Glass Houses in the War on Terror
Let’s just be clear about a couple of things.
When Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane going from Paris to Miami, the first time President Bush mentioned it was FIVE DAYS after the incident when he was finally asked about it while he was on vacation at his ranch in Texas.
The first time John Ashcroft appears to have mentioned it was almost ONE MONTH after the incident when he had a press conference announcing that Reid had been indicted.
Tom Ridge, who was in charge of Homeland Security at the time and Vice President Cheney also appear to have waited until after Reid had been indicted.
And no one criticized them for not responding sooner or having missed an apparently huge gap in aviation security.
So, keep that in mind when you hear people like Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, open his mouth and say things like:
“I’m disappointed it’s taken the president 72 hours to even address this issue. Basically nobody, the president, the vice president, the attorney general, nobody except Secretary Napolitano has come out.”
And when King says things like it was a “terrible mistake” for the Obama Administration to charge Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab criminally instead of turning him over to the military, asking him how come he never criticized the Bush Administration for how they handled the Reid case, which was virtually identical.
And when Ridge — who, again, was IN CHARGE of Homeland Security when Reid was arrested, tried and convicted — goes on Larry King and is critical of the decision to charge Abdulmutallab criminally saying, “I take a look at this individual who has been charged criminally, does that mean he gets his Miranda warnings? The only information we get is if he volunteers it? He’s not a citizen of this country. He’s a terrorist, and I don’t think he deserves the full range of protections of our criminal justice system embodied in the Constitution of the United States”
Maybe ask him and Peter King what they think about how when Ashcroft announced Reid’s indictment, he talked about how — thanks to Congress — the criminal justice system had “the necessary tools that we need to protect the safety and security of American citizens.”
It couldn’t possibly be that they’re criticizing President Obama and his Administration because they are Republicans and he is a Democrat whereas President Bush was a Republican just like them?
They wouldn’t play politics with something like national security?
Certainly not Peter Hoekstra, the Republican Representative from Michigan who is running for governor? Oh, wait. He just used the Christmas Day incident in a fundraising letter?
This is not in anyway to defend anyone’s handling — except for the passengers who disarmed Abdulmutallab — of the incident. As President Obama said, there were clearly “systemic failures” all over the place.
After all, the Obama Administration has been in office for just over 11 months and while they’ve gotten some things right — and some things wrong — they can’t be expected to fix everything right away. I mean, the Bush Administration had seven years after September 11th to improve the way the country’s intelligence community talks with each other.
Another thing worth pointing out, it’s been nearly six years since the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States — aka The September 11th Commission — pointed out that:
“Since 9/11, significant improvements have been made to create an integrated watchlist that makes terrorist name information available to border and law enforcement authorities…new insights into terrorist travel have not yet been integrated into the front lines of border security”
“Targeting travel is at least as powerful a weapon against terrorists as targeting their money. The United States should combine terrorist travel intelligence, operations, and law enforcement in a strategy to intercept terrorists, find terrorist travel facilitators, and constrain terrorist mobility.”
So, maybe we can all agree that the system isn’t working now — things did not work the way they were supposed to. At the same time, it wasn’t working under the previous Administration and maybe instead of name-calling and blame-placing, maybe we can all work together the get the thing fixed?