The View From 1776
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Barack Better-Red-Than-Dead Obama
Generations of Americans have been prepared to die to defend the United States against foreign aggression. Under Obama, they are expected to die in defense of terrorists’ putative legal rights.
During the height of the Cold War, sweet-on-the-Soviet-Union liberal-progressive-socialists pushed for unilateral disarmament. They didn’t want to impede socialistic progressivism in the USSR, and they believed, as does the Obama administration today, that being nice and polite in our dealings with foreign enemies will lead them to reciprocate.
The Obama administration’s treatment of murderous terrorists as if they were people suspected of traffic violations is more of the same.
In the next terrorist attack, American victims will die, presumably happy in the knowledge that full legal rights will be granted to terrorists captured by our military forces (who, of course, must read them their Miranda rights in the midst of life-and-death combat).
The Obama administration’s switch from preventing terrorist attacks to granting foreign terrorists the same legal and procedural protections as those granted to our own citizens explains why large red flags of caution were ignored in the case of the Detroit airliner bombing attempt. It is of a piece with Attorney General Holder’s policy to grant constitutional legal rights to Gitmo terrorists, while prosecuting intelligence community agents who attempted to prevent terrorism.
Wall Street Journal columnist L. Gordon Crovitz explains:
Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee heard an explanation of how U.S. intelligence agencies decide when to put suspected terrorists on a watch list or a no-fly list.
Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, explained the unit’s “reasonable suspicion” standard like this:
“Reasonable suspicion requires ‘articulable’ facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate ‘hunches’ are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion.”
If this sounds like legalistic language, it is. Indeed, a quick Web search was a reminder that this language is adapted from Terry v. Ohio, a landmark Supreme Court case in 1968 that determined when Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches allows the police to frisk civilians or conduct traffic stops. In other words, foreign terrorists have somehow now been granted Fourth Amendment reasonableness rights that courts intended to protect Americans being searched by the local police. Thus was Abdulmutallab allowed on the airplane with his explosives.
The difference between law-enforcement procedures and preventing terrorism could not be clearer. If a well-respected banker takes the initiative to come to a U.S. embassy in Nigeria to report that he thinks his son is a terrorist, we expect intelligence officers to make “hunches,” such as that this person should have his visa reviewed and be searched before getting on a plane. Information is our defense against terrorism, but evidence of terror plots is often incomplete, which is why intelligence requires combining facts with hunches.
The result of prohibiting hunches was that Abdulmutallab was waved through. Information about suspected terrorists flows into a central Terrorist Screening Database, which is then analyzed by the Terrorist Screening Center, where FBI agents apply the “reasonable suspicion” standard to assign people to various watch lists including “selectee” lists and the “no-fly” list. It’s at this point where an approach based on domestic law enforcement trump prevention, undermining the use of information.
This CYA excess of caution by intelligence community operatives is not a reflection of obtuseness in the intelligence community. It is a product of the president’s liberal-progressive policies, the same ones that lead him to bow and scrape to foreign dictators and to blame conduct by the United States for the Islamic jihad.