The larger (nuclear) threat

By Glenn Kessler
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 
The Washington Times


As important as the economy is, our survival is more important. As FBI Director Robert Mueller has told me, al Qaeda’s goal is to wipe us out with nuclear weapons. In considering which presidential candidate would better protect us, we need to understand why we have not had a successful attack in more than seven years.

Many would say it’s an accident or luck. They are wrong. The reason we have not been hit is the sweeping changes in the intelligence community initiated by President Bush and the work of the FBI and CIA under his direction.

When Mr. Bush proclaimed any country harboring a terrorist would be considered a terrorist country, Arab countries began cooperating in the war on terror, turning over thousands of terrorists and leads. Mr. Bush made the FBI become more prevention-oriented. Now every case becomes the basis to develop new sources. These informants may be run out for years to infiltrate terrorist groups.

As Art Cummings, who heads FBI counterterrorism investigations, has told me, when an agent wants to make an arrest, he tells the agent, “Your objective is not to make the arrest. Your objective is to make that suspect our collection platform. That guy now is going to tell us just how big and broad the threat might be. He now becomes a means to collection, instead of the target of collection.”

The media claim that the FBI and CIA still don’t speak to each other. But in 2005, Mr. Bush established the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va., where 200 analysts from the CIA and FBI sit side by side analyzing threats 24 hours a day.

Mr. Bush’s Patriot Act tore down the so-called wall Attorney General Janet Reno imposed, a wall that prevented FBI agents from sharing information with each other and with the CIA. Despite al Qaeda’s efforts to use the Iraq war as a recruitment tool, a Pew Research Center survey found over the last six years support for suicide bombings and for Osama bin Laden in many Muslim countries has been cut by half or more.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI, the CIA and the military have rolled up about 5,000 terrorists worldwide. Every few months, the FBI announces new arrests of terrorists. Thus, many plots are never hatched because terrorists have been killed, arrested or sent back to their own countries and imprisoned.

Barack Obama has made it clear that, if elected president, he would take away tools necessary not only to connect the dots but also to find them in the first place. In fact, he twice voted against revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow the National Security Agency to continue to monitor foreign terrorists’ calls without a warrant, even if all parties are foreigners situated overseas. When he saw the tide was turning, he eventually voted for the bill.

Like a Rip Van Winkle who is unaware of recent history, Mr. Obama has cited the government’s prosecution of those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as the correct way to deal with terrorism. Apparently, Mr. Obama missed learning that the Sept. 11 hijackers wanted to be martyrs and were prepared to be jailed or killed. No threat of prosecution would have deterred them.

Mr. Obama later backtracked, saying his policy position papers assert he would use military force as well. But his televised comments tell more about his true feelings than papers drafted by advisers. What he said is disturbingly consistent with the rest of his views on national security.

Asked by Brian Williams how he would change the U.S. military stance overseas if terrorists hit two American cities simultaneously, Mr. Obama began talking about having an emergency response plan. After two planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001, no emergency response plan would have saved the men and women who jumped to their deaths from windows of the Twin Towers. Nor would any emergency plan have helped the young children who, with tears streaming down their faces, held up photos of their mothers or fathers, hoping someone would say they survived the attack.

When the Rev. Rick Warren asked Mr. Obama….

Read the restL


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