Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 22, 2009

Mr. Cheney’s myopic view of our challenge

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 22, 2009

Wednesday night four wanna-be terrorists were arrested in New York.  As you probably know by now, they were arrested after planting what they believed to be bombs outside two synagogues. 

The law enforcement MO in capturing the four sounds similar to that used in the arrest of the Liberty City Six. Five of the six in Florida were recently convicted of various forms of conspiracy to terrorism.

Wednesday night also saw the arrest of seventeen in Bilbao, Spain accused of financing terrorism. 

Earlier in the week Rodolfo Lopez Ibarra, aka El Nito, was arrested along with twelve associates.  CNN characterizes El Nito as “a top Mexican drug cartel suspect.”  Originally only ambitious criminals, over the last two years the cartels have used violence to achieve political purposes. For me political intent  is an important element that distinguishes terrorism from the only criminal.

Last week Italy arrested two French nationals suspected, according to the BBC, of “being key al-Qaeda figures.” (See a related report by TIME.)  On the same day, May 12, a man suspected of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings was extradited from Syria to Morocco to stand trial.

This week Moroccan prosecutors opened their case against eight suspected terrorists.  (See more from Magharebia.com)

Over the last two weeks the trial of the so-called Saurland Cell has listened to police transcripts of conversations between the accused while planning (or at least conceiving) attacks on the US air base at Ramstein, Germany.

The month of May began with Ali Sahleh Kahlah al-Marri, after years in military detention, pleading guilty to several terrorism related charges in a Peoria, Illinois federal court.

There have been plenty of other recent reports of terrorist-related arrests in Egypt, Malaysia (and another), the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Thursday morning former Vice President Cheney told us that the 1993 bombing of World Trade Center, “was treated as a law enforcement problem, with everything handled after the fact – crime-scene, arrests, indictments, convictions, prison sentences, case closed.”

Mr. Cheney went on to explain that this law-enforcement approach was discarded after 9/11. “From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place,” he said.

The former Vice-President might have contrasted pre-9/11 law enforcement to post-9/11 law enforcement. He did not. Rather, during his remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Cheney seemed keen to contrast the limitations of law enforcement with military capability.

“To make certain our country never again faced such a day of horror,” Mr. Cheney continued, “we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks.”

To be sure, the former Vice President was focused on justifying the harsher aspects of military capability. He was not directly addressing the inadequacies of law enforcement. But his argument seems to expose an inaccurate understanding of law enforcement capability as only responsive and defensive.

Above is a very partial and quite recent list of proactive counterterrorism activities by law enforcement. Before 9/11 and — especially — since then, the law enforcement community in the United States and elsewhere has been on the frontlines of preventing terrorist operations.

As our military leaders have been the first to explain, our struggle against terrorist adversaries will not be won through military action. Military operations are crucial to a full-spectrum strategy.  But it will be an effective mix of military, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, and a very wide array of community-based prevention activities that will win the war and secure the peace. (And the communities will reach across the planet.)

Fundamental to containing and limiting terrorist ambitions is undermining any pretense of wide-spread support for terrorist operations.  This is more likely as we are able to starve terrorists of funding and recruits by undermining justification for their plans and actions.  International law enforcement is essential to this success.

In what Mr. Cheney may see as his keystone argument (certainly it is the paragraph with the most underlining for emphasis), he said, “But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.”   The former Vice President seems to ignore the value of the high ground — almost always a strategic advantage — while over-valuing the strength of a single measure and under valuing the scope and potential of multiple measures.

There is something in Mr. Cheney’s style that can easily seem monomaniacal.  A careful reading — rather than watching —  of his remarks can correct that impression.  But the same reading finds a strategic and operational myopia.  The short-sightedness begins with an inaccurate perception of law enforcement and then, as one looks about,  excludes more and more.

As any cop, firefighter, public health professional — or Marine —  will insist, really seeing — fully seeing — what’s going on is the first step in both self-protection and preventing the worst.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 22, 2009 @ 9:02 am

Interesting post! Also interesting that as VP no one took the time to explain to the then VP how law enforcement could be proactive. The great failure of the 93 WTC grand jury proceedings and trial was that no one recognized the AQ connection as being relevant to the National Security interests of the country. SCOTUS rules in the 80’s that the restriction on federal grand jury testimony as remaining secret (unless released by a witness and even then limitations) in a case involving EXXON stated flatly that even the DOJ Civil Divison lawyers pursuing civil fraud remedies and civil fine follow up on a criminal case could not have access to Grand Jury proceedings. AS a result of that decision in part DOJ was constantly trying to erect or other explain to the INTEL community and others why surveillance authorized by FISA was not going to be used for prosecution. FISA was a limited fix and what I find appalling but documents the total incompetence of Congress is no suggested revisions to FISA have even made it out of the Judiciary Committees since 9/11. What are these people up to since nothing seems to me more important than making sure to the extent possible law enforcement can be proactive with respect to terrorism. By the way Cheney sees this issue as black or white, war or law enforcement but it is remarkable how that dichotomy has held up since 9/11 without much challenge. Thanks for the post, Phil!

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May 22, 2009 @ 11:24 am

[…] Post portrayed yesterday’s speeches by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney.  Philip Palin has given a good overview and his assessment of Mr. Cheney’s speech earlier […]

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May 22, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

[…] over how the country can best deal with the ongoing threat of terrorism, Philip Palin, writing in Homeland Security Watch, seemed to come down clearly on the side of the president.  In short, Palin argued that values […]

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 23, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

With an purported closer US Iranian relationship being considered, a regime with much blood on their hands and responsible for AfPak, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others and so many woeful acts and the soon to be downfall of the Egyptian government unsettling the Middle East as no one presumed…and to think of a formal adoption of a two state Palestinian-Jewish agreement today amidst such words of conflagration which will only find Iranian manufactured weapons on every street corner pointed at the hearts of the Israelis only a few meters away.

Interestingly, this week, Iranian leadership went out of its way to state that its missiles can now reach Europe. Such antics. A ploy that will backfire as it will be the Europeans led by Germany who will take care of the Iranians’ aspirations and search for lofty heights. No one will intimidate the harsh Germans….They are capable of much more.

Despite WWII agreements to the contrary, today we see Germany with its new fast deployment armies and naval vessels sailing in the Meditteranean. It will be the Germans who will address Iran.

There may be ongoing meetings taking place for well over a year with US and Iranian officials behind closed doors, however here on the street, the “radicals” as I hear we are now referred to, just work’n folk, however proud to say a legal US citizen born here of Hellenic heritage, we who are not textbook versed are quite concerned with the forging of a relationship with a bunch of Iranian thugs who kill innocents at their whim and search for our young American soldiers to kill.

What a disgrace for the wonderful Persian people from the past to present who have been seated in the cradle of civilization and have contributed so much to civilization.

A proud Iranian people with a government which is so self-serving and oppressive. An educated populace who itself does not understand that its leaders will only cause calamity among many affecting many who are only trying to eek out a living, raise children and feel proud while respecting others.

Cheny’s myopic view of our challenge(s)….I think not!

We are not being challenged by the swords of the Japanese warrior, but by the sword of jihad. It is not simply a word. It has meaning. Western civilization must heed the warnings.

This is western civilization – now primarily Europeans – versus the “myopic view” of fundamentalists who relish in their control and truly believe in their viewpoints. Since when do these “thugs” supercede what God dictated. Simply put, murderers of innocents or let’s use their word, murderers of the infidels…I believe Cheney and especially the German-led EU may have a word to describe an individual who professes the annihilation of the Hebrew, never mind the blood already on theitr hands!

Be vigilant.

The pages of the Bible and history are turning quickly. US policy in the UAE and throughout will falter and haunt those who profess that their knowledge far exceeds that of us – Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen in any town USA….

From my perspective and again as a mere citizen, yet able to enjoy the freedom of this Republic to state that Jimmy Carter’s visitation behind – closed doors -conferring with Syrian leadership without any executive administration’s directive was an act of tyranny. I called for a Congressional Hearing to address his demeanor only to have my fax crumpled and used as a two point wastepaper basket shot….I (we) still want to know what Carter told the Syrians and Iranians.

As a Hellene, I know well the Persian and Syrian people so proud of their heritage, their forefathers, and government riddled with corruption. A Syrian leadership with very, very close and dangerous ties to the very “Tehran thugs” who held hostages, give the dictates for so many deaths of men, women and children in so many places and now seek to challenge, not the weakened and evolving third world country of the US, our beloved country who gave up its manufacturing and jobs to Wall Street and big business and to ChinaMart as an example….

The Germans and a soon to be ten (10) nation EU which seeks to dominate the Middle East as the principal power broker in the Middle East for it will break off its new alliance with the KGB Putin and his oil and push for Middle East oil to turn the gears of a hugh German manufacturing revival and the Iranians and Syrians will not like it.

We must recognize that over 275 million Europeans speak German fluently and oh…let’s not forget the Vatican’s influence on the European population and its intentions of spearheading another crusade. The Iranians and Syrians have already heard a few words in murmur from the Pope with a promise for more louder words directed at Tehran.

While an independent voter and an individual who may not agree with a host of Cheney’s decisions during his tenure, like many, I am a citizen who sees the good ‘ol beltway boys on both sides of the aisle politicizing in their self-serving incestuous applause of one another and having no idea of how much a gallon of milk actually costs us at the supermarket!

Cheney’s decision to stand tall may be a bit unusual as most Vice Presidents leave Washington when their gig is up, however Cheney has no intention to do so.

The majority of Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen do not like the Pelosi-Frank mentality of telling folks what they WILL do and Mr. President, with all due respect, you and your wet behind the ear staffers should understand that one thing Americans are taught in school is the importance of history.

Yes, many do feel duped and question whether you are even an American citizen for you failed to step forward in transparency and in timely manner and when batering with no other description but the enemy….your recent decision to change a long standing agreement between the US and Israel and outrage many by placing Israel on the list having nuclear weapons speaks volumes as you embrace the Middle East once again in your upcoming speech in Egypt.

I (we) wish you well, however speak your words in a decisive tone so no one misunderstands your portrayal of what this great nation – The United States of America, the Beacon of Hope for so, so many – expects from those who profess to live within the civilized community. If Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen threatened his/her neighbor as the “Iranian thugs” do when talking about the Hebrews, a squad car would be at the door hauling us into court. The international court as well as our own system must not lend a clasp of hand to anyone who on one hand denies historical fact and talks of killing Jews as well as his announcement of missiles able to hit European civilian populations.

Mr. President and former Vice President Cheney, our Republic is a government by the people and for the people. You have pledged your oath and hand over your heart to protect and preserve this most great nation and most charitable people aka Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen.

The clock is ticking. The pages of mankind and his destiny are turning quickly….Every form of government has failed since Babylon. God gave us the ability to reason, to Love and to differ in respectful ways. Not to harm others and place children in peril. I have walked the streets of Hebron and Jericho. I have seen the Palestinian children who smile amidst a sense of hopelessness while the Arab league and its oil rich brethren use this wonderful people as pawns. It is time to address trhe infrastructure. To educate these wonderful children and young adults. The international community should address these lost generations seeking only to aspire, to grow and to thrive. Unless all repent and seek common ground, the fuse to the Middle East powder keg which has been smoldering in loss of precious Life and so many unfortunate tears will engulf the world in human ashes.

WE, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen call on you Mr. President and you former Vice President Cheney and the good ‘ol beltway boys to meet behind closed doors, discuss the issues and decide together a common ground to help rekindle the Beacon of Hope seen by the oppressed far yonder and today in our very own neighborhoods as the central bankers’ fiat dollars soon to be worth far less than imagined, means families and neighbors here in Main Street USA working together to address the lack of transparency that led us to the brink of depression with the enlightened Roubini himself very much concerned for the economic destiny of mankind.

Christopher Tingus
Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen
Harwich, MA USA

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June 3, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

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