Commentary Magazine


Topic: World Trade Center

RE: No Risk, They Say?

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

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Not Keeping America Safe

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

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They Decided?

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan “was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan “was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

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The True Administration of Justice is the Firmest Pillar of Good Government

About an hour ago I was holding an umbrella against the wind and rain, in the outer skirts of the crowd that had gathered on Foley Square, Manhattan, to protest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s impending civil trial. Judging by how much space had been barricaded, I’d say the city must have expected a bigger turnout. Doubtless, the weather deterred many would-be attendees. But the 300-400 people who had shown up were determined and righteously angry—at the president’s and attorney general’s measly arguments for extending to the 9/11 mastermind the same legal privileges of American citizens; at the travesty of justice that his civil trial would entail; and at the cheap rhetorical shots through which the administration is dismissing the critics of its decision.

Several passionate speakers shared the podium, among them close relatives of 9/11 victims and a surviving firefighter from the first-response teams dispatched to the World Trade Center. They all voiced their disgust at how the administration is handling KSM with gloves of moral priggishness. And they also urged the demonstrators to leave no political stone unturned and to buttonhole their representatives until they take responsibility for this disgrace.

It was fitting that the rally stirred at the feet of the New York State Supreme Courthouse, whose Corinthian columns underscore the engraving “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.” I wonder what George Washington, who wrote those words to Attorney General Edmund Randolph on September 28, 1789, would think of the kind of trial our current president and attorney general have in store for KSM and of the kind of justice that trial will beget. What is anyone to make of a civil trial whose outcome, whatever it is, will not determine whether the defendant is to be freed and exonerated? I, for one, would not think it civil at all, or just. And neither would the protesters on Foley Square today.  Some photographs from the rally:











About an hour ago I was holding an umbrella against the wind and rain, in the outer skirts of the crowd that had gathered on Foley Square, Manhattan, to protest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s impending civil trial. Judging by how much space had been barricaded, I’d say the city must have expected a bigger turnout. Doubtless, the weather deterred many would-be attendees. But the 300-400 people who had shown up were determined and righteously angry—at the president’s and attorney general’s measly arguments for extending to the 9/11 mastermind the same legal privileges of American citizens; at the travesty of justice that his civil trial would entail; and at the cheap rhetorical shots through which the administration is dismissing the critics of its decision.

Several passionate speakers shared the podium, among them close relatives of 9/11 victims and a surviving firefighter from the first-response teams dispatched to the World Trade Center. They all voiced their disgust at how the administration is handling KSM with gloves of moral priggishness. And they also urged the demonstrators to leave no political stone unturned and to buttonhole their representatives until they take responsibility for this disgrace.

It was fitting that the rally stirred at the feet of the New York State Supreme Courthouse, whose Corinthian columns underscore the engraving “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.” I wonder what George Washington, who wrote those words to Attorney General Edmund Randolph on September 28, 1789, would think of the kind of trial our current president and attorney general have in store for KSM and of the kind of justice that trial will beget. What is anyone to make of a civil trial whose outcome, whatever it is, will not determine whether the defendant is to be freed and exonerated? I, for one, would not think it civil at all, or just. And neither would the protesters on Foley Square today.  Some photographs from the rally:











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Flotsam and Jetsam

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.'” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.'” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

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Getting Ready to Make a Fuss

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.); Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America; and Andrew C. McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, among others, will be holding a press conference tomorrow to release details of their December 5 rally. They explain:

The Coalition formed to fight the decision of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal court, effectively giving war criminals the same rights as American citizens while endangering the safety of all New Yorkers. Two weeks ago, we sent a letter signed by 300 family members of 9/11 victims to the President, Attorney General and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking them to reverse course. The letter has now been signed by over 120,000 Americans and is posted at http://www.keepamericasafe.com.

Like the Tea Parties, this seems to have the potential to motivate ordinarily nonpolitical Americans to protest a decision that remains simply incomprehensible. The administration somehow imagined that by releasing news of its decision on a Friday when the president was out of the country, a cheesy PR move unbefitting a decision of this gravity, that it might avoid unleashing a firestorm. It seems they have misjudged, as they have so many other things, the American people.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.); Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America; and Andrew C. McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, among others, will be holding a press conference tomorrow to release details of their December 5 rally. They explain:

The Coalition formed to fight the decision of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal court, effectively giving war criminals the same rights as American citizens while endangering the safety of all New Yorkers. Two weeks ago, we sent a letter signed by 300 family members of 9/11 victims to the President, Attorney General and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking them to reverse course. The letter has now been signed by over 120,000 Americans and is posted at http://www.keepamericasafe.com.

Like the Tea Parties, this seems to have the potential to motivate ordinarily nonpolitical Americans to protest a decision that remains simply incomprehensible. The administration somehow imagined that by releasing news of its decision on a Friday when the president was out of the country, a cheesy PR move unbefitting a decision of this gravity, that it might avoid unleashing a firestorm. It seems they have misjudged, as they have so many other things, the American people.

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Why Are We Doing This?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey had tough words for the mind-numbingly misguided decision to move KSM to New York for trial. For starters, he thinks Obama has increased the danger of a terror incident in New York:

“The question is not whether they’re going to escape. The question is whether, not only that particular facility, but the city [at] large, will then become the focus for mischief in the form of murder by adherents of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — whether this raises the odds that it will. I would suggest to you that it raises them very high.”

And as for the rationale for moving the 9/11 mastermind to a civilian court, Mukasey explains:

“The plan seems to be to abandon the view that we’re in a war,” Mukasey said. “I can’t see anything good coming out of this. I certainly can’t see anything good coming out of it very quickly. And it think it would have been far preferable to try these case[s] in the venue that Congress created for trying and where they were about to be tried.”

Mukasey, a former federal judge who oversaw cases relating to the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, warned that a civilian court trial for the Sept. 11 plotters could produce “a cornucopia of information for those still at large and a circus for those still in custody.”

Mukasey is no political partisan. What he is, however, is the most experienced and knowledgeable judge in America on trying terrorists in civilian court. Perhaps the Obami should have sought out and listened to his counsel. Instead, they’ve come to believe the claptrap of the ACLU and the leftist lawyers who now populate the Justice Department.

They are out to prove a point about our traditions or legal system, or something. But wait. We didn’t try German soldiers in federal court, nor combatants in any other war. And our legal system currently provides for military tribunals, where the U.S.S. Cole terrorists will be tried. So what exactly is the reason for all this? When he returns from bowing to the emperor of Japan, the president, we suppose, can opine on American traditions and historical precedent.

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey had tough words for the mind-numbingly misguided decision to move KSM to New York for trial. For starters, he thinks Obama has increased the danger of a terror incident in New York:

“The question is not whether they’re going to escape. The question is whether, not only that particular facility, but the city [at] large, will then become the focus for mischief in the form of murder by adherents of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — whether this raises the odds that it will. I would suggest to you that it raises them very high.”

And as for the rationale for moving the 9/11 mastermind to a civilian court, Mukasey explains:

“The plan seems to be to abandon the view that we’re in a war,” Mukasey said. “I can’t see anything good coming out of this. I certainly can’t see anything good coming out of it very quickly. And it think it would have been far preferable to try these case[s] in the venue that Congress created for trying and where they were about to be tried.”

Mukasey, a former federal judge who oversaw cases relating to the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, warned that a civilian court trial for the Sept. 11 plotters could produce “a cornucopia of information for those still at large and a circus for those still in custody.”

Mukasey is no political partisan. What he is, however, is the most experienced and knowledgeable judge in America on trying terrorists in civilian court. Perhaps the Obami should have sought out and listened to his counsel. Instead, they’ve come to believe the claptrap of the ACLU and the leftist lawyers who now populate the Justice Department.

They are out to prove a point about our traditions or legal system, or something. But wait. We didn’t try German soldiers in federal court, nor combatants in any other war. And our legal system currently provides for military tribunals, where the U.S.S. Cole terrorists will be tried. So what exactly is the reason for all this? When he returns from bowing to the emperor of Japan, the president, we suppose, can opine on American traditions and historical precedent.

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Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Goes to New York

Pete, the decision to transport Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. to be tried in an Article III court, presumably with the same rights as common American criminals, is shocking and entirely unnecessary. I would submit that someone in the Obama administration recognizes this. As pointed out to me today by a congressman infuriated by the decision, the president is out of the country. Congress is not in session. It’s a Friday. The ultimate bad-news dump. In this context, it suggests not only a queasy awareness that the American people won’t like this but also, frankly, political cowardice. This is a major decision with long-term consequences. If the president believes what he is doing is right, he should exercise leadership and explain it to the American people. Himself.

But, again, the decision itself is utterly unnecessary. As Sen. Joe Lieberman has pointed out, we have a military-tribunal system designed for precisely these cases. His statement reminded us:

The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.

And let’s recall how we got here. An informed legal guru observes that we decided to prosecute KSM in a military commission in part because past trials (e.g., those of the “Blind Sheikh” and Ramzi Yousef) may have compromised intelligence. So now we’ve gone back to the very system that, for legitimate national-security reasons, we had abandoned. As Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing trial, observes:

Today’s announcement that KSM and other top al-Qaeda terrorists will be transferred to Manhattan federal court for civilian trials neatly fits this hidden agenda. Nothing results in more disclosures of government intelligence than civilian trials. They are a banquet of information, not just at the discovery stage but in the trial process itself, where witnesses — intelligence sources — must expose themselves and their secrets.

And what sort of trial? I find it difficult to believe that KSM will not enjoy all the panoply of rights and procedures available in any criminal proceeding. We can look forward to years of motions, demands for classified data, and efforts to prove up that information was extracted under duress and in violation of his constitutional rights. The jailers and interrogators are about to stand trial.

What do we hope to accomplish? It is almost unfathomable. Sen. Kit Bond declared: “Today’s announcement, as well as the Obama Justice Department’s recent decisions to dismantle and release information about the CIA’s interrogation program and support the erosion of the PATRIOT Act tools needed to keep us safe, calls into serious doubt their priorities — defeating terrorism to protect Americans or politically correct prosecutions.” Precisely so. Is this a bone to the netroot Left, which may be disappointed by an upcoming decision on Afghanistan? Or is this Eric Holder’s band of loony-Left DOJ attorneys run amok? Perhaps the Obama team is still out to impress the “Muslim World.”

The 9/11 Commission warned about an excess reliance on criminal-justice procedures and the failure to treat terrorism as a act of war. We are repeating the errors of the past, just days after the worst jihadist attack on American soil since 9/11. (Yes, that’s what it is when the killer shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and proceeds on his self-described mission “to do good work for God.”) We have a president and an administration that is unserious about national security and whose priorities are something other than keeping America safe. We are as a consequence less safe since Obama assumed office. The American people will, I strongly suspect, agree.

Pete, the decision to transport Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. to be tried in an Article III court, presumably with the same rights as common American criminals, is shocking and entirely unnecessary. I would submit that someone in the Obama administration recognizes this. As pointed out to me today by a congressman infuriated by the decision, the president is out of the country. Congress is not in session. It’s a Friday. The ultimate bad-news dump. In this context, it suggests not only a queasy awareness that the American people won’t like this but also, frankly, political cowardice. This is a major decision with long-term consequences. If the president believes what he is doing is right, he should exercise leadership and explain it to the American people. Himself.

But, again, the decision itself is utterly unnecessary. As Sen. Joe Lieberman has pointed out, we have a military-tribunal system designed for precisely these cases. His statement reminded us:

The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.

And let’s recall how we got here. An informed legal guru observes that we decided to prosecute KSM in a military commission in part because past trials (e.g., those of the “Blind Sheikh” and Ramzi Yousef) may have compromised intelligence. So now we’ve gone back to the very system that, for legitimate national-security reasons, we had abandoned. As Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing trial, observes:

Today’s announcement that KSM and other top al-Qaeda terrorists will be transferred to Manhattan federal court for civilian trials neatly fits this hidden agenda. Nothing results in more disclosures of government intelligence than civilian trials. They are a banquet of information, not just at the discovery stage but in the trial process itself, where witnesses — intelligence sources — must expose themselves and their secrets.

And what sort of trial? I find it difficult to believe that KSM will not enjoy all the panoply of rights and procedures available in any criminal proceeding. We can look forward to years of motions, demands for classified data, and efforts to prove up that information was extracted under duress and in violation of his constitutional rights. The jailers and interrogators are about to stand trial.

What do we hope to accomplish? It is almost unfathomable. Sen. Kit Bond declared: “Today’s announcement, as well as the Obama Justice Department’s recent decisions to dismantle and release information about the CIA’s interrogation program and support the erosion of the PATRIOT Act tools needed to keep us safe, calls into serious doubt their priorities — defeating terrorism to protect Americans or politically correct prosecutions.” Precisely so. Is this a bone to the netroot Left, which may be disappointed by an upcoming decision on Afghanistan? Or is this Eric Holder’s band of loony-Left DOJ attorneys run amok? Perhaps the Obama team is still out to impress the “Muslim World.”

The 9/11 Commission warned about an excess reliance on criminal-justice procedures and the failure to treat terrorism as a act of war. We are repeating the errors of the past, just days after the worst jihadist attack on American soil since 9/11. (Yes, that’s what it is when the killer shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and proceeds on his self-described mission “to do good work for God.”) We have a president and an administration that is unserious about national security and whose priorities are something other than keeping America safe. We are as a consequence less safe since Obama assumed office. The American people will, I strongly suspect, agree.

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Spurious Spurlock

“Super Size Me” creator Morgan Spurlock begins his new documentary by comparing the supposed trauma of learning he was about to become a father with the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden,” a supposed comedy in which Spurlock tours various places in the Arab world and Israel (Morocco, Egypt, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and finally Afghanistan and Pakistan) begins with soaring-through-the-clouds airplane footage meant to evoke the point of view of the 9/11 attackers as they began their descent over New York City. In Spurlock’s narration, he speaks of how wonderful it is to experience the joy of waking up to realize it’s a beautiful day, only to be shocked when the whole thing is wiped out in a sudden unexpected moment. Cut to Spurlock’s wife announcing (in a moment obviously staged for the cameras) that she is pregnant.

Such bad taste is characteristic of the film, which is intended to downplay fears of terrorism and consequently is sure to delight the liberal press that praised every distortion in “Super Size Me.”

Spurlock’s vision is the squishy liberal view, the standard Westchester County wine-sipper’s wisdom, about the post-9/11 world. It isn’t that America is to blame for the attacks, exactly. But if only we were a little more sensitive to the suffering of the Arab world–if only we built them more schools and hospitals and resolved the Israeli/Palestinian issue and maybe sent them a card on Mother’s Day–they probably wouldn’t hate us.

In each country, Spurlock finds a couple of scholars and journalists to deliver that view. When he gets tired of listening to them he simply tells us in voice-over that we should think this, as we regard a cringe-inducing series of animated sequences in which Bin Laden and other terrorists are portrayed as dancin’ rappers or pictured on mock baseball cards (wearing caps with the AQ logo). This film is literally a cartoon version of the Islamist threat.

“Super Size Me” creator Morgan Spurlock begins his new documentary by comparing the supposed trauma of learning he was about to become a father with the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden,” a supposed comedy in which Spurlock tours various places in the Arab world and Israel (Morocco, Egypt, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and finally Afghanistan and Pakistan) begins with soaring-through-the-clouds airplane footage meant to evoke the point of view of the 9/11 attackers as they began their descent over New York City. In Spurlock’s narration, he speaks of how wonderful it is to experience the joy of waking up to realize it’s a beautiful day, only to be shocked when the whole thing is wiped out in a sudden unexpected moment. Cut to Spurlock’s wife announcing (in a moment obviously staged for the cameras) that she is pregnant.

Such bad taste is characteristic of the film, which is intended to downplay fears of terrorism and consequently is sure to delight the liberal press that praised every distortion in “Super Size Me.”

Spurlock’s vision is the squishy liberal view, the standard Westchester County wine-sipper’s wisdom, about the post-9/11 world. It isn’t that America is to blame for the attacks, exactly. But if only we were a little more sensitive to the suffering of the Arab world–if only we built them more schools and hospitals and resolved the Israeli/Palestinian issue and maybe sent them a card on Mother’s Day–they probably wouldn’t hate us.

In each country, Spurlock finds a couple of scholars and journalists to deliver that view. When he gets tired of listening to them he simply tells us in voice-over that we should think this, as we regard a cringe-inducing series of animated sequences in which Bin Laden and other terrorists are portrayed as dancin’ rappers or pictured on mock baseball cards (wearing caps with the AQ logo). This film is literally a cartoon version of the Islamist threat.

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He Saw Black People

Andrew Sullivan has taken up the odious cause of defending Jeremiah Wright against conservative criticism. Now, if you want to defend Wright, you could argue that Obama shouldn’t abandon his pastor, out of loyalty, or that Obama turning his back on Wright would amount to his disowning an important segment of the American black population. But to downplay the poison of Wright’s 9/11 rant speaks to a pathological level of denial. Sullivan offers the familiar speech in its full context, and writes, “I still do not find it appropriate, and still do not agree with it. But it is not what Hannity and Ingraham and the other talk show thugs of the far right have been saying.”

He’s right. It’s worse. Try out this bit:

I saw pictures of the incredible. People jumping from the 110th floor; people jumping from the roof because the stairwells and elevators above the 89th floor were gone–no more. Black people, jumping to a certain death; people holding hands jumping; people on fire jumping.

Black people?

I suspect I speak for most Americans who saw footage of WTC jumpers in saying a) the race of these individuals was not decipherable; b) if it was, it would have been, at that time, beyond my ability to notice, because c) who cared? When the World Trade Center went down, the issue of race in America was as atomized as those two buildings. But not for Obama’s pastor, who seemed to think it was important enough to assure his congregation that black people had perished. In some sense, this is the most offensive (and telling) thing I’ve heard from Wright. It reveals a commitment to divisiveness so deep as to prohibit the simple registering of human (forget national) tragedy.

And Sullivan is worried about Sean Hannity.

Andrew Sullivan has taken up the odious cause of defending Jeremiah Wright against conservative criticism. Now, if you want to defend Wright, you could argue that Obama shouldn’t abandon his pastor, out of loyalty, or that Obama turning his back on Wright would amount to his disowning an important segment of the American black population. But to downplay the poison of Wright’s 9/11 rant speaks to a pathological level of denial. Sullivan offers the familiar speech in its full context, and writes, “I still do not find it appropriate, and still do not agree with it. But it is not what Hannity and Ingraham and the other talk show thugs of the far right have been saying.”

He’s right. It’s worse. Try out this bit:

I saw pictures of the incredible. People jumping from the 110th floor; people jumping from the roof because the stairwells and elevators above the 89th floor were gone–no more. Black people, jumping to a certain death; people holding hands jumping; people on fire jumping.

Black people?

I suspect I speak for most Americans who saw footage of WTC jumpers in saying a) the race of these individuals was not decipherable; b) if it was, it would have been, at that time, beyond my ability to notice, because c) who cared? When the World Trade Center went down, the issue of race in America was as atomized as those two buildings. But not for Obama’s pastor, who seemed to think it was important enough to assure his congregation that black people had perished. In some sense, this is the most offensive (and telling) thing I’ve heard from Wright. It reveals a commitment to divisiveness so deep as to prohibit the simple registering of human (forget national) tragedy.

And Sullivan is worried about Sean Hannity.

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Must. Surrender. Somewhere.

Let’s consider what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might now be saying if over the past six years George Bush had done precisely what the Democrats claim he should have regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. If the U.S. had beefed up forces in Afghanistan and ignored Saddam Hussein, I imagine the Democratic argument (as extrapolated from current policy positions) might go something like this:

We have now spent six years bogged down in George Bush’s Afghan war, while Saddam Hussein continues to build his palaces on the graves of innocent Iraqis. We’re locked into an endless commitment in Afghanistan, refusing to let the Afghan people shape their own post-Taliban futures, while intelligence reports continue to come in that Saddam Hussein is not only working on weapons of mass destruction, but associating with and even training the types of people who attacked us on September 11. We have leveled to dust a nation without the resources or operational knowledge to attack the U.S., while we’ve let Saddam Hussein’s Iraq build its deadly arsenal and expand its lethal network of associates. How does this make the U.S. look in the eyes of the world? And why should our allies tolerate it? Why should you, the voting public? I intend to restore our standing in the global community by beginning immediate troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and facing the real threat represented by dangerous regimes such as Iraq. America needs a real leader, not someone who won’t go into Iraq because his father had thought it would be too tough for America to handle.

As is happened, things took a different course. We went into Iraq while continuing to fight in Afghanistan. We’ve had our formidable challenges in both theaters, but the point is the Democrats can always plug in proper nouns as needed and make an argument like the one above. Which they’ve done. We know from Hillary that it’s too late to win in Iraq, and from Obama that we need to withdraw from Iraq immediately and pick up the pace in Afghanistan. We must, you see, stop fighting somewhere.

But how is this surrender argument to be maintained in the face of continued success in Iraq? This question will get tougher and more crucial for whichever Democrat is nominated to go up against John McCain. Well, today Ted Rall has a piece at Yahoo News which may suggest a new direction in such surrender mad-libs: We need to pull out of Afghanistan after all.

By any measure, U.S. troops and their NATO allies are getting their a–es kicked in the country that Reagan’s CIA station chief for Pakistan called “the graveyard of empires.” Afghanistan currently produces a record 93 percent of the world’s opium. Suicide bombers are killing more U.S.-aligned troops than ever. Stonings are back. The Taliban and their allies, “defeated” in 2001, control most of the country–and may recapture the capital of Kabul as early as this summer.

And, anyway, Afghanistan is the wrong place to fight the war on terror:

Afghanistan’s connection to 9/11 was tertiary. At the moment the first plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, most of Al Qaeda’s camps and fighters were in Pakistan. As CBS News reported on January 29, 2002, Osama bin Laden was in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi on 9/11. The Taliban militia, which provided neither men nor money for the attacks, controlled 90 percent of the country.

Ta-da!

So, it’s time to pull out of Afghanistan and fight in Pakistan. And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

Let’s consider what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might now be saying if over the past six years George Bush had done precisely what the Democrats claim he should have regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. If the U.S. had beefed up forces in Afghanistan and ignored Saddam Hussein, I imagine the Democratic argument (as extrapolated from current policy positions) might go something like this:

We have now spent six years bogged down in George Bush’s Afghan war, while Saddam Hussein continues to build his palaces on the graves of innocent Iraqis. We’re locked into an endless commitment in Afghanistan, refusing to let the Afghan people shape their own post-Taliban futures, while intelligence reports continue to come in that Saddam Hussein is not only working on weapons of mass destruction, but associating with and even training the types of people who attacked us on September 11. We have leveled to dust a nation without the resources or operational knowledge to attack the U.S., while we’ve let Saddam Hussein’s Iraq build its deadly arsenal and expand its lethal network of associates. How does this make the U.S. look in the eyes of the world? And why should our allies tolerate it? Why should you, the voting public? I intend to restore our standing in the global community by beginning immediate troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and facing the real threat represented by dangerous regimes such as Iraq. America needs a real leader, not someone who won’t go into Iraq because his father had thought it would be too tough for America to handle.

As is happened, things took a different course. We went into Iraq while continuing to fight in Afghanistan. We’ve had our formidable challenges in both theaters, but the point is the Democrats can always plug in proper nouns as needed and make an argument like the one above. Which they’ve done. We know from Hillary that it’s too late to win in Iraq, and from Obama that we need to withdraw from Iraq immediately and pick up the pace in Afghanistan. We must, you see, stop fighting somewhere.

But how is this surrender argument to be maintained in the face of continued success in Iraq? This question will get tougher and more crucial for whichever Democrat is nominated to go up against John McCain. Well, today Ted Rall has a piece at Yahoo News which may suggest a new direction in such surrender mad-libs: We need to pull out of Afghanistan after all.

By any measure, U.S. troops and their NATO allies are getting their a–es kicked in the country that Reagan’s CIA station chief for Pakistan called “the graveyard of empires.” Afghanistan currently produces a record 93 percent of the world’s opium. Suicide bombers are killing more U.S.-aligned troops than ever. Stonings are back. The Taliban and their allies, “defeated” in 2001, control most of the country–and may recapture the capital of Kabul as early as this summer.

And, anyway, Afghanistan is the wrong place to fight the war on terror:

Afghanistan’s connection to 9/11 was tertiary. At the moment the first plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, most of Al Qaeda’s camps and fighters were in Pakistan. As CBS News reported on January 29, 2002, Osama bin Laden was in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi on 9/11. The Taliban militia, which provided neither men nor money for the attacks, controlled 90 percent of the country.

Ta-da!

So, it’s time to pull out of Afghanistan and fight in Pakistan. And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

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The (Terror-)Friendly Skies

In his book, Bush at War, Bob Woodward describes former CIA Director George Tenet’s initial reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 thusly:

“This has bin Laden all over it,” Tenet told Boren. “I’ve got to go.” He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. “I wonder,” Tenet said, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.”

Six months after the “guy’s” acquired skills enabled him and eighteen accomplices to kill some 3000 Americans, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) contacted their flight school to say that the late terrorists had been approved for Visas. At PJM, Annie Jacobson has an unsettling assessment of the developments in U.S. flight school security since 9/11:

The INS unit was disbanded and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took its place in regard to monitoring foreign nationals for flight school eligibility. In September 2004 the Alien Flight Student Program went into effect, with TSA in charge.

Last week, in one of the most damaging reports on the TSA to date, ABC News revealed that in the program’s first year under TSA control, there were “some 8,000 foreign students in the FAA database who got their pilot licenses without ever being approved by the TSA.”

Citing official documents, Ms. Jacobson details the mixture of indecision and interdepartmental red tape that’s kept American skies open to the same American-trained terror that brought down the World Trade Center and blew a hole in the Pentagon over six years ago:

“[Acting General Manager for General Aviation Robert] Rottman made the TSA’s do-nothing policy painfully clear:

Currently DOS and ICE appear to have conflicting views on the appropriateness of B visas for flight training. Department of State, which has the responsibility for development of visa policy, contends that a B visa is appropriate for flight training. However, ICE, which enforces visa requirements, has asserted that B visas are not appropriate for flight training.”

Rottman’s conclusion: “Based on the forgoing, TSA representatives having security inspection responsibility and oversight authority . . . will abstain from making visa appropriate or validity determinations until further notice, as appropriate.”

Is it too great a breach of cordiality to halt all U.S. flight lessons for all visa holders? At least until coming up with a decisive long-term policy? I was just told of a coast-to-coast commercial flight on which all passengers were deprived of peanuts because one passenger was allergic. You’d think the threat of a 9/11 repeat demands as thorough and decisive an approach as the one enabling the safe distribution of in-flight snacks.

In his book, Bush at War, Bob Woodward describes former CIA Director George Tenet’s initial reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 thusly:

“This has bin Laden all over it,” Tenet told Boren. “I’ve got to go.” He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. “I wonder,” Tenet said, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.”

Six months after the “guy’s” acquired skills enabled him and eighteen accomplices to kill some 3000 Americans, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) contacted their flight school to say that the late terrorists had been approved for Visas. At PJM, Annie Jacobson has an unsettling assessment of the developments in U.S. flight school security since 9/11:

The INS unit was disbanded and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took its place in regard to monitoring foreign nationals for flight school eligibility. In September 2004 the Alien Flight Student Program went into effect, with TSA in charge.

Last week, in one of the most damaging reports on the TSA to date, ABC News revealed that in the program’s first year under TSA control, there were “some 8,000 foreign students in the FAA database who got their pilot licenses without ever being approved by the TSA.”

Citing official documents, Ms. Jacobson details the mixture of indecision and interdepartmental red tape that’s kept American skies open to the same American-trained terror that brought down the World Trade Center and blew a hole in the Pentagon over six years ago:

“[Acting General Manager for General Aviation Robert] Rottman made the TSA’s do-nothing policy painfully clear:

Currently DOS and ICE appear to have conflicting views on the appropriateness of B visas for flight training. Department of State, which has the responsibility for development of visa policy, contends that a B visa is appropriate for flight training. However, ICE, which enforces visa requirements, has asserted that B visas are not appropriate for flight training.”

Rottman’s conclusion: “Based on the forgoing, TSA representatives having security inspection responsibility and oversight authority . . . will abstain from making visa appropriate or validity determinations until further notice, as appropriate.”

Is it too great a breach of cordiality to halt all U.S. flight lessons for all visa holders? At least until coming up with a decisive long-term policy? I was just told of a coast-to-coast commercial flight on which all passengers were deprived of peanuts because one passenger was allergic. You’d think the threat of a 9/11 repeat demands as thorough and decisive an approach as the one enabling the safe distribution of in-flight snacks.

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The Moderate Supermajority

My CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.

First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.

Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.

I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims — aside from secular terror-supporters — too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists.

More than one fourth of the population of Lebanon demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on March 14, 2005, and stood against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis that has been sabotaging their country for decades. When I lived in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Beirut, the overwhelming majority of my neighbors belonged to that movement. The international media gave them lots of exposure, but moderate, liberal, secular, and mainstream conservative Muslims elsewhere rarely get any coverage. They are almost invisible from a distance, but it isn’t their fault.

Journalists tend to ignore moderate Muslims, not because of liberal bias or racism, but because sensationalism sells. At least they think that’s what sells.

And reporters often assume extremists are mainstream and “authentic” when they are not. Somehow, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been designated the voice of American Muslims. But CAIR is, frankly, an Islamic wingnut organization with a minuscule membership that has declined 90 percent since September 11, 2001. (More people read my medium-sized blog every day than are members of CAIR.)

The coalition of Islamist parties in Pakistan got three percent of the vote in the recent election. Pakistan’s radicals have made a real mess of the place, but they can’t get any more traction at the polls than Ralph Nader can manage in the United States.

Riots in the wake of the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad was one of the most pathetic “activist” spectacles I’ve ever seen, but the press coverage blew the whole thing way out of proportion. The same gaggle of the perpetually outraged have been photographed over and over again, like the bussed-in and coerced Saddam Hussein “supporters” at rallies in the old Iraq who vanished the instant television cameras stopped rolling. Take a look at the excellent 2003 film Live from Baghdad, written by CNN producer Robert Weiner, and you will see a dramatization of this stunt for yourself.

Last July in Slate Christopher Hitchens busted his colleagues. “I have actually seen some of these demonstrations,” he wrote, “most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn’t be if there was a big, surging mob involved.”

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has been quoted in tens of thousands of articles, but hardly any journalists have ever mentioned, let alone profiled, Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini, the liberal Lebanese cleric who outranks Nasrallah in the Shia religious hierarchy and is an implacable foe of both Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Every suicide and car bomber in Iraq gets at least a passing mention in newspapers all over the world while far fewer reporters have ever told their readers about the extraordinary anti-jihadist convulsion that swept the entire populations of Fallujah and Ramadi last year.

Almost no mention is given to the Kurds of Iraq who are just as Islamic as the Arabs in that country, and who purged Islamists root and branch from every inch of their autonomous region. “We will shoot them or break their bones on sight,” one Kurdish government official told me. More people have been murdered by Islamists in Spain than in their region of Iraq in the last five years. Such people can hardly be thought of as passive.

Let us also not forget the mass demonstrations and street battles with government thugs that have been ongoing all over Iran for several years now.

There is, I suppose, a dim awareness that the world’s newest country – Kosovo – has a Muslim majority. But who knows that the Kosovar Albanians are perhaps the most staunchly pro-American people in all of Europe, that they chose the Catholic Mother Theresa as their national symbol, that there was a cultural-wide protection of Jews during the Holocaust? Their leaders told Wahhabi officials from Saudi Arabia to get stuffed when help was offered during their war with the genocidal Milosovic regime in Belgrade.

Radical Islamists are more densely found in parts of the Arab world than most other places, but Arab countries as diverse as Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are nearly Islamist-free. “Nothing Exploded in Tunis or Dubai Today” isn’t a headline, but I think it’s safe to infer from the utter dearth of sensationalist stories from such places that radical Islamism there isn’t much of a problem. It isn’t exactly clear to me what more the people in those countries ought to be doing. I have met hundreds of brave Iraqis who joined the police force and the army so they can pick up rifles and face the Islamists, but the moderate Muslims of countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mali, and Oman have few resident radicals to stand up against.

There certainly were radicals in Algeria. 150,000 people were killed there during the Salafist insurgency during the 1990s, and the government, military, police, and civilian watch groups have since all but annihilated the jihadists.

The world could use more moderate Muslims who push back hard against the Islamists, but huge numbers already do wherever it is necessary and possible. So far with the exception of Gaza, mainstream Muslims everywhere in the world risk arrest, torture, and death while resisting Islamist governments and insurgencies whenever they arise.

My CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.

First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.

Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.

I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims — aside from secular terror-supporters — too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists.

More than one fourth of the population of Lebanon demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on March 14, 2005, and stood against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis that has been sabotaging their country for decades. When I lived in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Beirut, the overwhelming majority of my neighbors belonged to that movement. The international media gave them lots of exposure, but moderate, liberal, secular, and mainstream conservative Muslims elsewhere rarely get any coverage. They are almost invisible from a distance, but it isn’t their fault.

Journalists tend to ignore moderate Muslims, not because of liberal bias or racism, but because sensationalism sells. At least they think that’s what sells.

And reporters often assume extremists are mainstream and “authentic” when they are not. Somehow, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been designated the voice of American Muslims. But CAIR is, frankly, an Islamic wingnut organization with a minuscule membership that has declined 90 percent since September 11, 2001. (More people read my medium-sized blog every day than are members of CAIR.)

The coalition of Islamist parties in Pakistan got three percent of the vote in the recent election. Pakistan’s radicals have made a real mess of the place, but they can’t get any more traction at the polls than Ralph Nader can manage in the United States.

Riots in the wake of the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad was one of the most pathetic “activist” spectacles I’ve ever seen, but the press coverage blew the whole thing way out of proportion. The same gaggle of the perpetually outraged have been photographed over and over again, like the bussed-in and coerced Saddam Hussein “supporters” at rallies in the old Iraq who vanished the instant television cameras stopped rolling. Take a look at the excellent 2003 film Live from Baghdad, written by CNN producer Robert Weiner, and you will see a dramatization of this stunt for yourself.

Last July in Slate Christopher Hitchens busted his colleagues. “I have actually seen some of these demonstrations,” he wrote, “most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn’t be if there was a big, surging mob involved.”

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has been quoted in tens of thousands of articles, but hardly any journalists have ever mentioned, let alone profiled, Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini, the liberal Lebanese cleric who outranks Nasrallah in the Shia religious hierarchy and is an implacable foe of both Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Every suicide and car bomber in Iraq gets at least a passing mention in newspapers all over the world while far fewer reporters have ever told their readers about the extraordinary anti-jihadist convulsion that swept the entire populations of Fallujah and Ramadi last year.

Almost no mention is given to the Kurds of Iraq who are just as Islamic as the Arabs in that country, and who purged Islamists root and branch from every inch of their autonomous region. “We will shoot them or break their bones on sight,” one Kurdish government official told me. More people have been murdered by Islamists in Spain than in their region of Iraq in the last five years. Such people can hardly be thought of as passive.

Let us also not forget the mass demonstrations and street battles with government thugs that have been ongoing all over Iran for several years now.

There is, I suppose, a dim awareness that the world’s newest country – Kosovo – has a Muslim majority. But who knows that the Kosovar Albanians are perhaps the most staunchly pro-American people in all of Europe, that they chose the Catholic Mother Theresa as their national symbol, that there was a cultural-wide protection of Jews during the Holocaust? Their leaders told Wahhabi officials from Saudi Arabia to get stuffed when help was offered during their war with the genocidal Milosovic regime in Belgrade.

Radical Islamists are more densely found in parts of the Arab world than most other places, but Arab countries as diverse as Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are nearly Islamist-free. “Nothing Exploded in Tunis or Dubai Today” isn’t a headline, but I think it’s safe to infer from the utter dearth of sensationalist stories from such places that radical Islamism there isn’t much of a problem. It isn’t exactly clear to me what more the people in those countries ought to be doing. I have met hundreds of brave Iraqis who joined the police force and the army so they can pick up rifles and face the Islamists, but the moderate Muslims of countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mali, and Oman have few resident radicals to stand up against.

There certainly were radicals in Algeria. 150,000 people were killed there during the Salafist insurgency during the 1990s, and the government, military, police, and civilian watch groups have since all but annihilated the jihadists.

The world could use more moderate Muslims who push back hard against the Islamists, but huge numbers already do wherever it is necessary and possible. So far with the exception of Gaza, mainstream Muslims everywhere in the world risk arrest, torture, and death while resisting Islamist governments and insurgencies whenever they arise.

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A Boxcutter, a Plane, a Qur’an – Again

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

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Ned Colt’s Inspiration

Yesterday on the Today Show, NBC broadcaster Ned Colt offered a disturbing and inaccurate portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Colt begins: “Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam?” Strange use of the word or, indeed. But that’s not the real kicker by a longshot.

COLT: In the West the Saudi born al Qaeda leader is blamed for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and two years later the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. And while he’s never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11, at the very least he inspired the attacks that left 3000 dead.

Bin Laden’s guilt isn’t a stone-cold fact, but a Western construction. And how does Colt know this? Because bin Laden has “never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11.” Actually, he has. But since when does a criminal’s culpability rest on his taking credit for a crime, anyway?

The only person Colt speaks with during this piece is Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, who gushes: “History will remember Osama Bin Laden as the man who challenged the American superpower. The little David who actually stand up against the mighty Goliath.” Lest we miss the point, Colt closes with “American officials believe Bin Laden’s power [“inspirational”, Ned?] has only increased in recent years with his followers now active in at least 40 countries worldwide,” before throwing it over to Brian Williams.

I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to know if a prominent NBC news reporter considers Osama bin Laden a mass-murderer or a guiltless inspiration.

Yesterday on the Today Show, NBC broadcaster Ned Colt offered a disturbing and inaccurate portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Colt begins: “Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam?” Strange use of the word or, indeed. But that’s not the real kicker by a longshot.

COLT: In the West the Saudi born al Qaeda leader is blamed for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and two years later the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. And while he’s never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11, at the very least he inspired the attacks that left 3000 dead.

Bin Laden’s guilt isn’t a stone-cold fact, but a Western construction. And how does Colt know this? Because bin Laden has “never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11.” Actually, he has. But since when does a criminal’s culpability rest on his taking credit for a crime, anyway?

The only person Colt speaks with during this piece is Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, who gushes: “History will remember Osama Bin Laden as the man who challenged the American superpower. The little David who actually stand up against the mighty Goliath.” Lest we miss the point, Colt closes with “American officials believe Bin Laden’s power [“inspirational”, Ned?] has only increased in recent years with his followers now active in at least 40 countries worldwide,” before throwing it over to Brian Williams.

I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to know if a prominent NBC news reporter considers Osama bin Laden a mass-murderer or a guiltless inspiration.

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Bloody Lies!

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

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Ron Paul’s Past

James Kirchick–contentions blogger and assistant editor at The New Republic –has a lengthy exposé of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul up at TNR. It delves into Paul’s history as a publisher of newsletters–anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Israel newsletters, to be precise. The picture it paints of Paul is not a pretty one: he comes off either as a hate-filled demagogue or as an “absentee overseer” (in Kirchick’s phrase) who allowed his staff and associates to publish their work under his name. One especially hilarious disavowal by Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton:

After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, “A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no.”

And there’s one passage that’s weirdly prescient. It calls to mind much of today’s fringe ranting and conspiracy-theorizing:

The rhetoric when it came to Jews was little better. The newsletters display an obsession with Israel; no other country is mentioned more often in the editions I saw, or with more vitriol. A 1987 issue of Paul’s Investment Letter called Israel “an aggressive, national socialist state,” and a 1990 newsletter discussed the “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.” Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.”

Plus ça change, I guess.

James Kirchick–contentions blogger and assistant editor at The New Republic –has a lengthy exposé of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul up at TNR. It delves into Paul’s history as a publisher of newsletters–anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Israel newsletters, to be precise. The picture it paints of Paul is not a pretty one: he comes off either as a hate-filled demagogue or as an “absentee overseer” (in Kirchick’s phrase) who allowed his staff and associates to publish their work under his name. One especially hilarious disavowal by Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton:

After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, “A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no.”

And there’s one passage that’s weirdly prescient. It calls to mind much of today’s fringe ranting and conspiracy-theorizing:

The rhetoric when it came to Jews was little better. The newsletters display an obsession with Israel; no other country is mentioned more often in the editions I saw, or with more vitriol. A 1987 issue of Paul’s Investment Letter called Israel “an aggressive, national socialist state,” and a 1990 newsletter discussed the “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.” Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.”

Plus ça change, I guess.

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An Interview with Michael J. Lewis

Michael J. Lewis is a professor of art at Williams College and a contributor to the horizon, the arts blog of COMMENTARY. He is the author of American Art and Architecture, a recently published survey of American art history and examination of our nation’s distinct architectural heritage. He published Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind, a study of the Victorian style in American architecture, in 2001, and received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award in 1994 for The Politics of the German Gothic Revival: August Rechensperger—a critical study of the German architect.

In our interview, Lewis touches on his fascination with the “American empirical” tradition in the arts, the uninspiring and confused proposed designs for a World Trade Center memorial, the bad effects of U.S. News rankings on college students, and the spectacular contribution of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to American architecture: New York City’s Seagram building.

Michael J. Lewis is a professor of art at Williams College and a contributor to the horizon, the arts blog of COMMENTARY. He is the author of American Art and Architecture, a recently published survey of American art history and examination of our nation’s distinct architectural heritage. He published Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind, a study of the Victorian style in American architecture, in 2001, and received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award in 1994 for The Politics of the German Gothic Revival: August Rechensperger—a critical study of the German architect.

In our interview, Lewis touches on his fascination with the “American empirical” tradition in the arts, the uninspiring and confused proposed designs for a World Trade Center memorial, the bad effects of U.S. News rankings on college students, and the spectacular contribution of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to American architecture: New York City’s Seagram building.

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Susceptible to Cyber-Terror

Gabe Schoenfeld has written skeptically about the new Defense Science Board study, which raises alarms about the Department of Defense’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks, especially in light of the fact that so much of our software code is written abroad, “some in countries that may have interests inimical to those of the United States.”

Gabe wonders:

If our adversaries are as good as we are saying they are at exploiting vulnerabilities in our technology, why are their brilliant programmers not going off on freelance missions to tap in, say, to the electronic systems of a Goldman Sachs and transferring its assets to themselves?

The short answer is they are doing precisely that. It’s just that the public doesn’t hear much about it because the targeted institutions want to keep as quiet as possible for obvious reasons, so as not to encourage copycats and not to endanger the confidence of their clients, investors, and counterparties.

The Financial Times broke the story of one such attack that occurred in 2005. Israeli-Russian mobsters based in Tel Aviv succeeded in hacking into the London offices of the Japanese bank Sumitomo, and almost managed to transfer some $500 million to their own bank accounts. According to one account, this was how the operation was carried out:

Thieves masquerading as cleaning staff with the help of a security guard installed hardware keystroke loggers on computers within the London branch of Sumitomo Mitsui, a huge Japanese bank.

These computers evidently belonged to help desk personnel. The keystroke loggers captured everything typed into the computer including, of course, administrative passwords for remote access.

By installing software keystroke loggers on the PC’s that belonged to the bank personnel responsible for wire transfers over the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, the thieves captured credentials that were then used to transfer 220 million pounds (call it half-a-billion dollars).

These thieves were nabbed in time by Scotland Yard, but if they had succeeded it would have been the greatest bank robbery of all time.

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Gabe Schoenfeld has written skeptically about the new Defense Science Board study, which raises alarms about the Department of Defense’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks, especially in light of the fact that so much of our software code is written abroad, “some in countries that may have interests inimical to those of the United States.”

Gabe wonders:

If our adversaries are as good as we are saying they are at exploiting vulnerabilities in our technology, why are their brilliant programmers not going off on freelance missions to tap in, say, to the electronic systems of a Goldman Sachs and transferring its assets to themselves?

The short answer is they are doing precisely that. It’s just that the public doesn’t hear much about it because the targeted institutions want to keep as quiet as possible for obvious reasons, so as not to encourage copycats and not to endanger the confidence of their clients, investors, and counterparties.

The Financial Times broke the story of one such attack that occurred in 2005. Israeli-Russian mobsters based in Tel Aviv succeeded in hacking into the London offices of the Japanese bank Sumitomo, and almost managed to transfer some $500 million to their own bank accounts. According to one account, this was how the operation was carried out:

Thieves masquerading as cleaning staff with the help of a security guard installed hardware keystroke loggers on computers within the London branch of Sumitomo Mitsui, a huge Japanese bank.

These computers evidently belonged to help desk personnel. The keystroke loggers captured everything typed into the computer including, of course, administrative passwords for remote access.

By installing software keystroke loggers on the PC’s that belonged to the bank personnel responsible for wire transfers over the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, the thieves captured credentials that were then used to transfer 220 million pounds (call it half-a-billion dollars).

These thieves were nabbed in time by Scotland Yard, but if they had succeeded it would have been the greatest bank robbery of all time.

There are also, of course, countless cyber-attacks being carried out every day against the information infrastructure of the U.S. and our allies. The most famous of these was the assault by Russian hackers on Estonia’s computers earlier this year. (For details, see here.)

The U.S. is just as vulnerable to such an attack. In fact, as Ralph Peters argues in this New York Post column, our reliance on computer networks and satellites constitutes one of our biggest strategic vulnerabilities. He calls it a “ ‘high-tech’ Maginot Line,” and I would have to agree with him.

The comparison may seem overwrought, but only because no enemy has tried to exploit this vulnerability in a major way. Yet. We do know, however, that China, Russia, and various non-state actors are working to ramp up their capabilities in this sphere. We’d better step up our defenses, or else face the prospect of many of our super-expensive weapons and surveillance systems being rendered useless in a war. There is also the very real threat of cyber-terrorism wreaking havoc with our financial systems. Just imagine what would happen if the fidelity of banking or trading records were compromised on a massive scale: That could be a more severe blow to our economy than the loss of the World Trade Center.

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War at the Movies

The Washington Times reports—surprise, surprise—that antiwar films aren’t exactly conquering the box office.

In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon, has grossed all of $6.5 million so far, and Rendition, a bigger-budget pic, is off to an equally anemic start. It tells the story of an Egyptian-American kidnapped by the CIA and transported to be tortured abroad—not exactly what audiences are seeking. As the Times notes:

Rendition, which features three Oscar winners in key roles, grossed $4.1 million over the weekend in 2,250 screens for a ninth-place finish. A re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas beat it, and it’s fourteen years old.

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The Washington Times reports—surprise, surprise—that antiwar films aren’t exactly conquering the box office.

In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon, has grossed all of $6.5 million so far, and Rendition, a bigger-budget pic, is off to an equally anemic start. It tells the story of an Egyptian-American kidnapped by the CIA and transported to be tortured abroad—not exactly what audiences are seeking. As the Times notes:

Rendition, which features three Oscar winners in key roles, grossed $4.1 million over the weekend in 2,250 screens for a ninth-place finish. A re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas beat it, and it’s fourteen years old.

By contrast, The Kingdom, a thriller set in Saudi Arabia that presents Americans as the good guys fighting jihadist terrorists, has done better, if still not spectacularly. It has grossed over $44 million so far.

All films focused on the war on terrorism are handicapped, no doubt, by the desire of film-goers to be diverted from, rather than reminded of, their daily worries. I, for one, had no interest in seeing even critically acclaimed movies like World Trade Center and United 93 about September 11. Having been downtown that day, I’m not eager for cinematic reenactments of the horrors I witnessed.

But I might be willing to see a movie that dramatizes the heroics of American soldiers. There is no shortage of examples from which to choose, starting with the late Navy SEAL Michael Murphy, whose family just accepted a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the antiwar crowd in Hollywood to make such a flick. Apparently they’d rather lose money than do anything that might be construed as supporting the American war effort.

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