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Friday, June 25, 2010

UPDATE: Obama relieves McChrystal, but smoke means fire

*This is an update to my recent post on the firing by President Obama of U.S. General Stanley McChrystal.

Terrorists are now using Obama’s actions this week as propaganda. Obama relieved General Stanley McChrystal who had been recalled to Washington this week for allegedly criticizing colleagues and administration officials in comments he made to Michael Hastings, the author of a recently published Rolling Stone article.

Now, websites of radical Islamist groups, such as the Taliban, are promoting the firing as evidence the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan and Gen. McChrystal is being used as a scapegoat by the Obama administration. Another website, owned by a group calling itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, claims Petraeus will fare no better because he is “mentally worn out” and points to his fainting spell last week during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Obama relieves McChrystal, but smoke means fire

According to this week’s headlines Obama relieved General Stanley McChrystal who had been recalled to Washington this week for allegedly criticizing colleagues and administration officials in comments he made to Michael Hastings, the author of a recently published Rolling Stone article.

Obama has been waiting for an excuse to fire McChrystal since shortly after appointing him to head the war in Afghanistan and then realizing McChrystal has forgotten more about warfare and insurgencies than Obama’s advisers Biden and Holbrooke could ever hope to know in a lifetime. There has always been a disconnect between McChrystal and Obama, which was made even wider when McChrystal submitted his request for additional troops in order to properly execute the counterinsurgency effort initiated by Petraeus when he was appointed commander of Central Command (CENTCOM). Both Biden and Holbrooke opposed the strategy outlined by McChrystal and Petraeus; Biden even composed his own counterinsurgency strategy, which was a clumsy and amateur effort at playing army by the vice president.

The reason given for his firing, according to a CNN article, is that “McChrystal’s remarks…undermined the civilian control of the military ‘at the core of our democratic system’.” However, none of the individuals at the butt of the mockery are legally part of the military’s chain of command; therefore, they have no constitutional authority or control over the military. The individuals named in the article, Gen. (Ret.) James Jones, Obama’s National Security Advisor; Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; and Richard Holbrooke, the senior State Department official assigned to Afghanistan and Pakistan, are all advisers to Obama, but do not control any part of the military. The chain of command goes from the commander on the ground, in this case Gen. McChrystal, through the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to the President. Nowhere in that list does the name of Biden, Jones, Eikenberry, or Holbrooke fall. This may simply be a case of semantics, but if the president is going to relieve a commanding general during a time of war, he should at least do so based on facts and not simply on emotion.

The fact that Obama’s key advisers were derided by senior military leaders potentially reflects the low regard in which his decision-making abilities are held, and is the reason the General was relieved. Supposedly, Gen. McChrystal and his staff ridiculed Obama’s “national security team with locker-room bravado.” But there must be a reason the General and his staff made these comments. Usually, where there is smoke there is fire. In other words, the top military commanders who interact on a regular basis with the Commander-in-Chief must know something that the rest of us do not. Additionally, if these comments reflect the low regard in which these individuals are held by the senior military leadership in Afghanistan, as a former Soldier, I can guarantee that that regard is even lower the further one travels down the chain of command, which does not bode well for how the military writ large perceives Obama’s leadership abilities, the control he has over the military, his strategic decisions, or his ability to manage our current wars.

As I wrote the other day,

[aside from Gen. (Ret.) Jones, none of Obama’s National Security team has military, much less combat, experience. Obama has surrounded himself with theoreticians, academicians, and wishful thinkers as opposed to experienced doers, which explains his dithering on the decision of whether or not to send additional troops as requested last year by General Petraeus. It is no wonder Holbrooke has yet to “lay out clear goals for the region,” especially since he assigns critical positions to kids such as Ronan Farrow, who was only 21-years old when appointed as a Special Adviser for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I do not care how book smart a person is, or if that person was considered a child prodigy and entered college as soon as emerging from the womb, unless a person has the field experience, the real world familiarity with such a critical issue, book smarts do not cut it.]

Obama set the stage for how the wars would be managed, or not managed, and forecasted his relationship with the military leadership shortly after taking office. He procrastinated on the “strategic review” and the decision to meet the personnel requirements of his commanders on the ground, McChrystal and Petraeus, thus calling in to question their experience and motives. The General tapped to fill the void in the wake of McChrystal’s firing, David Petraeus, was the one who submitted the request for additional personnel to accomplish the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan back in 2009—a strategy based on lessons learned from his successful effort in Iraq. Obviously Obama has more regard for the advice of his civilian advisers, Holbrooke, Eikenberry, and Biden and Gen. Petraeus should tread cautiously into McChrystal’s role. Petraeus would be wise to remember his strategy in Iraq was implemented under Bush. If he fails to toe the line and agree with the doctrine outlined by the inexperienced, civilian advisers content to play army with other peoples’ lives, he also may find himself on the front page of liberal newspapers with headlines proclaiming Obama’s superior decision-making ability. If immediately firing someone is the epitome of great decision-making, then every Burger King manager who has fired someone during the lunch rush should be similarly heralded in the media.
Though the military is not supposed to be political or have politically-biased views of the administration in charge does not mean they do not harbor these views and feelings behind the office doors or in the barracks rooms on a Friday night. The majority of the military is contemptuous of the control Obama has over the military and is wary of his leadership abilities. It is for this reason that Obama’s backers and most of the liberal media are painting his firing of McChrystal as “a prime example of strong and decisive leadership.” They need to divert attention away from the real problem, Obama’s lack of command presence and general strategic knowledge, which are both a result of not having enough military experience in his inner circle. The New York Times, writing “[Obama] appears deliberative and open to debate, but in the end, is coldly decisive,” made his decision seem equivalent to Kennedy’s decision to blockade Cuba or Reagan’s decision to replace the air traffic controllers. Yet it took Obama almost half a year, during a critical period in the war, to make the decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan. Firing a general does not an Alexander the Great, or Kennedy or Reagan, make.

Why are these media outlets not digging deeper for the reasons why McChrystal and his aides made these comments? Usually where there is smoke there is fire. There is obviously a problem between the Obama administration and the military. Many lessons have been written of the White House’s involvement in the Vietnam War—particularly the lessons about too much civilian involvement in war decisions. Even more recent, there are crucial lessons to be learned from the Bush administration and the meddling by Rumsfeld and his lackeys at the Department of Defense. Evidently those lessons have not been learned by those occupying similar positions today. Is it right that an inexperienced president and his “yes men” advisers are allowed to continue to force their will on our military, even if they are legally allowed to do so, without having their decisions or experience called into question by those who are ultimately responsible for carrying them out? Should the military sit idly by while civilian leadership allows the nine-years we have invested in Afghanistan with blood, sweat, and tears to amount to nothing? At the end of the day, like we saw in Iraq, even if civilian leadership or advisers in DC are the ones calling the shots, it will be the generals who pay with their career and the Grunts and Leathernecks on the ground who pay with their lives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McChrystal’s comments not far off the mark

According to today’s headlines U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal has been recalled to Washington this week for allegedly criticizing colleagues and administration leadership in comments he made to an author of a Rolling Stone article. Gen. McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was originally scheduled to attend the monthly Afghanistan-Pakistan conference with senior administration officials via Secure Video Teleconference (SVTC) later this week.

According to CBS News, the “Rolling Stone profile…paints him [Gen. McChrystal] as deeply disconnected and displeased with the Obama administration.” Supposedly, Gen. McChrystal and his staff ridiculed Obama’s “national security team with locker-room bravado.” Some of the believed targets of the General’s and his staff’s derision included Gen. (Ret.) James Jones, Obama’s National Security Advisor; Vice President Joe Biden; and Richard Holbrooke, the senior State Department official assigned to Afghanistan and Pakistan. No one has claimed that Obama was part of the mockery.

For those familiar with the Obama administration’s history with regards to the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan the General’s alleged comments will not come as a shock. Aside from Gen. (Ret.) Jones, none of Obama’s National Security team has military, much less combat, experience. Obama has surrounded himself with theoreticians, academicians, and wishful thinkers as opposed to experienced doers, which explains his dithering on the decision of whether or not to send additional troops as requested last year by General Petraeus. It is no wonder Holbrooke has yet to “lay out clear goals for the region,” especially since he assigns critical positions to kids such as Ronan Farrow, who was only 21-years old when appointed as a Special Adviser for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I do not care how book smart a person is, or if that person was considered a child prodigy and entered college as soon as emerging from the womb, unless a person has the field experience, the real world familiarity with such a critical issue, book smarts do not cut it. But instead of Holbrooke being held accountable for not taking his job seriously and recruiting at the local elementary school, our Generals, faced daily with tests of courage and conviction, are called away from the battlefield for making a few jokes about people who are everyday just begging to be made fun of.

Mr. Obama, you need to take a long, hard look at your own war council, possibly even card them to ensure they are of age, and write Gen. McChrystal’s remarks off as a joke. Until you fix the personnel situation within your own circle, no one will ever take them seriously. This is not a time and Afghanistan is not the place to teach these kids about war or to allow amateurs to play at army or diplomacy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Illegal Immigration: Obama Administration v. America

The issue

Can anyone name the last time the United States Government (USG) sued a state because that state was enforcing a federal law? Usually the USG is complaining because a state refuses to enforce federal law, such as with California and medical marijuana. Earlier last week Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during a television interview in Ecuador, informed the world that the Obama administration, without personally informing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, made its decision to file a lawsuit against the State of Arizona in order to force Gov. Brewer to repeal the state’s new law against illegal immigration, Senate Bill 1070, set to take effect next month.

We foolishly vote our politicians into office with the idea that they are going to represent the will of the American people and to abide by our wishes to the best of their ability, not to represent only a small segment of society, namely the big campaign donors of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Political Action Committees (PACs), and definitely not to kow-tow to the wishes of foreign governments or non-citizens. According to a recent CBS poll, the majority of Americans (56%) feel illegal immigration is a “serious problem.” This is not new. CBS reports this number has remained “steady over the past four years.” The Obama administration has been quick to remind us naïve voters that America is a republic, not a democracy, subject to the whims of the elitist politicians, first with the passage of his healthcare bill and now with the challenge to Arizona’s law. Evidently, Obama and his supporters know best and everyone else is just racist. But if Obama continues forward with this challenge to Arizona's law, it will not just be him against Gov. Brewer, it will be him against the majority of the country.

The most interesting thing about Obama’s challenge to Arizona’s law is that back in May, shortly after Gov. Brewer signed the bill into law, it was revealed that neither Obama’s chief law enforcement officer and lawyer, Attorney General Eric Holder, nor his Secretary of Homeland Security, and the former governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, had read the law even though both were taking tough public stances against it. It is a good bet that if neither of the cabinet members with the ultimate responsibility for border security and immigration had read the law before publicly condemning it Obama also had probably not read it before coming out against it. How can someone openly criticize something before reading and understanding it? The simple answer is Special Interest Groups, in this case the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Casa de Maryland. If they do not like a law, they make absolutely sure every politician on their campaign donation list (i.e. in their pocket) knows they do not like it. A good example of how this works can be seen in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War when Congressman Wilson (Tom Hanks) goes to vote and asks his assistant Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams) which way he is supposed to vote.*

The arguments

Illegal immigrants are needed to fill jobs most Americans will not take. This is a myth, based simply on the amount of money paid to the illegal aliens not the job itself. Illegal aliens are paid a much lower wage than if they were legal workers and were protected by our labor laws. If, on the other hand, illegal aliens did not provide American companies with this option those companies would be forced to increase the wages in order to attract legal workers. And in this economy, if the price is right, someone will do the job. Of course, this increase would trickle down to the consumer, thus raising costs in stores, but it would also increase the quality of life for our own citizens who would then contribute to the tax base resulting in an increase in the amount of money the various levels of government are able to collect and use to pay for public services.

Arizona’s law will force many illegal aliens to go deeper underground, negatively impacting their cooperation with law enforcement. Another myth. According to various sources, instead of going underground illegal aliens are leaving Arizona before the law is set to go into effect 29 July. In other words, the law is already having the expected effect. Unfortunately, the illegal aliens are not returning to their homelands, instead most are opting to find a place to live and work in states and cities more accommodating to them. Places such as San Francisco and Maryland immediately come to mind.

In the counterterrorism world there is an expression, “terrorists will not attack a hardened target when there are so many soft targets to be had.” Places such as Arizona and certain counties in Virginia are “hardening” their defenses and as a result the illegals are finding “soft” targets to exploit, which does not bode well for those of us living in those areas.

The answer

If you believe illegal immigration should be stemmed, especially if that means more, stricter laws on the books, you are obviously a racist. It does not matter that you may actually be concerned with securing our borders, ensuring Americans, of every color, have the opportunity to earn a decent wage and not be undercut by illegals, or making sure our limited public services, which are becoming even more scarce during this tough economy, are available to the legal citizens who pay the taxes that support them. No. If those are your concerns, you are still racist. Why? Because the various pro-illegal immigration SIGs and PACs and the elitist politicians that owe their office to them find it easier to label these Americans as racist than to actually debate the issue with facts.

There have been many reports of terrorists taking advantage of the same smugglers, documents forgers, and routes used by the illegal aliens. There have also been reports of Middle Easterners with ties to terrorism obtaining fake documents with Latin sounding names in order to disguise their true identities in order to cross our borders and infiltrate our security. According to media reporting earlier this year, Virginia resident Anthony Joseph Tracy was arrested for allegedly helping to smuggle 270 illegal Somalis into the United States. Both Tracy and some of the Somalis he helped to smuggle allegedly had ties to the al-Qa`ida-inspired Somali terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahidin, aka al-Shabaab.

At the end of the day Arizona’s law is completely consistent with federal laws already in place. Everyone entering the United States is required to produce legal documents supporting their right to be in the country; Arizona is simply extending that requirement to the interior. In my line of work it is known as a “layered defense” or “defense-in-depth.” By challenging Arizona’s law, the Obama administration, along with the pro-illegal SIGs and PACs, are claiming they do not care about current federal laws, which is obvious since they support illegal immigration, banning illegal immigration and are willing to ensure no states officially support the laws by enacting their own laws, thus effectively taking the first step in dismantling any and all laws prohibiting illegal immigration so that more illegal aliens are able to become citizens. Of course, they will not forget the political party that paved their way.

A nation cannot claim sovereignty if it cannot, or will not, enforce the laws of the people and secure its borders. DHS freely admits hundreds of thousands of illegals enter our country every year and that they do not possess the resources necessary to stop all of them. Why should they complain if a state is willing to help them? Without the enforcement of laws or secure borders the United States is no longer “united.” It is simply a plot of land with some rules between Canada and Mexico. I am sure it is not lost on Obama and the Democratic Party that by most estimates Hispanics will comprise the largest ethnic group in the United States by 2042; that is only 32-years, or nine elections, away. Talk about looking to the future. It probably would not matter if everyone in America considered themselves “American.” Unfortunately, so much emphasis is put on ethnicity and culture that there are very few people remaining who consider themselves just American; most people in America prefer to be referred to as “hyphenated Americans.” Take for example the pro-illegal immigrant rallies over the past few years where protestors waved flags of their home countries, protested in their native language, and essentially slapped the face of our legal system. I have the option of listing myself as Native American, but I do not. Regardless of where my ancestors lived, I am an American and will remain so even when I am buried under the Stars & Stripes.



*I am not claiming Congressman Wilson was being paid by any group, only demonstrating that members of Congress do not always know for what they are voting or how they are voting and rely on aides and assistants to keep track of this information for them. This is only a problem if that Congress person opts to publicly support or condemn the issue without knowing the particulars behind it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Afghanistan’s next phase

With the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 came an awesome responsibility; that of ensuring the emergence of a vibrant, democratic, Afghan-directed economy and government with the ability to provide much needed security throughout the country in order to prevent a re-incursion of al-Qa`ida-sponsored terrorists supported by a violent Taliban-led regime. That was a tall order. And now, with the recent discovery of vast deposits of rare minerals in Afghanistan, the mission in Afghanistan will enter a new phase and the United States’ commitment becomes even more paramount.

Unfortunately, today’s instant gratification society does not have the patience or discipline to see something of this magnitude through like we did with Europe post-World War II. Most people feel that our mission in Afghanistan should end with the destruction of al-Qa`ida and the elimination of its leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, which will never happen. But that requires another post altogether. The war in Afghanistan is more like the war in Germany in WWII than most people will admit. Like Germany under Nazism, Afghanistan under the Taliban committed atrocities against and in the name of its own people. In 1945 the Allies opted to remain in Germany for a couple of reasons, to ensure Germany did not return to a war-like posture like it did under Hitler after WWI and to defend Western Europe against the Communists. These should be the same reasons we keep troops in Afghanistan; ensure a violent Islamist regime does not regain control of the government in Kabul and to defend against the various violent Islamist factions living and training along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Fortunately, the mineral discovery absolves us of having to implement a long-term Marshal Plan like we did with Europe at the end of WWII. These deposits, while still years away from yielding significant income for Afghanistan, will more than ensure the country can develop and enter the 21st century international arena.

Nevertheless, as history has demonstrated in places such as Sierra Leone and Angola, the discovery of such a wealth of sought after resources in a country without an effective government or security force can lead to civil war and possibly even genocide. There are few if any examples of underdeveloped, heterogeneously ethnic countries with such vast resources that were able to peacefully develop and stabilize. Usually one ethnic group seizes control of the government and the resources and oppresses all other ethnic groups or one group controls the government while the other takes over the resources and they end up waging a bloody and brutal conflict over who has the authority to rule or control the country’s resources. It is imperative the United States and our allies ensure 1) these resources are kept in Afghan hands and used to benefit the whole of the country and not just one of the many ethnic groups and 2) these resources are not exploited by outsiders for the benefit and wealth of big corporations or other nations while leaving Afghanistan and its people in the Stone Age. We, the United States, must not abandon the Afghan people to the wolves that will almost certainly be at the door, if they are not already in the house, seeking to rape the Afghan people of their new found wealth.

This discovery presents Afghanistan with an incredible opportunity to build their future and become a respectable contributor to the rest of the world. Instead of being known as an exporter of terrorism they will be known as an exporter of rare minerals. Likewise, they will present the rest of the world, particularly their allies, with an opportunity to help them develop their mining technology, bringing the country into the 21st century and introducing other cultures to the Afghan people, some of whom, until at least 2001, were not too far removed from their ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries as far as technology and quality of life were concerned.

The United States should take the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past. While we are in no way similar to the European colonial masters of Africa in the 19th century, there are lessons that we can learn from the mistakes they made, chiefly that we should not allow interlopers to come into Afghanistan to take advantage of the people by taking over and controlling the mines or mining operations, which are sure to be needed as the country grows, or that we simply do not abandon the Afghan people to the warlords who are sure to begin struggling for control of this new industry if the United States and its allies leave Afghanistan without a unified central government able to project power and security throughout the country as needed.

A safe, secure, stable Afghanistan is the best thing for everyone concerned and in three to four decades we should not be preparing to insert a Marine Expeditionary Force into the country to separate warring factions being financed by foreign high-tech companies and fighting and committing genocide over the control of lithium mines.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It’s not what you know; it’s who you are related to…

For those that regularly follow my blog, you know I usually stick to my areas of expertise, terrorism, international relations, war, insurgencies, and the military, with an odd, off-the-wall post for things such as the Super Bowl and World Cup. Today I take up one of the biggest issues facing our country, immigration, specifically illegal immigration.

Barack Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, his father’s sister from Kenya, came to the U.S. in 2000 illegally. In 2002 she applied for asylum and in 2004 her claim was denied. She was subsequently ordered deported in 2004, an order she flatly refused to accept. This effectively means she broke the law twice; first entering the U.S. as an illegal alien and second for refusing to follow a federal court order. Instead, she somehow obtained public housing, of course funded by law abiding taxpayers, in Boston.

Until 2008 and the presidential election season no one paid any attention to Ms. Onyango or her illegal status. Once her status became public Obama had to answer many questions regarding what role, if any, he would play in her situation. Obama claimed then, and continues to claim, that neither he nor anyone in his family will seek to sway the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the immigration court one way or the other. Obviously this is a ridiculous assertion. He is the President of the United States. He has the power to hire and fire political appointees and anyone seeking to curry favor with him, regardless if they are appointees or civil servants, will obviously not need to be told directly what outcome Obama desires for his aunt. It’s called plausible deniability; doing something the president wants done without having to be told so that the president can claim he knew nothing about the decision or the action taken.

In its infancy the United States, being so vast and full of natural, seemingly endless resources, was considered the “go to” location for the oppressed and downtrodden of other countries. In the early years, due to the availability of work in an agrarian economy and the unexplored land up for grabs, immigration was not the critical issue it is today. Our Founding Fathers did not see our great country as a massive welfare state, thus they were unconcerned with creating a national budget that included funds for unemployment benefits or universal medical coverage, nor were areas such as state-provided medicine or public education impacted by an overabundance of users.

For some reason, there are those that believe the passage,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


is a part of our Founding Fathers’ vision. It is actually a sonnet by Emma Lazarus entitled “The New Colossus” and is inscribed on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty; it was not written or uttered by any of our Founding Fathers or Mothers. Contrary to what some would like to believe, this passage is not a legal authority, like the Constitution, nor does it have any legal bearing on immigration law. These words are simply words of hope for those seeking to come to America and should in no way connote a legal authority to be allowed to come here.

Another argument is that we are all immigrants and we all came here illegally. This argument does not hold water; you cannot equate the environment of our forefathers four to five hundred years ago with our environment in the 21st century. Besides, something is only illegal when there are legal barriers to doing whatever it is one is doing. In other words, even as early as three centuries ago America was not a sovereign state and the occupants, Native Americans, here had no unified legal body or authority barring Europeans from coming to and settling in America. This has obviously changed over time.

The fact that Ms. Onyango is related to the current president and that that relationship played a role in her being allowed to remain in the U.S. since being located and coming to the public’s attention in October 2008 after being ordered deported four years earlier cannot be denied. No sooner was Obama elected than the immigration court judge, Leonard Shapiro, took “the unusual step of reopening the matter and issuing a stay on her deportation.”

Last month Ms. Onyango was granted asylum and is now allowed to remain in the U.S. Unfortunately, at Ms. Onyango’s request her immigration proceedings were closed to the public, so we will not know just what defense was used to overturn the deportation order. Exactly what, or who, did she have to hide from public scrutiny? According to immigration law experts the most obvious defense, that Ms. Onyango could face persecution in Kenya due to her relationship to Obama, would be very difficult to prove, especially since there are other Obama relatives living in Kenya, none of whom, at least so far, are claiming fear of persecution. Maybe this was the test case and we may yet see a rush by Obama’s Kenyan relatives seeking asylum in the U.S. Additionally, immigration statistics show that it is very rare for Kenyans to receive fear-based asylum. Another potential defense is that she has a medical condition and it would be best if she remained in the U.S. This, too, establishes a bad precedent for illegal aliens to take advantage of in their bid to remain in the U.S., not to mention this means our tax dollars, which Ms. Onyango has never contributed, will be used to take care of her medical coverage.

Yesterday Congressman Steve King (R-IA) requested that Ms. Onyango testify before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law on Thursday in an effort to ascertain what role, if any, favoritism played in the recent granting of asylum for Obama’s aunt. I, for one, hope she is required to testify. Of course, she has broken the American laws before, so there is no guarantee she will show if subpoenaed. I wonder if the Obama administration could claim executive privilege to keep her from having to testify, especially if they had something to do with the reversal.

As the people paying her bills the American public deserves to know how she was able to convince the immigration court to overturn her deportation order. While I absolutely do not agree with the presence of any illegal alien in the U.S., I honestly believe other illegal aliens in the U.S. deserve to know just what was so special about Ms. Onyango’s case that saw the previous decision reversed. If any group of people should be outraged at the ultimate decision by Judge Shapiro it should be other illegal aliens.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup 2010

For those that missed yesterday's game between Germany and Australia, you missed one of the best German teams in decades. Whether they can continue along that path we will have to wait and see, but they started off magnificently with a 4 - 0 drumming of Australia.

Many news outlets, especially in Germany, have complained the team is too young (the second youngest in this World Cup). Hopefully they have been silenced. As we say in German, Schnauze! (basically, shut up).

I know this is not politically correct, but Deutschland uber alles!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

War is not for lawyers or cops

This week an independent investigator for the United Nations (UN), Philip Alston, called for a halt of the US’ targeting of terrorists with drones until a review has been conducted. According to Mr. Alston, a professor at New York University School of Law and the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, targeted killing of terrorists is equivalent to “a license to kill without accountability.” He feels the use of armed drones to eliminate terrorists can “be justified only when it was impossible to capture insurgents alive instead and only if they were carried out by regular U.S. armed forces operating with proper oversight and respect for the rules of war.”

As I stated in a previous blog, “Anwar Aulaqi: To kill or not to kill…”, the chief problem with this argument that the terrorists should be captured is “there is absolutely no way we could keep [Special Operations] on stand-by 24/7 and within a few minutes flight from every possible location where we might encounter terrorists.” It is just not feasible.

Clearly Mr. Alston is still stuck in the wars of the past, where there were clearly defined fields of battle and the enemy was engaged in active combat within the boundaries of those fields. This is different. We are no longer fighting a cohesive, homogeneous enemy; al-Qa`ida has evolved into a movement with satellite affiliates cropping up all over the globe where there is a lack of government or law enforcement; therefore, our operations and tactics must be adapted to the ever-changing environment.

One of his key concerns is that “[B]ecause [drone] operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.” The same argument can be made for every combat-style video game out there. Are our military members running around carjacking and wantonly killing people just because they play Grand Theft Auto? Does it really matter if it is an operator thousands of miles away pushing a button or a pilot thousands of feet in the air or an artillery unit miles away doing the same thing? While no longer engaged in a “war on terrorism,” we are still at war with al-Qa`ida, its affiliates, and sympathizers. At any point they have the ability to either stop what they are doing or turn themselves in to their nearest authorities; in either case they would no longer be targeted. If they choose, and let’s face it, it boils down to their choices, to continue aiding, supporting, or conducting attacks for al-Qa`ida they put themselves in harm’s way and there is no one to blame but them.

Some may compare targeted drone strikes with Israel’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, an alleged Hamas commander, in a hotel in Dubai back in January, and they would be wrong. There is no comparison. If we have the opportunity to take a terrorist alive, we will absolutely do so; the information they may have is more vital, in most cases, than simply eliminating them. Unfortunately, there are going to be times where the only option available is to eliminate the terrorist or allow him to continue operating and take the chance of more people being killed. I would hope that any sane person would select the former.

Finally, Mr. Alston argues that graduated force should be used. This is not a police operation. Graduated force is how law enforcement is trained. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Air Force personnel are not trained in the use of “less-than-lethal force.” When we go through Basic Training and learn to shoot we are taught two key things, we are taught “one shot, one kill,” and to shoot at “center mass.” In other words, every bullet fired should kill an enemy and you do so by aiming at their chest. There are no leg shots or shooting at an enemy’s weapon to disarm them. The military does not do “graduated force,” unless it is being run by a Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon. The objective of the military should always be absolutely overwhelming, violent force, thus allowing as quick an end to the operation as possible with the least number of friendly casualties.

Mr. Alston is scheduled to present his report to the UN’s Human Rights Council tomorrow. Hopefully his report includes the fact that if a person chooses to do something they know may get them killed, we must assume they have weighed the risks involved and ultimately decided the benefits outweighed the risks, but I somehow doubt it. Is it then the fault of the US that that individual ends up getting killed when they know we are after al-Qa`ida?

“Charging a man with murder here is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.” – Cpt. Willard (Martin Sheen), Apocalypse Now

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Homeland security intelligence needs immediate, drastic improvements

*Unless specifically designated, the term homeland security refers to all departments and agencies charged with homeland security duties.

A week ago the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an unclassified intelligence assessment of the latest homegrown terrorist attempts. Overall, it was a well written, clear and concise assessment. It focused primarily on the Najibullah Zazi and Faisal Shahzad cases, outlining some of the commonalities between them in an effort to provide state and local law enforcement essentially a snapshot of the trends. It reveals that “the number and pace of attempted attacks against the United States over the past nine months have surpassed the number of attempts during any other previous one-year period,” according to CNN. But why it required time and manpower from a department in the Intelligence Community (IC) to essentially summarize what has been in the media for at least six months, not to mention basically regurgitating analysis that has been done by websites like this one, seems to me to be a waste of already limited homeland security resources.

On 3 November 2009, shortly after the Finton and Smadi cases became public and only two days before U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed fellow Soldiers at Ft. Hood, I wrote an analysis of the then-current and rising number of terrorist attacks / attempts perpetrated by homegrown terrorists. In my analysis I discussed how “threats emanating from within our borders are much more difficult to track or interdict” primarily because “homegrown extremists have the luxury of already operating inside of our overseas and border security layers and being familiar with our culture.” It took six months for DHS to come to a similar conclusion. According to media reports the DHS assessment released last week stated “recent attempted terror attacks have used operatives and tactics which made the plots hard to detect” because the terrorists “spent significant time in the United States and were familiar with their alleged targets.” This is not an earth-shattering revelation. Even more obvious is the statement that “the plots involved materials that can be commonly purchased…without causing suspicion.” Really? This has been the modus operandi for quite some time now. Terrorists understand how difficult it is to surreptitiously obtain traditional explosives and triggering mechanisms in the United States and as a result have relied on what is termed “field-expedient” explosive devices (FEDs).* These devices are generally constructed out of easily obtained everyday inconspicuous items. The only way it becomes suspicious is if 1) the items being purchased are known to be used by terrorists in constructing FEDs and 2) the supplies are purchased in large quantities. The first point means intelligence or law enforcement authorities must make not only local law enforcement, but also the public, aware of what can be used to create explosives. In the Zazi case it was hydrogen peroxide and acetone, two of the main ingredients in Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP). TATP was the primary explosive in the 2001 attempted bombing by Richard “the shoe bomber” Reid and the 2005 London train bombings. As for point two, unless the public is aware that certain products are used by terrorists, they have no reason to suspect a buyer who comes in and purchases supplies in bulk. However, if the terrorist suspects he / she is being surveilled, or if they believe the store employees are monitoring the purchase of certain products, they may divide the workload among other, witting or unwitting, participants or buy from different stores; much like how methamphetamine cookers used to shop multiple stores in search of cold medicines that contained pseudoephedrine. Again, in the Zazi case, he enlisted the support of family members to make trips to the beauty supply store to purchase the hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach) and acetone (nail polish remover), both of which are contained in various types of beauty and hair supplies, the purchase of which would not be suspicious if the buyer purported to be an owner of a hair salon or spa. Unfortunately, both points depend on human intervention; the homeland security network making the public aware of potential threats and the public remaining vigilant and reporting suspicious activity. Humans are not infallible.

*Some may term these as “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs. This is incorrect. An IED is an actual explosive device (i.e. artillery shell, landmine, small arm ammunition, etc) that is improvised in such a way that it can be detonated using an unconventional method. For example, in Iraq and Afghanistan insurgents and terrorists use artillery shells and wire it with either a manual or electrical firing system, such as a cell phone. In some cases they are wired with both as a fail-safe measure. When a device is constructed from normally non-explosive, everyday material (i.e. hydrogen peroxide) it is considered “field-expedient” since it must be made expediently while in the field.

The Zazi case would begin the U.S. law enforcement’s “year of luck.” In his case, the only reason the plot failed was because somewhere in his past he had a connection to terrorists who were being monitored or investigated by our British cousins who then passed his name to our Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), thus placing Zazi firmly on our radar. Very lucky indeed. Aside from Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter, the other major attempts (i.e. Christmas Day, Times Square) succeeded, meaning that everything went according to the terrorists’ plans except for the explosion. Our law enforcement and intelligence communities played no role in stopping those attempts.

The recently released DHS memo further advised that terrorists may attempt attacks in the United States with “increased frequency” and “we have to operate under the premise that other operatives are in the country and could advance plotting with little or no warning.” It also indicates that the recent attacks demonstrate that terrorists are seeking “easily accessible targets.” Again, this is not a new terrorist trend nor should it be new to counterterror analysts. Almost exactly four years ago Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general at DHS, wrote that heightened security of certain key targets “has increased the appeal of shopping malls, sports arenas, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, housing complexes and other ‘soft’ targets that remain relatively unprotected against terrorist attacks.” Like water in a river, terrorists will seek the path of least resistance.

If DHS released this assessment back in November, or even December, it would have been forward looking and very informative and could thus be considered timely and actionable, thus demonstrating the capability of the homeland security intelligence enterprise. Alas, it was released only a week ago. It is reminiscent of the scene in the movie Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck, when, as the U.S. Navy Admiral in command of Pearl Harbor is in the middle of almost 2,500 dead Americans and a crippled Pacific Fleet, he is handed the intelligence memo telling him that war with Japan should be deemed imminent. The premise behind having an intelligence capability is that they will tell you of what is to come, using their best experience with the enemy, judgment of the situation, and based on solid analysis of all sources. It may be wrong, but at least the analysts will not be afraid to go out on a limb with what little information they have at their disposal. Writing assessments of what has already happened is what 24-hour news outlets are for. Until DHS decides it does not answer to other federal departments and agencies and forges ahead on its own in the intelligence arena, we will continue to see assessments and analyses after-the-fact.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DOD takes terrorism seriously

A recent article in the Washington Post, [“Building security standards for civilian Defense Department workers questioned,” 25 May 2010], posed the question, “Are the lives of Defense Department civilians worth more than the lives of other federal workers?” According to the article by Joe Davidson, that question is “being raised by members of Congress who doubt the need for extraordinary building security standards for Defense workers.”

Well I have two questions for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and any other member of Congress asking similar questions, who will they call to testify before Congress when the next terrorist attack occurs and will Congress want someone to pay with their career if DOD personnel are injured or killed?

When the U.S. Air Force housing at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was bombed on June 25, 1996, killing 19 Air Force personnel senior levels of the U.S. government began asking how something like this could happen. In response, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry sent retired U.S. Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing to do a no-holds barred After Action Review to determine if mistakes were made, where they were made, and by whom. The resulting report, known as the Downing Report, outlined the antiterrorism and force protection failures, which contributed to the number of casualties. Additionally, on August 14, 1996 the House National Security Committee, chaired by the late Rep. Floyd D. Spence (D-S.C.), issued a report outlining the failures found by the Congressional committee. In it Rep. Spence stated, “It is my belief that such a review [the Downing Report], combined with the committee’s preliminary work, will form the foundation from which Congress can better determine how this tragedy occurred and, perhaps more importantly, what measures are now appropriate to better prepare for such threats in the future.” Ironically, the security measures Del. Norton and others are complaining about are the results of Gen. Downing’s report, which established the antiterrorism and force protection standards DOD uses today.

Maybe Del. Norton and her colleagues do not remember the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex, but they should remember the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11, one of which took place right across the river from Congress. Most members of Congress have never served in the military nor are they versed in antiterrorism or force protection measures, so it is understandable why they would question the inequality in protection standards. But with the continued threat of terrorism, especially with the most recent threats emanating from homegrown terrorists, now is not the time to be discussing lowering or eliminating those standards. If there is to be a discussion about how DOD protects its personnel and how the rest of the federal protects, or doesn’t protect, theirs, it should be about what measures need to be increased or added for the rest of the federal government not what protective measures should be taken away from DOD.

Instead of other federal employees complaining that if they do not have protection then neither should DOD they should probably be demanding better protection from their departments and agencies. DOD is doing it right and setting the standard; the rest of the government needs to follow their lead or stop whining.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Homeland Security Funding: One Fine Pig!

I must warn you, the reader, this blog entry is one of my longer posts. It is not without reason though; the problem addressed below is a complex one, an issue that has not been adequately addressed in almost a decade, and one which if not addressed will come under scrutiny by Congress after the next terrorist attack as if no one knew about it. Here is their warning.

Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11 departments and agencies at all levels of government charged with counterterrorism have been vigilantly awaiting the next attack. They are realists; they understand it is not a matter of if, but of when and how big. We have seen a few botched opportunities, Najibullah Zazi, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and most recently Faisal Shahzad. There have even been a few successful, albeit low-tech, attacks, such as Carlos Leon Bledsoe who shot two Soldiers in front of a recruiting station in Little Rock and the Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.

Part of the federal government’s counterterror program includes providing funds, hundreds of billions of dollars since 9/11, to high-risk cities and regions. The way the risk is determined is based on a simple methodological process whereby analysts evaluate the threat to that city (TA), the criticality of infrastructure / key resources in or near the city (CA), this includes population density, and the city’s major vulnerabilities (VA).* This is a standard methodological approach to assessing risk and can be found in almost all risk assessments regardless of the topic; terrorism, business continuity, disaster preparedness, and emergency management, just to name a few. Some of the most “out-of-the-box” thinkers have even adapted it to areas such as business development and operations management.

* The formula is usually rendered as RA = TA + CA + VA.

Last week New York City Mayor Bloomberg complained his “city is continually shortchanged on anti-terror funding given the threats it faces.” Bloomberg and other politicians, such as NY Rep. (R-L.I.) Pete King, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, feel that New York City should receive most of the homeland security money and that, because they are not, then Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano must not be doing their jobs.** Of course, Bloomberg failed to mention that just one week before the attempted bombing of Times Square he had been set to lay-off almost a thousand NYC police officers. He has since changed his mind.

**According to Obama and Napolitano, the money has been provided; New York City officials have just not accessed it and put it to use.

The problem

Once a risk assessment is conducted it should be used to develop a prioritized list of the most high-risk cities so that federal funding can be allocated accordingly. Ideally this process is apolitical and not subject to human interference, if done properly and according to the methodology in place. However, at the end of the day the process involves the distribution of money. Herein lays the problem. In politics money equals power. The more money a politician brings to their constituents the more jobs can be kept or created and the better chance that politician has of being re-elected. Of course the politicians do not couch it in that language. They use the language of fear, claiming their city is the biggest terrorist target or has the most important infrastructure or vulnerabilities.

With the Bush administration still reeling from 9/11, a number of so-called “terrorism experts” began to appear as talking heads on cable news shows and providing testimony to Congressional committees. The majority of these “experts” were long-time law enforcement officers with maybe, if they were lucky, a short term assignment to a terrorism investigation some time in their career or they were long-time academicians who maybe wrote a book or a few magazine articles on the Palestinian-Israeli problem; almost none were true experts, current or former State Department or U.S. military personnel with real counterterrorism experience. Each of these “experts” had their own view on al-Qa`ida, bin Laden, and terrorism in general. Like all politicians, in an effort to demonstrate to the American public that he was taking some sort of action to keep another attack from happening, the Bush administration simply began to throw money at the problem based on the information or recommendations of these “experts” instead of thinking through the problem and developing a comprehensive national antiterrorism program. Instead, every “expert” that recommended a course of action or a new program saw money thrown into their project, with most never getting started, not meeting expectations, or becoming obsolete, either because of advances in technology or changes in al-Qa`ida’s tactics, by the time they were implemented. Since 9/11, and not even counting Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has witnessed probably the largest example of governmental waste, fraud, and abuse in our nation’s history—and we continue to experience terrorist plots and attempts, the last few of which were foiled solely by good old American luck.

Besides the failure of the Bush, and subsequently the Obama, administration to establish a comprehensive program for homeland security funding, another, even larger problem, has been the power members of Congress have over not only their respective committees, but their ability to re-allocate monies in the federal budget to pet projects; known colloquially as “pork.” This type of effort is usually done at the behest of lobbyists or special interest groups. For example, in January the Heritage Foundation published an article by Matt Mayer who reported “Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., covertly slipped a provision into the [DHS] appropriation bill” that essentially re-allocated $4.5 million, which was initially earmarked for TSA “screening operations and…explosive detection systems,” to “an ineffective [FEMA] grant program for firefighters.” Dodd did this only five months before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest flight on Christmas Day last year, a flight he succeeded in boarding due to ineffective screening. While firefighters are an important part to terrorism response, the original focus of the money was on terrorism prevention—something still relatively new in the U.S.—firefighting is part of disaster response and is in place whether there are terrorists or not. Dodd was willing to risk the murder of hundreds of people simply to please a special interest group, in this case the International Association of Fire Fighters. Does anyone really believe if Abdulmutallab succeeded in killing everyone on that flight that politicians like Sen. Dodd would be hauled before a Congressional committee to answer for his “pork” project? The answer is no, it would never happen. I suppose Dodd would have reassured himself that even if those people were killed the firefighters would have been there to put out the flames.

Every year billions of dollars are provided to cities to develop or enhance their security and response capabilities; however, almost a decade after the attacks some major cities still lack basic antiterrorism security equipment and response plans. It begs the question, what have they been doing with the money? The Department of Defense (DOD) has required certain antiterrorism measures on all of their military bases since the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Two key elements of the DOD program, known officially as the Joint Staff Integrated Vulnerability Assessment (JSIVA) program, are 1) every installation initially received a similar package of security and response equipment regardless of their size and 2) every installation receives a vulnerability assessment every three years. It does not matter if the base consists of 100 people or 50,000 people, the initial baseline package was the same. This package consisted of things like barriers for entrances, booths for security forces, and other items.*** The larger bases obviously received more of each type. Every three years one of the JSIVA teams visits the base and assesses things like physical security, information security, operational security, intelligence capabilities and processes, the base’s threat assessment process, emergency preparedness, and disaster response readiness. A final report is then written outlining both best practices and major vulnerabilities; recommendations on how to mitigate or eliminate those vulnerabilities are also provided in the report. Commanders are then able to properly and effectively conduct a comprehensive risk assessment so that they can consciously determine where they can safely assume the least risk and to what problem areas their limited money and equipment needs to be applied. This sounds like something that our large cities, by all accounts our biggest targets, should have done at least once in the past nine years. But according to Mayer’s article, “we have no real idea whether the billions spent have made us safer because DHS has failed to do a comprehensive capabilities assessment since 2003.” According to a body of media reporting documented cases of the misuse of homeland security funds “have included small communities using these defense funds for everything from repairing pot holes to cleaning parks.” Not really the types of things that will stop terrorists, except for maybe the potholes; they could slow the terrorists down as they drive their car bomb to the target. Or better yet, maybe if the terrorists hit the holes hard enough it could set the bomb off killing them.

***While listing antiterrorism equipment and their uses is not classified, or even sensitive, unless the installation and its specific vulnerabilities are also listed I will refrain from doing so here simply as an operational security measure.

But it is not just up to DHS. The cities, in order to continue to receive federal money, should be required to show their major vulnerabilities that still need to be mitigated or eliminated. Then the following year DHS will be able to see if the money provided to the cities was properly allocated or simply wasted. We have so many other programs where states and cities are required to demonstrate sufficient progress in order to continue receiving federal funds, but we do not have one that requires them to demonstrate they are protecting their citizens from terrorists?

The solution

Terrorism funding is not and should not be based solely on threat. If this were the case, New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles would get all the money every year. As a result, the terrorists would simply move on to the next, softer, target and counterterror authorities would have to start all over with politicians calling for hearings on Capitol Hill and wanting to know why the new target was not protected and demanding someone be held accountable, when, in all reality, most of the blame in that instance would reside in offices on Capitol Hill, in Congress.

During these trying economic times most locales are facing budget and money woes. It is for this reason that cities must employ experienced risk managers, familiar with the topic of terrorism, to develop and implement a risk assessment program for the city so that antiterror and counterterror funding can be properly allocated. Most major cities have such a position in place; however, they usually have no real authority. This should be changed so that this position has a say in security and emergency response budget considerations. Ideally this person would be the security and disaster response chief and would be in charge of police, fire, EMS, and other offices charged with security or emergency management.

A risk assessment process should be implemented with an annual audit required, similar to the JSIVA assessments done by DOD. The city should be required to do this annually, or at least bi-annually, with an outside agency, ideally DHS, conducting one every five years. DHS has the framework in place—every state has or will have at least one Protective Security Advisor (PSA), at least one fusion center with at least one intelligence analyst, and a number of other DHS personnel (i.e. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Federal Protective Service). These personnel, at least in the short-term, could be brought together in Tiger Teams that could conduct the initial risk assessments of the most critical locations.

Finally, all homeland security funding would be dependent on having these risk assessments conducted according to the proscribed methodology and schedule and politicians would have no say as to how or where these funds are spent before they are disbursed. Once the city receives its money, if it chooses to spend it on something else and the same vulnerabilities show up on consecutive assessments, that city would not receive funds, or they would receive significantly less, the following year. Of course, this would require that politicians be held accountable, something to which they are not accustomed; preferring instead to assign blame, not be blamed.

Conclusion

As with everything political the current argument between Mayor Bloomberg and the Obama administration is not new and has transcended parties and administrations. In 2005 Mayor Bloomberg had similar complaints about the Bush administration. And as long as the current processes continue the complaints and arguments will also continue. Additionally, taxpayer money will continue to be wasted and even though billions will be spent every year we will not be any safer.

This blog is not meant to be a criticism of Mayor Bloomberg or the Obama administration. On the contrary, I believe both sides are extremely concerned about the next attack and honestly wish to ensure the right people and programs are in the right place when the time comes to either stop the attack or to quickly respond to the attack thus saving untold numbers of lives. On the other hand, I do not believe the current funding processes and programs involved in selecting and prioritizing which locations receive homeland security money and how much they receive are properly implemented. I also do not believe Congress should have a role in re-allocating homeland security money simply to secure their job; however, Congressional reform, beginning with term limits for Congress, is for a future blog. For now, a better job must be done prioritizing and auditing homeland security funds.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anwar al-Aulaqi: To kill or not to kill...

I am beginning to wonder how many people really and truly understand the difference between war / combat and criminal justice. As a counterterrorism professional with 15-years of experience in the field and degrees in criminal justice and international relations, both with focuses on terrorism, it is easy for me to differentiate between the two. However, and quite unfortunately, it seems like many others, especially those with no experience in the field, either find it difficult to separate the two or refuse to draw the line between them.

Regardless of what it is called, the United States is at war with al-Qa`ida, its allies, affiliates, and ideology. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and others of their ilk are enemy combatants. If encountered outside of the United States, especially if encountered in a special interest country (i.e. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, etc), also known as the battlefield, they are prime candidates to be justifiably and legally killed in action. This also applies to U.S. citizens like Adam Gadahn, Omar Hammami, and Anwar al-Aulaqi.

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and Department of Defense (DOD) saw the utility early on of arming drones and using them to attack terrorists who would disappear into hiding if we had to rely on getting special forces to their location to take them down. Nothing against our special operators, but there is absolutely no way logistically we could keep them on stand-by 24/7 and within a few minutes flight from every possible location where we might encounter terrorists. While we unfortunately have not been able to eliminate the top-tier targets like bin Laden and Zawahiri, this program has been used very successfully to eliminate numerous mid-level al-Qa`ida operatives, the “worker bees’ if you will, which in turn has kept the group off balance and unable to successfully coordinate another 9/11-style attack. This cannot be denied.

Earlier this year the Obama administration added Anwar al-Aulaqi's name to a special list of individuals that can be eliminated by CIA drone if encountered, according to media sources. Aulaqi, a dual Yemeni-U.S. citizen, was born in New Mexico. He was not a concern to the IC or law enforcement until the 9/11 Commission began its investigation. The Commission found that while Aulaqi was the imam, spiritual leader, at a mosque in San Diego he befriended two of the 9/11 hijackers. He then moved to the Washington, DC area and took a position as the imam at a northern Virginia mosque where he again found himself in contact with at least one of the hijackers. Though he was questioned about his ties to the hijackers, it was determined he had no foreknowledge of the attacks. He then left for Yemen and has since assumed a role as an al-Qa`ida propagandist.

Until November 2009 Aulaqi was really only known in the jihadist and counterterror arenas. His name was mentioned in terrorism cases such as the Ft. Dix Five as being inspirational to at least two of the plotters. He gained notoriety in November with the shooting at Ft. Hood, TX by Hasan Nidal who it was revealed had been in contact with Aulaqi, even as far back as 2001 when Nidal attended the same northern Virginia mosque as some of the 9/11 hijackers and where Aulaqi served as imam. Aulaqi even posted approval of the shootings. Then in December Umar Abdulmutallab, the inept underwear bomber, was been linked to Aulaqi. And most recently Faizal Shahzad, the alleged Times Square bomber, has been linked to Aulaqi. How many more chances should Aulaqi be given to radicalize some young Muslim and either inspire or actually direct him, or her, to execute an attack on U.S. soil? When do we draw the line? He obviously is not going to turn himself in. He was in Yemeni custody once before and immediately went underground as soon as he was released.

In a recent New York Times article by Scott Shane, Vicki Divoll, a former CIA lawyer and now a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, claimed she is concerned for Aulaqi’s rights. She stated that while “Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires special warrants to monitor electronic transmissions involving U.S. citizens, “it has not provided any protections for his life.” She goes on to argue that judicial process should be required if the individual in question is a U.S. citizen and not on “a traditional battlefield.” Glenn Greenwald, in his recent article in Salon, makes the same argument, claiming “Barack Obama claims the right to assassinate Americans far from any battlefield and with no due process of any kind.”

It is understandable how Mr. Greenwald can err on the side of the law, but Ms. Divoll, as a former CIA employee, should be the first to understand this is not a traditional war and that al-Qa`ida determines the battlefield by their presence and that drone strikes are not assassinations, but are military tools used in combat to kill the enemy before they can kill us; some battlefields require a law enforcement approach, such as here in the U.S., while others require a military approach.

If this were WWII and an American were fighting on the side of the Axis and was killed, would we be having the same argument? No. People back then understood, if one takes up arms against one's country, especially in support of that country's enemy and outside the legal jurisdiction of that country, they can be killed. Obviously the rules of war apply. If the individual in question surrenders they would be treated accordingly.

Anwar al-Aulaqi is an Internet jihadist radicalizer, recruiter, and propagandist and stays well abreast of current events. He knows he has made the "drone list." If he chooses to continue his activities, well aware he can be targeted at-will by the CIA or the military, then he must assume the risk that comes with that choice. He knows where the local authorities are located; he can easily turn himself in.

This latest controversy is but one example of the mixed message the Obama administration is sending to the American people. While I did not agree with the term, at least with Bush’s “War on Terror” everyone knew, unequivocally, if you had ties to terrorists you were a legitimate target and could expect to be killed, unless you were lucky enough to get arrested or turn yourself in. However, even then you would be labeled an “enemy combatant” and would soon find yourself at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) being interrogated with no clue as to when you would be released. Obama’s promises to close Gitmo and to try certain terrorists in U.S. criminal court have blurred the line between combat operations and law enforcement, thus creating confusion about how terrorists are to be treated and who should be hunting them. Let’s face it, these people are terrorists, not bank robbers, they are enemy combatants and should be hunted on the battlefield by our Soldiers and Marines, not by the FBI, and they should not be afforded any rights except the right to live if they surrender. Enemy combatants overseas in previous wars were not Mirandized or afforded trials in U.S. courts. They were either killed or, if they surrendered, found themselves interrogated and held for the duration of the conflict.

We cannot wait for the next attempted bombing, where we may not be as lucky as we have been for the last few, nor can we simply rely on the counterterrorism forces in countries with unstable governments and internal conflicts. Counterterrorism is a matter of self-defense and cannot entail waiting for a bomb to go off so we can ensure due process is served.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Times Square: Latest Attempt by Homegrown Terrorists

The attempted car bombing of New York City's Times Square is yet the latest example of the increased threat by homegrown terrorists in this country and the lack of a comprehensive, effective strategy to combat homegrown terrorists by the Obama administration.

The administration's current strategy, allowing the terrorists to demonstrate their ineptitude and stupidity by setting off their explosives so the rest of the world, especially those near the devices, can see just how incompetent these terrorists really are, seems to be working quite well for Obama's counter-terror departments and agencies. So far none have actually succeeded in blowing anyone or anything up. However, I do not know how long that strategy will continue to work before the terrorists actually catch on and begin to take this more seriously.

It seems Obama's message of "hope" during his campaign was a foreshadowing of how he would conduct counter-terror operations; he would close his eyes really hard and "hope" the bad guys don't kill anyone. Way to go. The new strategy will be regular public service announcements asking everyone in America to "clap their hands and don't let Tink, er, the bad guys' bombs explode!" That should probably do it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The rise of Islamic terrorism in the United States: Extremism and Radicalization on the Home Front

For the uninitiated, the terms extremism and radicalization are simply words associated with terrorists abroad; they have nothing to do with American citizens or immigrants living in the United States because we do not have a problem here at home. That appears to be the stance the Obama administration took early last year when President Obama entered the White House. While President Bush left office with a clear understanding of the threat posed by extremism and radicalization, President Obama entered office focused almost exclusively on healthcare. Now, as clearly evident by attacks and arrests over the past 12-months, there is no denying the fact the United States has a problem with extremism and radicalization in America and it appears it will only get worse in the foreseeable future.

President Bush’s counterterrorism strategies left little doubt as to who the enemy was and what was needed to defeat them. Some may say his counterterror policies, like his political leanings, were too right-wing. If that was the case under Bush, then under Obama the new policies are too left-wing. Regardless of the reasons the United States entered Afghanistan or Iraq, the fact is we are fighting a two-front war in Muslim countries. This alone is a key recruitment pitch for al-Qa`ida and its affiliates.

Let’s face it, regardless of what it is called, Global War on Terror, GWOT, War on Terrorism, War on al-Qa`ida, Manmade disasters, etc…we are at war. I understand President Obama has a lot on his plate, but unfortunately, he put most of it there, all the while knowing it would just be a matter of time before al-Qa`ida attempted another spectacular attack on the Homeland. While we face a severe recession, it makes sense to place the economy at the top of the president’s priorities, alongside terrorism; however, Obama’s fight for healthcare should never have eclipsed our fight with al-Qa`ida. One need only look at the lead news stories since last January and you will see healthcare, along with blaming Bush for everything, has been this administration’s top priority ever since taking office.

A handful of dedicated counterterrorism analysts have been focused on the problem of extremism and radicalization since 2007. Even though prior to 2008 extremism and radicalization was viewed almost exclusively as a European problem, these analysts understood it was only a matter of time before we began to see similar problems here. Unfortunately, as the Obama administration came to power, the extremism and radicalization mission was relegated to the back burner. This was done for two reasons, one, there had been no evidence to that point of an extremism and radicalization problem in the United States, and two, and most importantly, it was ignored because of the political sensitivities surrounding the issue.

Trying to reenergize the extremism and radicalization mission is now an issue which is taking on increased urgency for the Obama administration, as it tries to reverse its effects on the U.S. counterterrorism community in the face of patent evidence of a growing extremism and radicalization problem in the Homeland. For years, the commonly held view has been that the U.S. did not have a serious radicalization issue at home, in contrast to what was occurring on the ground in Europe, because we did not have the same problem assimilating our Muslim population. The slew of cases over the past year of U.S. citizens who were radicalized and apparently eager to take action, against targets here and abroad, has raised new concerns about the threat of homegrown terrorism. Senior Obama administration officials have candidly acknowledged that the view of the situation has changed. As U.S. attorney general Eric Holder observed in a July 2009 speech after a spate of arrests in the U.S., the "whole notion of radicalization is something that did not loom as large a few months ago...as it does now." And in December, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano noted that “[h]ome-based terrorism is here. And like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture we must now confront.” Both were wrong, this phenomenon has been here, we have been facing it for some time now, but Team Obama is only now prepared to recognize it as a problem.

I contend that our problem of homegrown violent Islamist extremists is worse than that faced by our European allies. The UK, Germany, Spain, and the Low Countries (Holland, Belgium, etc) have faced the radicalization of their first- and second-generation Muslim populations. The reasons for this are many, but in almost all cases we can at least understand why it occurs, even if we do not agree on the exact cause; we have a couple of issues to which we can at least point and we have a population that can be addressed. The United States, on the other hand, cannot point to even one reason for our homegrown violent Islamist extremists. I am not talking about our issue with radicalized first- and second-generation Muslims. Like our European cousins, the reasons for their radicalization are many and in almost all cases we can at least understand why it occurs, even if we do not agree on the exact cause. Likewise, we can address a specific segment of the population with outreach and engagement efforts. However, we have a much bigger threat; homegrown violent Islamist extremists. These are the American-born, or American-raised, non-Muslims, who later convert and decide, for whatever reason, they need to align themselves with al-Qa`ida and carry out a terrorist attack in their homeland. Their backgrounds, ethnicities, and reasons are as diverse as our population. How do we reach out to them when there is no, single at-risk population? How do we gauge which group of people are the most likely to convert and attack us from within?

No one has the answers. And President Obama’s counterterror team will not find the answers by sticking their head in the sand and pretending the problem does not exist.

(Be sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming book, The rise of Islamic terrorism in the United States: Extremism and Radicalization on the Home Front, that will address this specific problem set.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who dat say we can’t say dat?

Though my blog is usually focused on terrorism and international affairs, as a Cajun and native of Louisiana, I can’t let the current controversy pass without putting in my two-cents.

The National Football League (NFL) has recently displayed its latest greedy efforts at making more money from fans of the sport. The New Orleans Saints’ Cinderella story this year has brought many fair weather fans out of the woodwork as well as attracted new fans intent on riding the coattails of the team. All of this attention has more people than ever chanting the decades old Saints’ motto, Who Dat, as in who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints.

But this phrase is not just used for the Saints. This is how Cajuns in Louisiana actually talk. My grandfather, nicknamed Frenchy, used to say it all the time. Who dat over dere? It’s part of Cajun linguistics. How can a corporate giant, the NFL, try to copyright an everyday phrase used by so many people?

Saints fans, the real ones, the ones standing on the sideline or watching games at home Sunday after Sunday, win or lose, are the owners of that phrase. We have been using it regardless of their record. Now all of a sudden that the Saints are going to the Super Bowl and have gained thousands of new fans, the NFL sees dollar signs and wants to collect, because the billions of dollars it gets for everything else is just not enough. They have to get every red cent, even in this time of economic turmoil, when they should be thankful they still have people willing to buy NFL gear, pay for NFL television packages, and buy tickets to games.

I don’t remember the NFL trying to copyright the old name for the Saints, the Ain’ts, when they were losing. That’s because it wasn’t a money-maker. If it were, you better believe some NFL lawyer would have tried to copyright it. Why can’t fans just be left alone to enjoy their team’s success without having to worry that some greedy Daddy Warbucks is going to come along and ask, who dat not gonna pay up?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Profiling and why it does not work in anti-terrorism operations

Immediately after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 airport security was drastically increased. Anyone and everyone, regardless of color, creed, age, or sex was subject to additional screening when passing through security checkpoints. Along with the increase in security came the calls for profiling. While people claimed they understood and appreciated the increased security, they did not want it to impact them, only those they believed could possibly be terrorists. In other words, the only people that needed additional scrutiny were young Middle Eastern males; just look at who carried out 9/11 and who blows up buses in Israel. Why should lily-white, red-blooded Joe Blow or his senior citizen grandmother have to take off their shoes and risk possibly missing their flight when there are so many Middle Eastern-looking people (this includes Latinos according to some) that represent a much higher risk?

Dr. Edward N. Luttwak believes we should be doing something very similar. In a recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece, he writes, “screen[ing] passengers as persons instead of their bodies and belongings has an overwhelming advantage,” namely that this method “can detect a would-be terrorist even if the specific technique he tries to employ is not previously known.” While his risk-based approach has some merit, once al-Qa`ida operators understand which groups are not screened and which ones receive extra attention, they will simply devise ways to join those groups.

On September 11, 2001 the 19 hijackers were all of Middle Eastern, mostly Saudi, descent. For some time after 9/11, many terrorist operatives were of similar background. As al-Qa`ida was disrupted and displaced, and more franchise organizations came online, the probability of a terrorist being of Middle Eastern descent began to diminish. Just as the United States and its Western allies adjusted anti-terrorism defenses based on the last attack, al-Qa`ida adjusted its offensive capabilities by varying the color, ethnicity, and even sex of its operatives in order to defeat the anti-terrorism measures.

The phrase, “wilderness of mirrors,” an allusion to Alice in Wonderland, was how some intelligence experts described the spy war between the United States and Soviet Union. It is still used to describe the war between counter-terrorism professionals and terrorists; one side trying to gain the edge against the other in small battles all around the globe while trying to make the other side believe something that is not true. We continuously try to find ways to thwart the next 9/11 and they, the terrorists, are always looking for that small gap in our anti-terrorism protection rings to exploit and kill people. These small battles can have great, strategic impacts on the overall war.

Sun Tzu said, “All war is based on deception.” By keeping the terrorists guessing, they will never truly know what we know or what we don’t know about them and their operations. That may sound like a Rumsfeld axiom, but in warfare it is absolutely true. If we only screened young Middle Eastern males, al-Qa`ida would recruit (and they have been) or attract Westerners such as John Walker “the American Taliban” Lindh, Daniel Patrick Boyd, or Bryant Neal Vinas. This satisfies two requirements for al-Qa`ida planners, it provides an operative less likely to be viewed as a terrorist by the mainstream public and it gives them someone familiar with Western culture and travel. This last requirement goes toward defeating the Transportation Security Administration’s Behavioral Detection Officers (BDO) who are looking for individuals feeling out of place and nervous. The more confidence an operative has, the less likely they will be singled out by BDOs. We must keep them guessing as to the true capabilities of our anti- and counter-terrorism assets and measures.

Some people ask, “Doesn’t the fact that in an open democratic society most of the anti-terrorism measures put into place are eventually exposed by the media or civil liberties groups?” and “Doesn’t that exposure defeat the purpose of keeping those measures secret from al-Qa`ida so they do not know our capabilities?” In some ways the answer is yes, by exposing our capabilities to the enemy it allows them to design ways to defeat them; however, on the other hand, the terrorists do not know how good those capabilities are and whether they work or not. President Reagan used the idea of “Star Wars,” the U.S. military’s space-based warfare concept in the 1980s, to deceive the Soviets into believing this program would work. They then bankrupted their economy trying to develop a program of their own that could defeat ours. But ours only really existed on paper, not in the near future as Soviet intelligence was led to believe. Pardon the clichés, but power perceived is power achieved and the rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Al-Qa`ida’s Christmas Day attack; déjà vu all over again

The attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day was no success for al-Qa`ida, but it was no success for U.S. counterterrorism authorities either. The United States’ Intelligence Community (IC) and counterterrorism agencies had at least two opportunities to deny Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from succeeding, his U.S. visa could have been revoked or he could have been stopped at the boarding gate by being placed on the Transportation Security Administration’s No-Fly watchlist; instead, it was pure, dumb luck that almost 300 people were not killed on Christmas day. Luckily, Abdulmutallab was an inept operative and the detonator was of such miserable quality that it failed to work properly. The planners and bomb-makers of al-Qa`ida are not idiots. They operate much like military planners do around the world. If an operation is not executed properly they go back to the drawing board, learn from their mistakes, implement the necessary changes, and go at it again. There is no shortage of shuhadaa willing to martyr themselves for the cause and eventually they will catch us off-guard, just like Abdulmutallab did, and then we might not be so lucky.

Why did the Christmas attack fail?

Al-Qa`ida’s traditional method of attack includes complex, simultaneous attacks. They do this for two reasons. One, it ensures one or more attacks succeed. We cannot guard everything, everywhere and, just like drug trafficking organizations, they play the percentage game where for everyone one or two that get caught, three or four succeed. Second, the more attacks that succeed simultaneously, the more we have to stretch our response assets, thus eliminating any redundant response systems we might have in place and straining the entire system. That was not the case in the Christmas attack. Why? More than likely it was because Abdulmutallab’s handlers in Yemen are not as sophisticated as other al-Qa`ida planners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, or Muhammad Atef. However, the Christmas attempt could also have been simply to test airport security or the effectiveness of the device in defeating airport screening. According to media reports, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are many others just like him ready to carry out attacks against the United States or its interests. It is possible Abdulmutallab was conducting a reconnaissance of airport security and was prepared to exploit any deficiencies he found, which he almost succeeded in doing. CNN reported on Friday there appears to be a “palpable level of angst” among intelligence officials and that those officials believe “there are a lot of” other potential bombers out there with the training needed to carry out another attack.

Why did we fail?

Today’s al-Qa`ida is not the same al-Qa`ida we faced on September 10, 2001. Today we face a multifarious, geographically diverse enemy, beholden to an ideology and not to a person issuing commands from a cave in the Hindu Kush. As a result, the operators and planners we face are as varied as their locations, presenting a heterogeneous organism that evolves and adapts faster than we can imagine, or at least faster than we can react. It is for that reason that the single most important aspect of national security we have at our disposal is information sharing.

John Brennan, the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, led a preliminary review of the Christmas Day attack. The findings of that review were published last week and outlined nine shortcomings that, together, nearly led to the single deadliest attack on American soil since 9/11. The premise of these findings is that, while there was enough information within the IC and it was properly shared to identify and watchlist Abdulmutallab so that he could not have boarded a flight to the U.S., the analysts responsible for doing so failed to “connect the dots.” Most importantly though, the only agencies listed in the findings are CIA and NCTC; one whose mission lies outside America’s borders and the other who was created to help the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) coordinate information between agencies, not to act as an operational component of the IC, which is what it has effectively become. Though the report states there was not an information sharing problem, the one department created and charged with homeland security, DHS, is not even mentioned because they were not part of the equation, thus clearly demonstrating a lack of information sharing. How can you have a cabinet-level department whose singular mission is to protect the homeland and not even mention it in the report unless the information was never shared with it to begin with?

This is not the first time the IC’s lack of information sharing has resulted in an attack. We saw Major Nidal Hassan succeed in killing fellow Soldiers at Ft. Hood because information gleaned by FBI and DOD was deemed inconsequent and not shared with the experts on extremism and radicalization at DHS. These agencies, lacking experts in the fields of extremism and radicalization, viewed Hasan’s activities from a law enforcement perspective; “was he committing a crime?”

Similarly, Carlos Leon Bledsoe, the Muslim convert who shot and killed U.S. Soldiers in front of a recruiting office in Little Rock, AR in June last year had been under FBI investigation since he returned from Yemen, allegedly for being in Yemen and his arrest there for possessing a Somali passport. Everyone today understands how critical Yemen is in the fight against al-Qa`ida’s ideology and the fact this individual was there and possessed a Somali passport—Somalia has not had a government since the early 1990s and any Somali passport being used today is going to be outdated and/or fictitious—would raise “red flags” with extremism and radicalization experts who have known about Yemen and Somalia since the 1990s. But again, that information was never shared outside FBI channels, who were simply looking for criminal activity. Unfortunately, they got their criminal activity, at the cost of two Soldiers shot, one of whom died.

How do we fix the system?

Any recommendations on addressing the identified problems need to focus on the failure to share information and any effort to truly secure the homeland must not only include DHS, but must put it first, otherwise, we are no better off than we were on September 10, 2001.

There is no one solution to securing the nation; there are multiple layers of security that must be coordinated effectively and that have to change their posture on an irregular basis so as not to establish a pattern that al-Qa`ida can identify and exploit. There are many so-called experts and a plethora of politicians that think they know better than the real experts; those men and women that are out there everyday implementing the rules and procedures that have thus far, except in a few instances, kept al-Qa`ida from executing another 9/11-style attack. The best thing Congress can do is to allow the departments and agencies implementing our national security the flexibility to do their jobs. One thing we definitely do not need is more oversight.

I am sure there will be no shortage of individuals attacking my assessments and recommendations. I will simply preface my recommendations with this: all plans and solutions look good on paper; it is how they actually work when implemented that matters. The assessments below are based either on personal experience or on interviews conducted with individuals who actually work in these departments and agencies and intimately understand how they work on a day-to-day basis.

First, DHS must be the lead federal agency when it comes to homeland security. While the FBI has the legal authority to investigate all terrorism-related incidents, DHS must have the legal authority to conduct all intelligence-related operations. Only when the intelligence points to an active plan to carry out an attack should the FBI become involved. Currently, if FBI decides someone is a terrorist or has terrorist connections they open an investigation, essentially eschewing intelligence as a tool. Once they open that investigation they severely limit with whom that information can then be shared, which was the key failure behind 9/11 and the primary reason DHS was created. This even includes state and local law enforcement officials who may have critical intelligence related to the individual in question or who would benefit from simply having situational awareness. I am not sure if FBI is still wrapped in the institutional mindset that they are the premier law enforcement agency, like they were before 9/11, or if it is just the idea that they want all the glory, but due to privacy concerns and civil liberty issues, the law enforcement aspect and terrorism intelligence piece of FBI need to be completely separated. DHS should operate the only domestic terrorism intelligence agency.

Of course, the argument will be made that there are DHS and state and local law enforcement liaison officers assigned to NCTC and that this is where the information is shared. Unfortunately, the majority of the information is restricted to only those liaison officers; in most cases they are not allowed to pass the information back to their parent departments or agencies. The liaison officers are just that, liaisons, not necessarily the subject matter experts. The experts reside with the parent departments or agencies and do not receive the information. The creation of NCTC as an analytic, operational component of the IC basically created another stovepipe where information is gathered and never shared, at least not in a timely fashion.

Second, the DNI, through NCTC, needs to assert his power over the IC, demanding that information sharing not only be uppermost in everyone’s mission statement, but also in their daily activities. NCTC needs to stop trying to become an operational component of the IC and focus on coordinating products and missions between other members of the IC. As it stands right now NCTC acts as if it is simply a new component of the IC; the manpower of NCTC is way over its original authorization. Instead of developing their own studies and products, they should concentrate on ensuring the departments and agencies responsible for various topics are tasked with the development of the necessary products or provide the required answers. When there is a challenging problem, they should focus on bringing the subject matter experts from around the IC together to work on them. Unfortunately, many IC agencies are understaffed because they are providing personnel to NCTC and DNI. Once the project has been completed those experts should be released back to their parent organizations. And finally, while they are working at NCTC, these analysts should be authorized to share the information with their home agencies and not be hamstrung behind soundproof walls. As Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France’s leading magistrate investigating terrorism from 1981 to 2007 wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed last week, “Often, it is the small, apparently trivial sign lost in the avalanche of data that forewarns of a coming threat. The more trained eyes there are on information, the more likely that sign is to be read.”

There is an old saying that “knowledge is power.” And information is knowledge. Inside the Washington, DC beltway information is the “holy grail.” The person with the most wins. While the leaders of our intelligence and counterterrorism departments and agencies are professionals, they are also political appointees and are always looking for the edge. The further we get from 9/11, the more these departments and agencies will begin to revert to their old ways. If more emphasis is not placed on removing the barriers to sharing information and certain departments and agencies are allowed to re-build their pre-9/11 fiefdoms, the more vulnerabilities will be created that will allow those multifaceted, al-Qa`ida associates of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to exploit our individualistic system and execute an operation. And unless we learn from this most recent intelligence failure, al-Qa`ida will eventually succeed.