A frightening look at the root of our intelligence failures.
Russian authorities warned the Obama administration repeatedly -- not merely once -- that Boston Marathon bombing mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev could be an Islamic terrorist, but those admonitions went unheeded in Washington, D.C.
It's a depressingly familiar tale of intelligence failures, official lies, politically correct posturing, and bureaucratic bungles coming from an administration that has little interest in protecting Americans from the Islamic terrorist threat, a danger President Obama refuses even to acknowledge.
Time magazine previously reported that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) warned the U.S. government about Tsarnaev a single time two years ago, after he frequented a radical mosque in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, during a six-month visit to that politically unstable, jihadist-friendly Russian republic. The mosque is reportedly a terrorist hangout.
But the Boston Globe now reports there were several such warnings.
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were told during a briefing closed to the public that Russia made "multiple contacts" with the United States regarding Tsarnaev, including “at least once since October 2011,’’ Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told reporters.
The FBI previously acknowledged its investigators interviewed Tsarnaev in early 2011 but did not determine him to be a threat. He was not placed on the "no-fly" list.
As FrontPage reported last September, FBI agents aren’t allowed to treat individuals associated with terrorist groups as potential threats to the nation.
The fact that a terrorism suspect is associated with a terrorist group officially means nothing, according to the FBI document, “Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training.”
After first handcuffing FBI agents investigating terrorism, the "Touchstone" document also invokes the gods of political correctness by making agents afraid of asking useful questions that might produce actionable information.
“Training must emphasize that no investigative or intelligence collection activity may be based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation,” the Touchstone document reads, borrowing some language from civil rights legislation.
“Specifically, training must focus on behavioral indicators that have a potential nexus to terrorist or criminal activity, while making clear that religious expression, protest activity, and the espousing of political or ideological beliefs are constitutionally protected activities that must not be equated with terrorism or criminality absent other indicia of such offenses.”
It's not that much of an exaggeration to say that the FBI could not have done anything about Tsarnaev unless he strapped on a suicide vest in front of them, called them "infidels," and detailed his abominable plans. Diverting attention away from the Obama White House, the Boston Globe article fatuously editorializes that the new revelation of multiple warnings from the FSB raises "new questions about whether the FBI should have focused more attention on the suspected Boston Marathon bomber."
After the closed-door briefing, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) criticized the multiple intelligence failures.
"This is troubling to me that this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001 that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively," Collins said, without elaborating.
Tsarnaev's name had been entered into the "Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment" (TIDE), a classified database created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. The system holds files on about 450,000 people U.S. officials regard as known, suspected, or potential terrorists worldwide.
The system is so large U.S. investigators do not routinely keep tabs on every individual listed there, according to a Reuters report. That explanation, however, seems a bit too convenient. The alternate explanation unexplored in the news item is that the Obama administration doesn't care about terrorism.
This isn't the first time someone flagged in the TIDE database has later been involved in an Islamic terrorist plot against the United States. Somehow Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian "Underwear Bomber," got onboard a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day 2009 and tried to blow it out of the sky.
Months earlier his father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a prominent banker in Nigeria who visits the U.S. frequently, warned U.S. authorities of his son's growing extremism and the possibility he might be involved in something untoward.
U.S. government officials said they didn't put Abdulmutallab's name on a "no-fly" list because they didn't have sufficient derogatory information about him. In January last year he received four sentences of life imprisonment plus an additional 50 years.
Meanwhile, the Boston Herald reports that Massachusetts taxpayers were subsidizing the Boston Marathon bombers and their almost comically dysfunctional family as the two Tsarnaev brothers immersed themselves in the world of Islamic terrorism.
In the lead-up to the Boston attack he masterminded, now-decommissioned terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev added insult to injury by living large on state welfare benefits, leeching off the good people of the Bay State he despised so much.
"The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money," the newspaper observes.
Killed by police last Friday, Tamerlan received welfare benefits from an unknown start date until 2012. His wife and their three-year-old daughter also received those benefits. Tamerlan and his brother, the now-hospitalized bomber number two, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, also received welfare through their parents when they were younger.
Although Massachusetts Health and Human Services spokesman Alec Loftus said the Tsarnaevs “were not receiving transitional assistance benefits at the time" of the marathon bombing, he refused to provide details about the benefits the family was given.
Then there is the still unresolved matter of Saudi visa student Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi.
When Alharbi was hospitalized after being injured in the Boston bomb blast, the government reportedly labeled him a "suspect," but soon watered down that description, calling him a "person of interest," and eventually a mere "witness."
But days after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refused to answer Congressman Jeff Duncan's (R-S.C.) questions about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Alharbi (also spelled al-Harbi), she made a startling admission Tuesday while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Napolitano if Alharbi was on a watchlist, "and if so, how did he obtain a student visa?” She replied:
“He was not on a watchlist. What happened is — this student was, really when you back it out, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never a subject. He was never even really a person of interest. Because he was being interviewed, he was at that point put on a watchlist, and then when it was quickly determined he had nothing to do with the bombing, the watch listing status was removed.”
If Napolitano has her watchlist facts right, this means the Obama administration puts individuals on watchlists when they are merely questioned as part of an investigation. This seems drastic and presumptuous, and if true, a new cause to alarm civil libertarians.
The media has reported conflicting information about whether Alharbi is or was at one point on the government's "no-fly" list, and whether he is or was scheduled to be deported from the U.S.
Many questions remain about Alharbi and the confusing paper trail the government created around him.
Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, previously reported that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center (NTC) created an "event" file on Alharbi under section 212 (3b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the part of the federal statute that deals with aliens involved in terrorism.
Then yesterday The Blaze updated this information, reporting that the NTIC event file described Alharbi as “armed and dangerous.”
"Alharbi was admitted into the country under a 'special advisory option,' which is usually reserved for visiting politicians, VIPs, or journalists," according to The Blaze. "The event file cover page indicates he was granted his status without full vetting."
Jihadists must be delighted that Saudi nationals will be eligible next year to receive preferential treatment from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency when they enter the United States.
Like travelers from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, the Netherlands, and soon Australia, travelers from Saudi Arabia will be able to skip the usual CBP lines at airports by providing their fingerprints and machine-readable passports at an automated kiosk, the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports.
As the CBP puts it, the Global Entry "trusted traveler" program "allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States."
Given the fact that the Obama administration denies Islamic terrorism is a major threat to the U.S. and has been aiding Islamist organizations in at least Libya, Egypt, and Syria, there is little reason to be reassured when CBP boasts that "[a]ll applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment."
DHS Secretary Napolitano thinks allowing the Wahhabist kingdom that produced 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers to share in vetting Global Entry speed-pass applicants makes perfect sense.
"By enhancing collaboration with the government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel," Napolitano said in January after meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
But given Saudi Arabia's long and odious track record as an incubator for jihadists and underwriter of terrorist operations, perhaps allowing the Saudis to join the exclusive Global Entry club isn't such a good idea.
Maybe, at a minimum, we should make them wait in line at the airport like everyone else.
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