“I would like to see January 6th burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of a shock to the system.” That was Washington Post columnist George Will in a May 23 appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” Will “seems to have taken complete leave of his senses,” wrote Conrad Black, who compared the two events.
On January 6, 2021, a few hundred people entered the U.S. Capitol and caused “relatively minor damage.” Of the five casualties, only one, a Trump supporter, died of unnatural causes, “shot in the neck by a still unidentified Capitol Police officer.” And as the FBI verified, the intrusion was not coordinated with Trump, who called for a peaceful demonstration.
On September 11, 2001, by contrast, 3,000 people perished in a “meticulously planned, barbarously executed assault,” with hijacked airliners. The “massacre of the innocents,” as Osama bin Laden described it, was “designed to intimidate the entire country, and to force the United States into a more accommodating policy toward terrorists and their preferred causes, especially the destruction of the State of Israel.”
George Will can’t see the difference but he provided a service by reminding the public of 9/11, soon to mark 20 years. That calls for a review of how 19 Islamic jihadists pulled off the deadliest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor.
“It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country,” noted 9/11 and Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, released in 2004. By this time 20 years ago, the report explains, the al Qaeda team “demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States.”
The hijackers began to acquire U.S. visas in April 1999, two years and five months before the attack. Consular officers had no information about fraudulent travel stamps used by al Qaeda, and were not trained in terrorist travel tactics.
Three hijackers were known as al Qaeda terrorists in early 2000, but their biographical information was not communicated to border authorities for watch listing at U.S. consulates and the border. The hijackers successfully entered the United States 33 of 34 times, with the first arriving on January 15, 2000, at Los Angeles International Airport. All others entered through airports on the East Coast, including 11 entries through New York area airports and 12 through Florida airports.
The terrorists included 14 “muscle hijackers,” trained to gain entry to the cockpit and subdue passengers. Tourist visas guaranteed them six months of legal stay, more than enough for September 11, 2001.The six-month tourist stays also assured the hijackers of sufficient time to obtain identification to board the planes on 9/11. Fourteen of 15 operatives, and all of the pilots, easily acquired one or multiple forms of U.S. state-issued identification.
Their visas were issued by the State Department, which in some cases speeded up the process and approved incomplete applications. The reasons for these visa policies in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Germany “have never been adequately explained” but as Terrorist Travel notes, “with its reputation as a friend of foreigners, State was an easy target.”
The Immigration and Naturalization Service had little contact with the intelligence community, so information on terrorists failed to reach the Border Patrol, which also lacked access to the terrorist watchlist. More than two years after 9/11, many immigration inspectors had never been interviewed by the FBI or DOJ and many remained unaware that they had admitted a hijacker.
Prior to 9/11, the Terrorist Travel report notes, “no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal.” Indeed, even after the 9/11 hijackers easily gained admission, “border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy.” Commission staff believed “it must be made one,” but it wasn’t.
President Trump made some effort to tighten the border and deport violent criminal illegals. Those efforts are now being reversed by Joe Biden, on record that illegals are “already Americans.” With the border and rule of law effectively canceled, the “migrants” stream in by the thousands, from all over the world. American officials cannot verify their true identities and have no clue of their intentions.
Trump’s Abraham Accords brought peace but as Victor Davis Hanson shows, Biden policies are a virtual how-to manual for starting a Middle-East war. The addled Biden is a captive of his party’s left wing, which bears a strong hatred for Israel. A different dynamic is going on with George Will.
He invoked “Barack Obama’s studied elegance,” as opposed to “Donald Trump’s visceral vulgarity,” and remained a never-Trumper despite President Trump’s considerable accomplishments at home and abroad. So no surprise that George Will, once hailed as the best writer on any subject, would equate January 6, 2021 with September 11, 2001.
As the 20th anniversary approaches, the Washington establishment might consider what national counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke told national security advisor Condoleezza Rice on May 29, 2001.
“When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them.”
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