The Prussian General Von Clausewitz once said that war is politics by other means. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and his four 9/11 co-defendants who will now be tried in a civilian Federal court in New York City will seek to continue their war against the United States by means of their criminal litigation. According to numerous news reports, one of the lawyers for the five men said they intend to plead not guilty and use the trial to provide "their assessment of American foreign policy." This in comparison to the guilty plea KSM was prepared to enter at his military commission, a justice system the U.S. Attorney General supports for other members of al-Qaeda but not for the 9/11 mastermind.
Unfortunately, this is one of the many reasons that KSM's case has no business being in a Federal court, but instead belongs in a military tribunal. In a recent USA Today Op-Ed, I outlined why a civilian trial for KSM could undermine homeland security and strain war fighting operations by merging the rules of civilian law enforcement with battlefield operations. In the same regard, the trial will also strain the criminal justice system in ways supporters of this trial may not have considered.
As part of his litigation as war by other means strategy, KSM will seek to have his trial last for several years and to ensure that KSM and his legal team will surely raise many profound constitutional questions several of which could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. These include, when did KSM's constitutional rights attach and what triggered those rights attaching? What, if any, consequences are there for the government's alleged violations of those rights? Such rights include his right to remain silent, his right to counsel, his right to a speedy trial and his right to be free from government conduct that "shocks the conscience" etc.
The "shocks the conscience" issue is especially rife with potential pitfalls for the current Administration. Can the U.S. government prosecute an individual the government has claimed to have tortured? The current Attorney General has said publicly that water boarding is torture. The U.S. subjected KSM to water boarding as many as 183 times according to several reports. KSM will therefore argue that America tortured him, and that torture is the very definition of conduct that shocks the conscience. As such, the case should be dismissed as a repudiation of such conduct and a vindication of the right to be free from it. The government may counter that none of the information gleaned from interrogations that violated any of KSM's rights will be used at trial to convict KSM, and that his treatment is a matter under separate investigation and possible prosecution.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed such a case head on but there are cases that intimate that even if the government does not use evidence at trial obtained via conduct that shocks the conscience, the case can nonetheless be dismissed. Here, I believe the Justice Department is banking on the fact that KSM is such an unsympathetic defendant and the 9/11 attacks are such a heinous "crime" that the courts will find some reason, any reason - procedural or otherwise - to find in the government's favor on such a claim. If some courts don't, the Obama Administration may end up having to defend the enhanced interrogation techniques, including water boarding, used against KSM, insofar as it relates to preserving the case against him. There is a saying that "hard facts make bad law" and the KSM trial could become the poster boy for that phrase.
As several others have noted, if all of KSM's motions are denied from change of venue (if KSM does not have a claim here what criminal defendant could ever argue for a change of venue) to dismissal, it may set a terrible precedent for the rest of us. After all, these are our constitutional rights and by bringing KSM to New York the Attorney General has made him one of us under the law. If the government prevails against KSM on all his constitutional challenges, especially the theory that the government's own alleged torture of KSM should not result in a dismissal; we may have a precedent on the books that the U.S. government can torture a criminal defendant and prosecute them in Federal court, so long as information obtained from that torture is not used at trial to convict.
The hope that the decisions related to the KSM case can be quarantined or "distinguished" for purposes of future civilian criminal cases makes a mockery of the trial and the concept of precedent under the law. Such a mockery is nearly equal to the fact that the President has said we will convict and execute KSM. Not to be outdone, the Attorney General has said publicly he will detain KSM even if KSM is acquitted or the case is dismissed. Such statements blatantly violate Justice Department guidelines. Nor will such statements go unchallenged by KSM's legal team who will argue that a jury will never acquit if it won't impact the defendant's liberty. This is the very definition of a civilian kangaroo court. Why are we giving KSM rights he otherwise does not have only to trample all over them?
As a witness to, and survivor of, the 9/11 attacks it is my sincere hope that KSM walks into Federal court, pleads guilty and is executed shortly thereafter. However, my hope gives way under the growing evidence that KSM will raise all of the above issues and many more in order to drag the case on for years and provide a platform for America's sworn enemies to rail against U.S. policy and recruit others to their cause. This is, after all, what enemy combatants do when they are captured in war. KSM and his cohorts know they are not merely criminal defendants. They understand they are at war with us and will seek to use our own Constitution against us by prevailing on their claims or sticking the rest of us with the precedent of their failure to do so.
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Tonight, President Obama announced his decision to surge roughly 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan to roll back the Taliban and disrupt and defeat al-Qaeda. The President asked for unity and support in this effort. He has mine.
After eight years, many American are tired of this war and want it to come to an end. These feelings are strongest among the President's core supporters making his decision that much more courageous. Regardless of how the war has gone up until this point, make no mistake, what happens over there is directly tied to our security right here.
With a war weary public in mind, the President felt compelled to remind Americans that the attacks of 9/11 were launched from Afghanistan and that our failure there, in whole or even in parts of that country, could lead to more attacks here at home. In fact, just recently, Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested for plotting to bomb New York City, allegedly received training in the lawless border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, one of the most ambitious al-Qaeda plots since 9/11 involving the 2006 conspiracy to bomb several U.S. airline carriers from the U.K. to the U.S. also had ties to this lawless region.
The toll this surge will take on the military and their families will be enormous. Many of the young soldiers and marines who go on this mission will not come home. The issue of how to deal with Pakistan is delicate and not entirely clear, and the setting of a timeline, albeit one subject to conditions on the ground, is nonetheless risky. With all that, the President has made the case for why this must be done. My sincere hope is that he continues his resolve throughout the inevitable victories and setbacks.
In the end, I believe the dedication and sacrifice of our military with civilian agency support can bring this war of necessity to a successful conclusion making all of us the safer for it.
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I recently watched HBO's documentary "Terror in Mumbai" a recount of the deadly terrorist attack against Mumbai one year ago launched by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taibain, (Army of the Righteous), based out of Pakistan. The attacks lasted for three days and claimed the lives of 170 people. I recommend that anyone in the homeland security/emergency management business see it.
The documentary, narrated by CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who is from Mumbai, provides interesting insights and actual phone conversations between the attackers and their handler inside Pakistan during the incident. The assault involved ten men armed with machine guns, grenades, cell phones and small amounts of food and water. It was hardly a sophisticated 9/11 style attack requiring the flying of large jet aircraft, but it was still deadly and grabbed international headlines.
There were two major lessons from the 2008 Mumbai attack and the film touched on both of them: First, how could Mumbai, a city whose mass transit system was attacked by the same group in 2006, killing over 200 people, not be better prepared to prevent and respond to such an event; and second, such an event could happen in any major U.S. city.
Virtually all of the targets in Mumbia were "soft targets" - hotels, night clubs and mass transit hubs. The attackers had gone to such lengths in their preparation that they were more heavily armed and knew the buildings better than the police they battled during the earlier part of the attack. Indeed, the terrorists began their pre-operational planning and surveillance months, perhaps a year, prior to the actual assault.
With all this pre-operational planning, someone at one of the hotels - a security guard, a bus boy, a maid, a janitor, or a parking attendant - must have seen something that appeared suspicious and if passed to law enforcement could have possibly helped prevent the attacks. Indeed, Indian intelligence had earlier infiltrated the group by providing them with sym cards for cell phones which enabled the Indians to trace and listen to the conversations between the gunmen and their handler in Pakistan during the three day siege. Unfortunately, the sym cards only went active the night of the assault. Regardless, how a city such as Mumbai did not have a means to collect, report and analyze such suspicious activity is beyond explanation.
While it was clear Mumbai had no means for detecting the terrorists in their pre-operational planning phase, it was equally clear they had no means of combating them once the operation commenced. The Mumbai police could not establish command and control within their own department and their coordination with the military was abysmal. Some of the police actually ran from the gunmen while others tried to battle them with single shot rifles.
We have done a lot in this country to better prepare ourselves for such events using the National Incident Management System and the National Response Framework, but one cannot help but wonder how local, state and federal law enforcement would coordinate their activities under a well planned military style assault on civilian targets. Every major urban area law enforcement agency in America would be wise to exercise such a scenario with the FBI and possibly the Defense Department to test incident command and unified command.
Finally, and most importantly, are we in the U.S. able to detect the pre-operational planning that would occur prior to such an event and can our intelligence systems intake it and then analyze it to thwart the attack? This is essential, for as the documentary explains, the overwhelming number of those killed were struck down in the first several minutes of the assault. Therefore, even a flawless response would have left well over a hundred dead. I suspect the answer to such a question depends on what jurisdiction you ask, but no matter the jurisdiction, the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks should be a wake-up call for us all.
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On Tuesday, December 8th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will release grant guidance for numerous programs, including the Urban Areas Security Initiative, (UASI), State Homeland Security Program, (SHSP), Port Security Grant Program, (PSGP) and many more amounting to roughly $2 billion in homeland security funding for states, large urban areas, ports and other recipients. This will kick off a process lasting several months whereby those recipients will put forward projects they would like to see funded with that money. As in years past, one of the most anticipated elements of Tuesday's roll out will be which cities/urban areas are on the UASI list.
The UASI funds address the unique planning, operational, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high threat, high density urban areas, such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and assists them in building a capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from threats and acts of terrorism. Since its inception in 2003, the UASI list of jurisdictions eligible for funding has never stayed the same. Cities have been added, merged and/or dropped in each grant cycle. The program began with $100 million and seven cities in 2003 and had $800 million and sixty two jurisdictions last year.
Changes in the UASI list are due largely to the fact that the congressionally mandated terrorism risk based formula, which looks at threats, the vulnerabilities of a jurisdiction and the consequences of an attack, used to determine who is eligible for funding has been altered in its make-up and application each year. This hardly creates stability in the program and for those who participate in it. As one who oversaw the first three years of the program and its formula, I'm guilty as anyone on this issue, but I, and my colleagues at the time, had an excuse: no one had ever done anything like the UASI program and its formula before and we were learning as we built the program from scratch.
Today, the rational for major changes in eligibility for funding under UASI are all but gone, especially when it comes to removing jurisdictions from the list. As for adding new jurisdictions, I would advise DHS to do so with caution and with an eye toward determining what level of long term funding will be made available as the work that goes into standing up the UASI program and managing it at the local level is enormous. To do so for one grant cycle, only to be cut off next year, will be difficult for all involved. Finally, for those who remain stuck in the purgatory of having once been on the list but are now off, Tuesday may be filled with anticipation, hope and ultimately joy or disappointment. Good luck Omaha.
"Individuals sympathetic to al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as those inspired by their ideology, are present in the U.S., and would like to attack the homeland or plot overseas attacks against our interests abroad." U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
December 3, 2009
As Congress investigates and the Obama Administration prepares its report on what intelligence agencies did or did not know about Nidal Malik Hasan, and what could have prevented his alleged massacre at Fort Hood; America must face up to what Secretary Napolitano outlined - al-Qaeda the organization has long metastasized into al-Qaeda the movement resulting in an ever growing threat against the homeland from domestic Islamic radicals in addition to "corporate al-Qaeda" operatives with more direct ties to the group and its base in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
Numerous pundits, journalists, and politicians have bent over backwards in their hope that Nidal Malik Hasan is not a radical Islamist terrorist. As this hope rapidly fades, it should not be replaced with the even more dangerous hope that Hasan is a one-off aberration. Indeed, while America prepares to escalate its fight with such radicals overseas, we must also deal with the fact that America's radicalization problem at home is getting worse, not better.
While it is true that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but are instead peaceful, loyal and law abiding; it is equally true that the vast majority of the most dangerous terrorists confronting the U.S. are Muslim and commit terror in the name of Islam. We will never deal with this problem if we are unwilling to be honest about it. Political correctness is bad enough in the more mundane aspects of life; in the field of homeland security it can be deadly. That said, American Muslims do and must continue to play a vital role in our security whether they serve inside or out of government.
Most Americans got their first taste of home grown Islamic radicalism when they saw John Walker Lindh on television after he was captured by Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan in November 2001 after fighting for the Taliban. Lindh came from a middle class family in northern California and had no known criminal history. He is now part of a growing list of Americans, including one Adam Gadahn of southern California, who have declared war on their own country in the name of their religion. Gadahn is the first person in over fifty years to be indicted for treason based on his ongoing service to al-Qaeda. Both Gadahn and Lindh are converts to Islam.
Many see this radicalization largely as the convergence of isolation, a grievance culture, rage, and fundamentalist religion merged with politics, capped by exploitation on the part of men like Usama bin Laden and his recruiters who seek to capitalize on it either through direct operational support or prodding propaganda. It has infected a wide swath of people in America from U.S. Army personnel, business men, college students and others.
In 2006, I sat on a Prisoner Radicalization Task Force sponsored by George Washington University and the University of Virginia, charged with looking into the issue of radicalization in correctional facilities inside the U.S. The Task Force report entitled "Out of the Shadows: Getting Ahead of Prisoner Radicalization" was submitted to Congress in September 2006 and had several important findings and recommendations. This included the fact that radicalization in prisons is not a new phenomenon nor is it unique to Islam; better information sharing among correctional agencies and law enforcement across the U.S. is needed; along with better tracking of released prisoners to ensure they are not recruited by radical groups posing as social service providers etc.
Beyond the prison walls, the radicalization trend has existed for some time and has been demonstrated not only in the cases of John Walker Lind and Adam Gadahn, but in numerous others as well. In 2003, Hasan Karim Akbar a U.S. Army sergeant detonated grenades at a base in Kuwait, killing two people and wounding 14 others. In 2008, three men from Toledo, Ohio were convicted of conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. in Iraq. In 2009, two men in Atlanta were convicted of providing material support to al-Qaeda and lying to federal investigators. In all cases the men were either U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Other recent examples include the 2009 case of American Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot two soldiers at a Little Rock, Arkansas recruiting station, killing one. Just this October, Tarek Mehanna, an American citizen, was arrested outside Boston on charges he conspired to attack a shopping mall, American soldiers overseas and two former members of the Bush Administration. In addition, FBI agents in Dearborn, Michigan recently shot and killed radical Islamic leader Luqman Ameen Abdullah after trying to arrest him on weapons charges when Abdullah resisted and opened fire. Abdullah was part of a group that allegedly sought to establish a separate Islamic State inside the United States.
Finally, a terrorist network broken-up by the FBI in Minneapolis last month involved numerous Somali American men who were recruited to fight in Somalia on behalf of al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab. One of the American recruits, a 27 year old college student, allegedly blew himself up in Somalia in 2008 as part of an attack that killed over 20 U.N. workers. There are other examples but the list is simply too long to place here.
While security programs and investigations against potential radicals are a critical method of detecting and disrupting such a threat, they alone cannot defeat this scourge. Rather, a strategy whereby Muslims inside the U.S. and around the world discredit such radical thinking at its core, starting with outspoken and unapologetic denouncing of those who kill in the name of Islam, is essential. This happened in the Hasan case with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and others putting out a quick and strongly worded condemnation of the attack. This is welcome and important because these crimes are not simply committed by terrorists who happen to be Muslim, but are committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. This is a fight over the heart and soul of Islam and every Muslim has a stake in it.
As Muslims condemn acts of terrorism committed in the name of their faith, the reaction of many Muslims across the globe to mere insults regularly incurred by other religions, especially Christianity here in the U.S., must also be rebuked. For example, the show Curb Your Enthusiasm on Home Box Office recently had an episode where the show's star and producer, Larry David, urinated on a picture of Jesus. While it was a vile and juvenile act, neither the Archbishop of Los Angeles nor any other Christian leader issued a death warrant against Mr. David.
Compare the Larry David situation with the cartoon of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban printed in a Danish newspaper, or comments from the Pope that included reading a quotation from ancient times that claimed that Islam was wrong to try and impose itself via the sword. These pictures and words draw mass criticism and deadly violence in the streets. In fact, American David Coleman Headley was one of two men charged just this October in Chicago with plotting to attack that very Danish newspaper because of those cartoons. Coleman was also charged yesterday with assisting the attack in Mumbai last November that killed 170 people. On the other hand, the bombings of mosques, including one in Pakistan just a few days ago, and the murder of innocent Muslim men, women and children by other Muslims, draws little or no reaction.
Secretary Napolitano's acknowledgment is not a call to randomly profile or discriminate against Muslims. Instead, it should be viewed as a call for Muslim leaders, parents, teachers and others to teach tolerance to their children as a general principal that underlies what it means to be an American and to engage and combat the people, culture and rhetoric that would seek to radicalize their children. Non-Muslims are not "infidels" and as evidenced by attacks and repression around the world, those who murder in the name of Islam are as much a threat to Muslims as to anyone.
While there is much to disdain about modern American culture, total isolation from the larger American melting pot is unwise, and killing in the name of opposition to it is never acceptable. Nor are profound disagreements with U.S. foreign policy a basis for attacking the U.S. at home or abroad. This is where Muslims, and all American citizens and immigrants for that matter, have to make a fundamental choice - is America our home or simply an address at which we currently reside with no allegiance towards this country and its core values, or worse, violent hostility aimed at it. This latter choice is one that Nidal Malik Hasan and many others before him allegedly made. They saw themselves as strangers in a strange land. From here, let us do more than hope that others don't follow suit.
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Brian Ross of ABC News, who is among the best investigative journalists in the business, has just obtained a copy of the interrogation report issued by the Pakistani police on the five American Muslims who were captured in Pakistan this week and accused of seeking to wage jihad against the United States. This is yet another in an ever growing number of cases involving alleged domestic radicalization. It remains unclear as to whether or when the five men will be deported back to the U.S.
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Tonight, DHS has released the FY 2010 Transit Security Grant Program guidance. The program provides $288 million for planning, equipment, training, exercises and operational activities to enhance mass transit security across the country. The guidance was supposed to have been released on Tuesday, with the other grant programs, but was held up due to some last minute policy issues that appear to have been resolved.
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There is an axiom in homeland security that we have to be right every time we act and the terrorists only have to be right once in order to "succeed." While true, the fact that preventing every terrorist incident is impossible is not a defense for why a particular attack was not prevented. Rather, a close examination of the specific facts and circumstances surrounding each incident must dictate the outcome on preventability and overall lessons learned. It should not be a witch hunt or partisan exercise. At least one can hope.
As for the Fort Hood Massacre, the federal government has yet to release any portions of its initial findings about what it knew when and how it reacted to what it knew. The findings were supposed to be released in some form on November 30th. A more extensive independent investigation into the FBI's conduct, to be headed by William Webster, former CIA and FBI director, was announced last week. At this point, by all accounts, the massacre was an act of terrorism and the worst since 9/11 on U.S. soil. ABC News's Brian Ross has done by far the best reporting on the Fort Hood attack and lays out compelling evidence as to why this was a terrorist incident and what the warning signs were. Until the government releases its preliminary findings this is all we have to go on.
The 9/11 Commission Report has a chapter entitled, "The System was Blinking Red" in reference to the intelligence coming in during the days and weeks leading up to the 9/11 attack. Based on Ross's and other reporting, with Nidal Malik Hasan, the system should have popped. To put this in perspective imagine this: It's 1985. Major Hasan has roughly twenty phone calls with recruiters inside the Soviet embassy (instead of emails with an al-Qaeda recruiter). The FBI monitors these calls (as they did the emails). During several public Army meetings Major Hasan states that he is a devout socialist (Islamist) and that capitalists (infidels) should have boiling oil poured down their throats and their heads cut off. On his business card Major Hasan has the words "Soldier of Lenin" written on it (in place of "Soldier of Allah").
Major Hasan writes a letter to the editor of his local newspaper espousing the virtues of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (posts a comment on the internet that suicide bombers are heroes) and tells fellow Army members that the CIA's support of the Afghan resistance is tantamount to war crimes (says that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan should be charged with war crimes). Hasan also states publicly that socialists should be granted release from the Army due to the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the inherent conflict this creates for socialists in the U.S. Army (Muslims in the U.S. Army should be released due to the conflict of interest they face based on the U.S. wars in two Muslim countries).
It's hard to imagine Major Hasan lasting fifteen minutes in the U.S. Army in 1985 at the height of the Cold War under the above circumstances. How he lasted as long as he did in today's Army with the multiple hot wars we are fighting against radical Islamists begs an explanation. It is an explanation we are still waiting for.
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As is typical in such incidents, what really happened on board Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit is still taking shape. What started as fire crackers going off on board a jetliner has turned into a sophisticated incendiary device employed by a suspected terrorist designed to bring the jet down over U.S. soil. No doubt, the "facts" surrounding this incident will change as more and better information pours in surrounding this apparent attempted terrorist attack. It is worth noting, however, that the White House almost immediately came out yesterday and asserted the Northwest flight incident was an attempted act of terrorism. This compared to their reluctance in the Fort Hood case, where the Administration has still not officially or unofficially directly called that attack an act of terrorism.
There are so many questions concerning the Northwest flight incident. Key among them is how did the alleged terrorist get his device on board a jumbo jet headed to the U.S.? The terror suspect, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, is apparently in a U.S. intelligence community database, but not on the "No Fly List." This according to several reports, including from Congressman Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. If true, was DHS given access to that information, and if not, why not? Was Mutallab allowed on the Northwest flight in spite of that information being provided to DHS? In either case, was Mutallab screened before getting on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit (he was apparently screened prior to boarding his feeder KLM Airlines flight from Nigeria to Amsterdam)? If so, was he subjected to secondary screening as part of that process?
Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab has apparently claimed to be a member of al-Qaeda who got his explosives and instructions from Yemen. This is suspicious on a number of levels. First, al-Qaeda operatives don't usually blurt this out so early in the investigation and second, why did he attempt to detonate the device in his seat, as opposed to the bathroom, which was a lesson learned from the Richard Reid shoe bomber case from 2001? In that case, Reid tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 over the Atlantic Ocean by detonating a bomb packed in his shoe. He tried to ignite the fuse while in his seat but was tackled by passengers and crew before he could succeed.
By all accounts thus far, two things apparently failed in the Northwest flight case, our aviation security measures and the terrorist's ability to carry out the final act in his plot. The latter fact should provide little comfort as to the former. As with the shoe bomber case, Mutallab's alleged attempted detonation of his device in his seat provided an opportunity for the other passengers to do what they did: tackle him and prevent him from exploding his device.
Perhaps Mutallab is an al-Qaeda operative in an intelligence community database, which may explain the White House's quick assertion that it was an attempted act of terrorism, but he is one who did not want to die, which may explain his choosing to detonate his bomb in his seat as opposed to the bathroom. Whether Mutallab is a trained al-Qaeda operative or a lone wolf inspired by the radical terror movement, one thing is for sure: Thank God for stupid terrorists and brave passengers.
In the wake of the attempted terrorist bombing of Northwest Flight 253, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Transportation Security Administration, announced several new security measures for passengers on international and certain domestic flights. This includes remaining seated one hour before the flight lands on U.S. soil and no access to carry-on baggage and no personal belongings or other items on laps during that same one hour time period. The biggest problem with these security measures, beyond the significant inconvenience for travelers, is that the imposition of such security protocols assumes the terrorist is already onboard the flight. That's hardly a comforting feeling at thirty thousand feet. They also serve notice to terrorists to act one hour and fifteen minutes before the flight lands.
While I certainly recognize the need to increase the level and randomness of certain security measures onboard flights, the real emphasis should be on enhancing intelligence sharing and collaboration between the intelligence community, which is responsible for determining who the terrorists are, and DHS, which is responsible for screening passengers so as to prevent the terrorists from entering the flight in the first place or at least subjecting the suspected terrorists to heightened screening before boarding the plane. Such information sharing must also include our international and private sector partners who, as in the case of Northwest Flight 253, do the actual on the ground screening in many cases.
According to numerous reports, the U.S. government did create a file this year on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), the intelligence community's primary overarching repository of information on known and suspected international terrorists. This file was apparently based, in part, on Abdulmutallab's own father warning the U.S. embassy in Nigeria about his son's radical Islamic views. This warning allegedly came after the U.S. issued the younger Abdulmutallab a visa in June 2008, but incredibly the warning had no impact on the status of that visa.
It is true that being in the TIDE database does not automatically mean one would have been placed on the "No Fly List" as to be put on the No Fly List requires a certain level of derogatory information not required for the TIDE database. Nor does one's presence in the TIDE require automatic secondary screening at the airport or the revocation of a visa. However, the fact that it was Abdulmutallab's own father, a prominent banker in Nigeria, who took the time to warn U.S. officials about his son, raises questions as to whether Abdulmutallab should have been placed in a higher risk database in the first place. Moreover, beyond placing Abdulmutallab in the TIDE, what additional follow-up did our government take as result of the father's warning, and what, if any, other information did intelligence agencies have on Abdulmutallab, and did they share it with DHS?
Going forward, we must re-examine the entire screening and terrorist database management system, both of which have had problems for years. This must include determining whether everyone in the TIDE database should at least be subject to secondary screening before entering an aircraft bound for the U.S., and what standards should be used for re-evaluating a visa issued to someone subsequently placed into the TIDE. How many of us would like our families to board flights with an individual in the TIDE database where that person had not been subject to secondary screening and where that individual's own father had recently warned U.S. authorities of his son's radical Islamic views?
As the picture surrounding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his alleged attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 continues to come into focus, we will see new facts emerge and old "facts" discredited and dropped. As we evaluate this incident, it's critical we view the event in the larger context of the war being waged against us at home and abroad. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman put it best on Sunday when describing this latest attack as just one in nearly a dozen aimed at our homeland this year, including the Fort Hood massacre. It is also just the latest case of Islamic radicalization turning potentially deadly. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab comes from a wealthy and prominent family in Nigeria and was educated in the West and yet he still chose to go to Yemen to train for jihad against the United States. Unfortunately, as Abdulmutallab allegedly said to authorities, there are many more like him ready and willing to strike.
Finally, the recent failure to act in the face of overwhelming intelligence in the Fort Hood case, coupled with the nearly catastrophic failure to simply conduct enhanced screening procedures in the wake of intelligence on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, raises questions about our current state of security. Rather than straining the bladders of innocent passengers by focusing on one hour seating requirements, we must shake up the system and challenge our current operating assumptions in aviation and beyond. We need a new sense of urgency in the homeland security mission across the government and among the public. Not a flailing panic or political sloganeering, but rather, strong leadership and a focused and unified resolve to quickly and smartly adapt to ever evolving circumstances and threats.
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