport and dreamt of coming back [to America] after completing medical school. … [He] had just completed high school with excellent grades. … [He was] little interested in politics, but with an aspiring doctor’s concern for Palestinian suffering.”

Yet anyone who knows anything about the flotilla knows that Dogan was almost certainly nothing of the sort. The video footage of Turkish “humanitarians” aboard the Mavi Marmara – who carefully prepared their weapons and then brutally beat the commandos who rappelled from a chopper from the moment they landed — makes it clear that: a) the Turks attacked first with malice aforethought; and b) pretty much everyone on deck participated in the attack. Indeed, passengers and crew members later testified that the thugs had ordered all noncombatants below deck before the Israeli forces approached.

Moreover, photos of the battered, bloody Israeli commandos make it clear they had good reason to think their lives in danger and to open fire in self-defense.

And there’s another pesky fact Cohen should certainly know, as his own paper reported it: Dogan’s brother Mustafa was quoted by the Turkish daily Zaman afterward as saying that “we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr.”

Americans have become all too familiar over the last decade with the kind of Muslims who laud “martyrdom.” They’re the ones who committed the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood Massacre; the ones who tried and failed to blow up an airliner last Christmas and to explode a bomb in Times Square this spring. And therefore, most Americans don’t have much use for the type.

In short, anyone who knows anything about the flotilla lacks sympathy for Dogan because of his behavior, not his religion.

But what about that vast majority of Americans who don’t know any of the above? Why don’t they care?

It’s very simple: they don’t care because Dogan moved back to Turkey with his family 17 years ago at the age of two. In other words, he’s primarily a Turk, not an American. It’s the same reason official America and the media have never shown any interest in the many American-Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers: Americans tend to conclude that someone who has chosen to live outside America is primarily the responsibility of the country he (or, in this case, his parents) adopted, not the one he left.

It’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Only Roger Cohen could make it into evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee: The System Sure Didn’t Work

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence put out a 55-page report finding 14 significant intelligence failings in connection with the Christmas Day bombing plot. These included problems with the terrorist watch list (which also bedeviled officials in connection with the Times Square bombing scheme), failure to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa, failure to collect and disseminate intelligence, and failure to analyze intelligence. (“Analysts across the Intelligence Community were primarily focused on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], rather than on potential AQAP threats to the U.S. Homeland.”) The chairman and ranking member were blunt in a statement:

“The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that reforms be made quickly to prevent future attacks by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. The Christmas Day attempt and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square show that we are targets, and we must stay one step ahead of the terrorists.”

“Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt that major intelligence failures allowed the Christmas Day bomber to almost turn our airplanes into deadly weapons once again,” said Senator Bond.  “We cannot depend on dumb luck, incompetent terrorists, and alert citizens to keep our families safe. It is critical we make changes to prevent these types of intelligence failures in the future.”

Obama, who supposedly oversees the most transparent administration in history, ordered no such review and report from the executive branch and, of course, fired no one after the incident. The Senate Committee should be commended for doing what the Obama team did not and for refusing to hide the administration’s incompetence. Let’s hope the committee keeps up the good work.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence put out a 55-page report finding 14 significant intelligence failings in connection with the Christmas Day bombing plot. These included problems with the terrorist watch list (which also bedeviled officials in connection with the Times Square bombing scheme), failure to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa, failure to collect and disseminate intelligence, and failure to analyze intelligence. (“Analysts across the Intelligence Community were primarily focused on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], rather than on potential AQAP threats to the U.S. Homeland.”) The chairman and ranking member were blunt in a statement:

“The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that reforms be made quickly to prevent future attacks by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. The Christmas Day attempt and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square show that we are targets, and we must stay one step ahead of the terrorists.”

“Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt that major intelligence failures allowed the Christmas Day bomber to almost turn our airplanes into deadly weapons once again,” said Senator Bond.  “We cannot depend on dumb luck, incompetent terrorists, and alert citizens to keep our families safe. It is critical we make changes to prevent these types of intelligence failures in the future.”

Obama, who supposedly oversees the most transparent administration in history, ordered no such review and report from the executive branch and, of course, fired no one after the incident. The Senate Committee should be commended for doing what the Obama team did not and for refusing to hide the administration’s incompetence. Let’s hope the committee keeps up the good work.

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The Obama Team’s Criminal-Justice Model Fails

The Obama administration came into office convinced that the Bush approach to fighting terrorism was flawed and that instead we could apply criminal-justice rules in the war against Islamic terrorism. It proved unworkable. Now the administration is in a muddle — trying to alter a criminal-justice model that plainly doesn’t work but misunderstanding the legal landscape and the alternatives they have.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that by suggesting that Miranda rules need to be altered, Eric Holder has in essence confessed to error:

The administration is making a number of admissions here: Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, after only 50 minutes of questioning was a mistake; terrorists are enemies of America, not ordinary criminals; and the law-enforcement approach to combatting terrorism, which is designed to obtain evidence admissible at trial after a crime has already been committed, is not the most effective way to obtain intelligence to prevent future attacks.

This is an important step forward and a sign that, after the Manhattan subway plot, Fort Hood, Detroit, and now Times Square, the administration has become more adaptable to the realities of the war on terror. Yet the jury is out on whether the administration has a real plan or is merely improvising. Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad remains in the criminal justice system and has not been designated as an enemy combatant, though he is still eligible for such designation.

Burck and Perino make a key point: we can designate even U.S. citizens to be enemy combatants. (“No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), resolved this question: The president has the authority to hold even U.S. citizens as enemy combatants if he believes they are working with the Taliban, al Qaeda or associated terrorist groups.”) This is probably true even if the U.S. citizen is on U.S. soil (“the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit answered in the affirmative in Padilla v. Hanft).

So we have an administration that in all its condescension and criticism of the prior administration came up with a flawed alternative but that still lacks a full grasp of the alternatives. How could this be? Perhaps they are getting terrible advice from the Justice Department. One wonders what Elena Kagan thinks of all this. She, of course, is part of that brain trust. Maybe she should answer some tough questions at her confirmation hearing, starting with her views on what existing law says about terror suspects. Her colleagues might find it enlightening — provided she knows the law better than Holder.

The Obama administration came into office convinced that the Bush approach to fighting terrorism was flawed and that instead we could apply criminal-justice rules in the war against Islamic terrorism. It proved unworkable. Now the administration is in a muddle — trying to alter a criminal-justice model that plainly doesn’t work but misunderstanding the legal landscape and the alternatives they have.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that by suggesting that Miranda rules need to be altered, Eric Holder has in essence confessed to error:

The administration is making a number of admissions here: Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, after only 50 minutes of questioning was a mistake; terrorists are enemies of America, not ordinary criminals; and the law-enforcement approach to combatting terrorism, which is designed to obtain evidence admissible at trial after a crime has already been committed, is not the most effective way to obtain intelligence to prevent future attacks.

This is an important step forward and a sign that, after the Manhattan subway plot, Fort Hood, Detroit, and now Times Square, the administration has become more adaptable to the realities of the war on terror. Yet the jury is out on whether the administration has a real plan or is merely improvising. Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad remains in the criminal justice system and has not been designated as an enemy combatant, though he is still eligible for such designation.

Burck and Perino make a key point: we can designate even U.S. citizens to be enemy combatants. (“No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), resolved this question: The president has the authority to hold even U.S. citizens as enemy combatants if he believes they are working with the Taliban, al Qaeda or associated terrorist groups.”) This is probably true even if the U.S. citizen is on U.S. soil (“the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit answered in the affirmative in Padilla v. Hanft).

So we have an administration that in all its condescension and criticism of the prior administration came up with a flawed alternative but that still lacks a full grasp of the alternatives. How could this be? Perhaps they are getting terrible advice from the Justice Department. One wonders what Elena Kagan thinks of all this. She, of course, is part of that brain trust. Maybe she should answer some tough questions at her confirmation hearing, starting with her views on what existing law says about terror suspects. Her colleagues might find it enlightening — provided she knows the law better than Holder.

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Does the Obama Administration’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy Rely on Luck?

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

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Lieberman Legislation

Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced his legislation today to strip terrorists of citizenship in the same way an existing statute passed in 1940 does for those who take up arms against the U.S. in a foreign army. At a news conference today, he explained:

The bill we are introducing today – the Terrorist Expatriation Act – updates the 1940 law to account for the enemy we are fighting today.

Under the Terrorist Expatriation Act, the State Department will now also be able to revoke the citizenship of an American citizen who affiliates with a Foreign Terrorist Organization or who fights against our country.  Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as you are likely aware, are also designated by the State Department.

The same due process that applies to the existing statute will apply to those whose citizenship is revoked under our proposed amendment to the law.  The State Department will make an administrative determination that a U.S. Citizen has indicated an intent to renounce their citizenship by supporting an FTO.  That individual will then have the right to appeal that determination within the State Department and, then, to a federal district court.

He explains the context in which this would be used:

The facts are now clear.  Over the past several years, the threat from Islamist terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda has changed.  On 9/11, 19 Islamist terrorists who were trained abroad were sent here to carry out those horrific attacks.  Now, with increasing frequency, U.S. Citizens like Nidal Hassan, Abdul Hakim Muhammad, or Faisal Shahzad, who are inspired or recruited by violent Islamist ideology plan and execute attacks right here in the United States.

And with increasing frequency, westerners, including U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki, Adam Gadahn, and many young Somali-Americans are traveling abroad to join and fight for al-Qaeda or affiliated Islamist terrorist groups.  In fact, it has become a strategy of al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups over the past couple of years to recruit U.S. citizens who can train overseas and then use their American passports to re-enter the U.S. for the purposes of planning and carrying out attacks against us.  Though we are still learning details, it appears that Shahzad traveled abroad to receive terrorist training that he used to build the bombs in the car he parked in Times Square.

The legislation we are introducing today will help take that ability away from the terrorists.  For example, if a U.S. citizen travels to Somalia to train with and fight for al-Shabaab – as more than 20 young men have done over the past several years – the State Department will now have the authority to revoke their citizenship so that they cannot return here to carry out an attack.   If, in some way, they do, and are then captured, they will not enjoy the rights and privileges of American citizenship in the legal proceedings against them.

Unlike his Democratic colleagues, Lieberman got a favorable reaction from the administration. Hillary Clinton was sounding sensible:

Clinton explained that the State Department already has expatriation authority within U.S. law that permits the State Department to rescind American citizenship if someone shows some kind of allegiance to a foreign state.

U.S. citizenship is “a privilege, not a right,” Clinton said, adding that people who enter into U.S. citizenship through naturalization swear to uphold their oath to the Constitution and that those who serve foreign terrorists “are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.”

The State Department has exercised the expatriation authority in the past, she said, adding that she understands the desire from the members of Congress, and the State Department will take a hard look at this legislation.

Both Lieberman and Clinton make clear that the critics who decry efforts to strip combatants of citizenship really have a quarrel with existing law. Do those lawmakers want to repeal the 1940 statute? If not, they should explain why we don’t want a framework that has been used effectively against traditional nation-states to be updated and made relevant to the war against Islamic terrorists.

Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced his legislation today to strip terrorists of citizenship in the same way an existing statute passed in 1940 does for those who take up arms against the U.S. in a foreign army. At a news conference today, he explained:

The bill we are introducing today – the Terrorist Expatriation Act – updates the 1940 law to account for the enemy we are fighting today.

Under the Terrorist Expatriation Act, the State Department will now also be able to revoke the citizenship of an American citizen who affiliates with a Foreign Terrorist Organization or who fights against our country.  Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as you are likely aware, are also designated by the State Department.

The same due process that applies to the existing statute will apply to those whose citizenship is revoked under our proposed amendment to the law.  The State Department will make an administrative determination that a U.S. Citizen has indicated an intent to renounce their citizenship by supporting an FTO.  That individual will then have the right to appeal that determination within the State Department and, then, to a federal district court.

He explains the context in which this would be used:

The facts are now clear.  Over the past several years, the threat from Islamist terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda has changed.  On 9/11, 19 Islamist terrorists who were trained abroad were sent here to carry out those horrific attacks.  Now, with increasing frequency, U.S. Citizens like Nidal Hassan, Abdul Hakim Muhammad, or Faisal Shahzad, who are inspired or recruited by violent Islamist ideology plan and execute attacks right here in the United States.

And with increasing frequency, westerners, including U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki, Adam Gadahn, and many young Somali-Americans are traveling abroad to join and fight for al-Qaeda or affiliated Islamist terrorist groups.  In fact, it has become a strategy of al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups over the past couple of years to recruit U.S. citizens who can train overseas and then use their American passports to re-enter the U.S. for the purposes of planning and carrying out attacks against us.  Though we are still learning details, it appears that Shahzad traveled abroad to receive terrorist training that he used to build the bombs in the car he parked in Times Square.

The legislation we are introducing today will help take that ability away from the terrorists.  For example, if a U.S. citizen travels to Somalia to train with and fight for al-Shabaab – as more than 20 young men have done over the past several years – the State Department will now have the authority to revoke their citizenship so that they cannot return here to carry out an attack.   If, in some way, they do, and are then captured, they will not enjoy the rights and privileges of American citizenship in the legal proceedings against them.

Unlike his Democratic colleagues, Lieberman got a favorable reaction from the administration. Hillary Clinton was sounding sensible:

Clinton explained that the State Department already has expatriation authority within U.S. law that permits the State Department to rescind American citizenship if someone shows some kind of allegiance to a foreign state.

U.S. citizenship is “a privilege, not a right,” Clinton said, adding that people who enter into U.S. citizenship through naturalization swear to uphold their oath to the Constitution and that those who serve foreign terrorists “are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.”

The State Department has exercised the expatriation authority in the past, she said, adding that she understands the desire from the members of Congress, and the State Department will take a hard look at this legislation.

Both Lieberman and Clinton make clear that the critics who decry efforts to strip combatants of citizenship really have a quarrel with existing law. Do those lawmakers want to repeal the 1940 statute? If not, they should explain why we don’t want a framework that has been used effectively against traditional nation-states to be updated and made relevant to the war against Islamic terrorists.

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We’re Not to Blame for Pakistani Terrorists

No doubt we will soon be hearing, if we aren’t already, that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are responsible for the aborted Times Square bombing, which is linked to the Pakistani Taliban. If only we weren’t targeting the terrorists, some will argue, they wouldn’t target us.

This Los Angeles Times article provides good insight into how the operations have been ramped up under the Obama administration, which has given the CIA authority to eliminate suspected terrorists even if their names were not entered into a vetted list:

The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.

Instead of just a few dozen attacks per year, CIA-operated unmanned aircraft now carry out multiple missile strikes each week against safe houses, training camps and other hiding places used by militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. … Of more than 500 people who U.S. officials say have been killed since the pace of strikes intensified, the vast majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or about whom the agency had only fragmentary information. ‬

Has this enraged the Pakistani Taliban? No doubt. But it has also hurt them — as similar attacks have hurt other extremist groups. It is fanciful to imagine that we could ever do anything to appease such fanatical groups. The very fact that we support moderate governments in Islamabad and Kabul is enough to earn us their undying enmity. Curtailing the drone strikes won’t earn their gratitude; it would simply signal to them that we can be intimidated. The best response to the Times Square attempted attack is to keep sending our robotic aircraft after the bad guys. This is by far the most effective program we have to address the terrorist threat inside Pakistan.

No doubt we will soon be hearing, if we aren’t already, that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are responsible for the aborted Times Square bombing, which is linked to the Pakistani Taliban. If only we weren’t targeting the terrorists, some will argue, they wouldn’t target us.

This Los Angeles Times article provides good insight into how the operations have been ramped up under the Obama administration, which has given the CIA authority to eliminate suspected terrorists even if their names were not entered into a vetted list:

The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.

Instead of just a few dozen attacks per year, CIA-operated unmanned aircraft now carry out multiple missile strikes each week against safe houses, training camps and other hiding places used by militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. … Of more than 500 people who U.S. officials say have been killed since the pace of strikes intensified, the vast majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or about whom the agency had only fragmentary information. ‬

Has this enraged the Pakistani Taliban? No doubt. But it has also hurt them — as similar attacks have hurt other extremist groups. It is fanciful to imagine that we could ever do anything to appease such fanatical groups. The very fact that we support moderate governments in Islamabad and Kabul is enough to earn us their undying enmity. Curtailing the drone strikes won’t earn their gratitude; it would simply signal to them that we can be intimidated. The best response to the Times Square attempted attack is to keep sending our robotic aircraft after the bad guys. This is by far the most effective program we have to address the terrorist threat inside Pakistan.

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The Taliban Times Square Bomber

The New York Times reports:

American officials said Wednesday that it was very likely that a radical group once thought unable to attack the United States had played a role in the bombing attempt in Times Square, elevating concerns about whether other militant groups could deliver at least a glancing blow on American soil.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

This is precisely why it is unwise to rush to the federal courts and invoke criminal-justice procedures before the full extent of the terrorist’s international ties is known. Perhaps, even without the modification of law that Sen. Joe Lieberman suggests, Shahzad might have forfeited his rights of citizenship. But in its rush to make headlines and reflexive assumption that these incidents are “crimes” and not acts of war, the Obama administration didn’t bother to get all the information about Shahzad’s foreign connections before committing to a criminal-justice approach.

For now, we can be assured that it wasn’t a foreclosure or upset over ObamaCare or Tea Party frenzy that drove Shahzad to try to kills scores of people. Perhaps it’s time for the administration to reintroduce “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic extremism” back into its vocabulary. It might remind the administration that this is about winning a war, not crime-busting. And that in turn might keep it from destructive grandstanding (Andy McCarthy raises the scary prospect that Eric Holder unnecessarily filed a criminal complaint, which could alert Shahzad’s accomplices) and focused on intelligence gathering.

The New York Times reports:

American officials said Wednesday that it was very likely that a radical group once thought unable to attack the United States had played a role in the bombing attempt in Times Square, elevating concerns about whether other militant groups could deliver at least a glancing blow on American soil.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

This is precisely why it is unwise to rush to the federal courts and invoke criminal-justice procedures before the full extent of the terrorist’s international ties is known. Perhaps, even without the modification of law that Sen. Joe Lieberman suggests, Shahzad might have forfeited his rights of citizenship. But in its rush to make headlines and reflexive assumption that these incidents are “crimes” and not acts of war, the Obama administration didn’t bother to get all the information about Shahzad’s foreign connections before committing to a criminal-justice approach.

For now, we can be assured that it wasn’t a foreclosure or upset over ObamaCare or Tea Party frenzy that drove Shahzad to try to kills scores of people. Perhaps it’s time for the administration to reintroduce “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic extremism” back into its vocabulary. It might remind the administration that this is about winning a war, not crime-busting. And that in turn might keep it from destructive grandstanding (Andy McCarthy raises the scary prospect that Eric Holder unnecessarily filed a criminal complaint, which could alert Shahzad’s accomplices) and focused on intelligence gathering.

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RE: The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

After discovering that the federal no-fly list failed to keep Faisal Shahzad off a Dubai-bound commercial flight, there is only one thing to say: It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Actually, that was said, word for word, by President Obama – back in December. He was talking about alleged Nigerian underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who managed to board a Northwest flight bound for Detroit, despite intelligence agencies having long been aware of the threat he posed.

That “systemic failure” led to an immediate investigation of the no-fly-list system. That investigation led, four months later, to Faisal Shahzad seated in an upright position, cash-bought ticket in hand, and ready to take off after allegedly trying to set Times Square ablaze.

What did the December investigation produce? At the time, Bloomberg reported, “Obama directed intelligence agencies to collect all information in government files that could be related to the bombing attempt, the date it was collected and how it had been shared between different departments. He also requested the criteria used for placing people on terrorist watch lists.”

It sounds reassuringly presidential, doesn’t it? But somehow we’re still left with street vendors and New York City Police as our first line of defense. This administration is great with broad, visionary talk: the universal this, international that, and historic other. But the particulars are another story.  Whether it’s getting individual Gitmo detainees relocated, explaining health-care reform, or making sure that suspected terrorists don’t get on airplanes, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano are hopelessly adrift. This is an administration so swept up in its own sense of destiny it’s simply not governing in the here and now.

After discovering that the federal no-fly list failed to keep Faisal Shahzad off a Dubai-bound commercial flight, there is only one thing to say: It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Actually, that was said, word for word, by President Obama – back in December. He was talking about alleged Nigerian underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who managed to board a Northwest flight bound for Detroit, despite intelligence agencies having long been aware of the threat he posed.

That “systemic failure” led to an immediate investigation of the no-fly-list system. That investigation led, four months later, to Faisal Shahzad seated in an upright position, cash-bought ticket in hand, and ready to take off after allegedly trying to set Times Square ablaze.

What did the December investigation produce? At the time, Bloomberg reported, “Obama directed intelligence agencies to collect all information in government files that could be related to the bombing attempt, the date it was collected and how it had been shared between different departments. He also requested the criteria used for placing people on terrorist watch lists.”

It sounds reassuringly presidential, doesn’t it? But somehow we’re still left with street vendors and New York City Police as our first line of defense. This administration is great with broad, visionary talk: the universal this, international that, and historic other. But the particulars are another story.  Whether it’s getting individual Gitmo detainees relocated, explaining health-care reform, or making sure that suspected terrorists don’t get on airplanes, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano are hopelessly adrift. This is an administration so swept up in its own sense of destiny it’s simply not governing in the here and now.

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The Least Transparent Administration

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

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The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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A Constructive Suggestion

Sen. Joe Lieberman has come up with a proposal that would certainly help clarify how we respond to incidents like the Times Square bombing attempt (subscription required):

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) is pursuing legislation that would strip the “citizenship rights” of Americans who commit acts of terrorism. Although there are already laws allowing the government to strip the citizenship of Americans caught fighting in the army of another nation the U.S. is at war with, Lieberman’s legislation would create new authority to address individuals like Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized American accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday. The bill would amend the existing law “to include any individual apprehended, American citizen, who is found to be involved with a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the department of state would be deprived of their citizenship rights,” Lieberman told reporters Tuesday. Although Lieberman’s proposal would apply to foreign terrorist organizations, it would not appear to apply to domestic organizations like the Hutaree militia in Michigan.

Lieberman refuses to buy into the notion that these individuals are common criminals; they are combatants in war. It makes perfect sense to treat them identically to those who take up arms against the U.S. on behalf of another country. We’ll see if the administration has the nerve to oppose it.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has come up with a proposal that would certainly help clarify how we respond to incidents like the Times Square bombing attempt (subscription required):

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) is pursuing legislation that would strip the “citizenship rights” of Americans who commit acts of terrorism. Although there are already laws allowing the government to strip the citizenship of Americans caught fighting in the army of another nation the U.S. is at war with, Lieberman’s legislation would create new authority to address individuals like Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized American accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday. The bill would amend the existing law “to include any individual apprehended, American citizen, who is found to be involved with a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the department of state would be deprived of their citizenship rights,” Lieberman told reporters Tuesday. Although Lieberman’s proposal would apply to foreign terrorist organizations, it would not appear to apply to domestic organizations like the Hutaree militia in Michigan.

Lieberman refuses to buy into the notion that these individuals are common criminals; they are combatants in war. It makes perfect sense to treat them identically to those who take up arms against the U.S. on behalf of another country. We’ll see if the administration has the nerve to oppose it.

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It’s Not All Under Control

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

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The Jihadist Attack on Times Square

The New York Times reports:

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced. …

Mr. Shahzad was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an early morning statement delivered at the Justice Department in Washington. Charges against Mr. Shahzad, who had returned recently from a trip to Pakistan, were not announced, but he was expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.

So, a couple of questions: has he been Mirandized, and is he now lawyered up? I’d frankly be pleasantly shocked if that weren’t the case. And there are other questions that will follow, including whether we had any prior knowledge of Faisal Shahzad. What we do know is that the investigation has shifted to the international terrorism branch of the Joint Task Force and that “it’s a prominent lead that they’re following, the international association.”

Once again, despite the best efforts of the administration to excise “Islamic extremists” or “Islamic fundamentalists” from our vocabulary, all indications are that this is one more attack in a war Obama refuses to label accurately.

The New York Times reports:

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced. …

Mr. Shahzad was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an early morning statement delivered at the Justice Department in Washington. Charges against Mr. Shahzad, who had returned recently from a trip to Pakistan, were not announced, but he was expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.

So, a couple of questions: has he been Mirandized, and is he now lawyered up? I’d frankly be pleasantly shocked if that weren’t the case. And there are other questions that will follow, including whether we had any prior knowledge of Faisal Shahzad. What we do know is that the investigation has shifted to the international terrorism branch of the Joint Task Force and that “it’s a prominent lead that they’re following, the international association.”

Once again, despite the best efforts of the administration to excise “Islamic extremists” or “Islamic fundamentalists” from our vocabulary, all indications are that this is one more attack in a war Obama refuses to label accurately.

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RE: The Times Square Terror Attack

We learn today that the administration believes the Times Square car-bombing attempt was “coordinated by more than one person in a plot with international links.” The Washington Post reports:

The disclosure, while tentative, came as the White House intensified its focus on the Saturday incident in New York City, in which explosives inside a Nissan Pathfinder were set ablaze but failed to detonate at the tourist-crowded corner of Broadway and 45th Street.

Emerging from a series of briefings, several officials said it was premature to rule out any motive but said the sweeping, multi-state investigation was turning up new clues.

Separately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also characterized the incident for the first time as an attempted act of terrorism. “I would say that was intended to terrorize, and I would say that whomever did that would be categorized as a terrorist,” Gibbs said, sharpening the administration’s tone.

Another U.S. official, recounting a conversation with intelligence officials, said, “Don’t be surprised if you find a foreign nexus. … They’re looking at some tell-tale signs and they’re saying it’s pointing in that direction.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, if accurate, this is the fourth significant jihadist attack since Obama took office. (In case you’ve lost track, there was the Little Rock recruiting shooting, the Fort Hood massacre, and the Christmas bombing — all before this latest event.) If Obama’s array of not-Bush national-security policies were supposed to make us safer, they haven’t.

Second, at least the administration managed to get out the word “terrorist” within a reasonable period of time, and we are told that the president, not on vacation this time, was informed Saturday night. White House message: he’s not out to lunch this time. Finally, I think we can consider the notion of a public trial for KSM in New York or any major city — hopefully any Article III trial — to be finally kaput. The reality — we are a nation at war — at some point overwhelms even the most ideologically driven administration.

We learn today that the administration believes the Times Square car-bombing attempt was “coordinated by more than one person in a plot with international links.” The Washington Post reports:

The disclosure, while tentative, came as the White House intensified its focus on the Saturday incident in New York City, in which explosives inside a Nissan Pathfinder were set ablaze but failed to detonate at the tourist-crowded corner of Broadway and 45th Street.

Emerging from a series of briefings, several officials said it was premature to rule out any motive but said the sweeping, multi-state investigation was turning up new clues.

Separately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also characterized the incident for the first time as an attempted act of terrorism. “I would say that was intended to terrorize, and I would say that whomever did that would be categorized as a terrorist,” Gibbs said, sharpening the administration’s tone.

Another U.S. official, recounting a conversation with intelligence officials, said, “Don’t be surprised if you find a foreign nexus. … They’re looking at some tell-tale signs and they’re saying it’s pointing in that direction.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, if accurate, this is the fourth significant jihadist attack since Obama took office. (In case you’ve lost track, there was the Little Rock recruiting shooting, the Fort Hood massacre, and the Christmas bombing — all before this latest event.) If Obama’s array of not-Bush national-security policies were supposed to make us safer, they haven’t.

Second, at least the administration managed to get out the word “terrorist” within a reasonable period of time, and we are told that the president, not on vacation this time, was informed Saturday night. White House message: he’s not out to lunch this time. Finally, I think we can consider the notion of a public trial for KSM in New York or any major city — hopefully any Article III trial — to be finally kaput. The reality — we are a nation at war — at some point overwhelms even the most ideologically driven administration.

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The Success of the Times Square Terrorist

In the nineteenth century, anarchist terrorists (who, by the way, were proud of the title) referred to their activities as “propaganda by the deed.” Terrorism has always been designed to make more of a psychological than a physical impact. By that standard, the Times Square bomber, whoever he is, has succeeded. Granted, the SUV packed with propane was an amateurish vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. It is, thankfully, worlds away from the sort of sophisticated truck bombs that al-Qaeda in Iraq has used to create carnage in Baghdad. Yet, nevertheless, it dominates news coverage in the “Great Satan” in a way that far more costly bombings overseas do not. Whether the culprit who placed the bomb is foreign or domestic, Islamist or survivalist, or some other creed, his purpose is to spread terror. That, after all, is the very definition of terrorism. And he has succeeded. Imagine what the impact of a bomb that actually went off would be. The very hysteria we currently exhibit — or that was evident after the Christmas Day attempted airline bombing — only make it clear to terrorists what an inviting target the American homeland remains. Of course they had better be careful. Al-Qaeda surely did not reckon with the size of the American response after 9/11; Osama bin Laden reportedly expected that we would fire a few cruise missiles and leave it at that. If a future terrorist attack succeeds on such a scale, the perpetrators may well come to regret their actions. In a way, then, such low-level attacks as the one in Times Square are actually more useful to terrorists than more successful bombings: they create terror but avoid a serious backlash.

In the nineteenth century, anarchist terrorists (who, by the way, were proud of the title) referred to their activities as “propaganda by the deed.” Terrorism has always been designed to make more of a psychological than a physical impact. By that standard, the Times Square bomber, whoever he is, has succeeded. Granted, the SUV packed with propane was an amateurish vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. It is, thankfully, worlds away from the sort of sophisticated truck bombs that al-Qaeda in Iraq has used to create carnage in Baghdad. Yet, nevertheless, it dominates news coverage in the “Great Satan” in a way that far more costly bombings overseas do not. Whether the culprit who placed the bomb is foreign or domestic, Islamist or survivalist, or some other creed, his purpose is to spread terror. That, after all, is the very definition of terrorism. And he has succeeded. Imagine what the impact of a bomb that actually went off would be. The very hysteria we currently exhibit — or that was evident after the Christmas Day attempted airline bombing — only make it clear to terrorists what an inviting target the American homeland remains. Of course they had better be careful. Al-Qaeda surely did not reckon with the size of the American response after 9/11; Osama bin Laden reportedly expected that we would fire a few cruise missiles and leave it at that. If a future terrorist attack succeeds on such a scale, the perpetrators may well come to regret their actions. In a way, then, such low-level attacks as the one in Times Square are actually more useful to terrorists than more successful bombings: they create terror but avoid a serious backlash.

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The Times Square Attack and the Effort to Redefine “Terrorism”

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

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