How Obama has badly hurt America’s ability to acquire data on terrorists.
President Barack Obama has done the opposite. In his desire to establish credentials as the killer of Osama bin Laden, in his desire to get re-elected, Obama has badly hurt America’s ability to acquire data on terrorists.
The Obama Administration outed a sensitive Saudi-British penetration of Al-qaeda which revealed ongoing plans to use more “underwear bombers” against the West. The Obama leak was designed to make Obama look good, but it destroyed a highly valuable penetration of Al-Qaeda.
Similarly, Obama’s team outed what appears to be an Israeli-led effort to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb program by using sophisticated computer viruses. Obama and Co. wanted part of the credit, and so the story came out with nice pat on the back for Obama.
This is part of a pattern for this administration. It invited film crews to the White House to film the made-for-TV movie about Obama VS. Osama. Sensitive information about US procedures leaked out.
Intelligence and intelligence sources come in many forms. Police know this. They jealously guard their undercover efforts and their data. With terror it is even more important, because the real purpose of counter-terror operations is preventing the terror act, not winning a conviction in court.
Israeli officials often decide not to try for a conviction against terrorists in open court, always preferring to stop the terror attack before it can materialize, especially in the case of a “ticking bomb”—a terror assault that is already in the pipeline. The cardinal rule is always the same:
ONE NEVER THROWS AWAY COUNTER-TERROR INTELLIGENCE.
This means technological or signal intelligence—such as wiretaps or monitored bank records or radiation or heat traces, and it also means human intelligence such as penetrating a terror organization or getting information from terrorists who are captured.
Since 2002, Western counter-terror intelligence brought us slowly but surely to Osama Bin-Laden, but more importantly, it saved thousands of American and British lives by alerting us to plots for huge terror attacks in London, Miami and Los Angeles, among many others.
The intelligence saved thousands of lives, but President Obama and his team have taken a cavalier and almost arrogant approach to counter-terror intelligence, and they spill it when it is politically convenient.
Obama campaigned against the US base in Guantanamo where we got information to stop a multiple hijack assault on Los Angeles and another plot against London and Heathrow Airport. Thousands of lives were saved.
Instead of praising the CIA interrogators Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said in early 2009 that they might prosecute them. At around the same time, Obama-Holder also gave away details of interrogations procedures, so terrorists can now know in advance what awaits them.
Thanks to Obama and Holder, Al-Qaeda and other terror groups know just how to prepare for interrogation because Obama and Holder broadcast the interrogation manual.
This is a consistent policy of the Obama Administration that often treats counter-terror warriors and the worst terrorists the same: as mere criminals. It was not a fluke when Holder authorized reading “the Underwear Bomber” his “Miranda Rights,” and it was not a fluke when Holder wanted to give terrorists civilian trials.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is resurrecting the Clinton Administration’s view that the FBI should lead the Department’s many rules and FBI-CIA jurisdictional battles helped pave the way for 9-11.
Are Obama and Co. heading us in the same direction?
Clinton’s Justice Department and other parts of Clinton’s administration made so many rules about FBI and CIA sharing data, so many rules about “profiling,” so many rules about how and where to acquire intelligence agents (“the Deutch Rules”) that 9-11 gestated and matured on their watch.
Intelligence and imagination are the two main weapons against terror, not drone air craft. The Obama team seems to be unarmed—having given away intelligence, while, like Clinton, never really pursuing the intuitive need for imagining where and how terrorists might be preparing to strike.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and counter-terror aide John Brennan are noted for their ability to spill information. Bill and Hillary Clinton have been among the big braggers about getting Bin-Laden. This is the same Bill Clinton who barely met with some of his CIA and FBI directors while he served as president from 1993-2000 when Al-qaeda was preparing 9-11.
Obama, Holder, Hillary and Brennan should learn from this record. Unfortunately they have learned the wrong things.
Data on hostile radical Muslims that reaches the intelligence community is often treated as “prejudiced,” as not “politically correct.” That is exactly how the Fort Hood massacre happened because Army personnel were told to ignore Major Nidal Malik Hassan’s pre-murder performance.
The Fort Hood attack could have been prevented, according to a 61-page Senate report, but the information was ignored.
In general, the Obama team has taken short-sighted approach to intelligence, stopping the flow of blood--good intel to our counter-terror forces. Instead it spills the blood already amassed painstakingly.
It is time to stop bragging about intelligence successes, and it is time to start acting intelligently.
The war against terror is not over, and it is time to stop the war against the war on terror.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat.
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