Tuesday, December 06, 2005

War on Terror: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Herewith an update on news pertaining to the War on Terror.

The good:

* Hamza Rabia, a top Al Qaeda operative, apparently was killed when a bomb laden CIA remotely piloted Predator aircraft slammed into his tribal hideout in the remote North Waziristan region of Pakistan. Rabia was believed to be an Egyptian and head of Al Qaeda's foreign operations, possibly as senior as the No. 3 in the terrorist group, just below Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri.

* The days of having to surrender eyeglass-repair screwdrivers or manicure scissors at airport security checkpoints will end Dec. 22. Striking a belated blow for common sense, the Transportation Security Administration found that its security inspectors were spending too much time searching bags for objects that did not pose a real threat of taking control of aircraft.

The bad:

* The FBI, our favorite dysfunctional law enforcement agency, mishandled a Florida terror investigation, falsified documents to try to cover mistakes and retaliated against an agent who complained about the problems. The case dates to 2002 when the FBI’s Tampa office opened a terror investigation into whether laundered money was being used to finance terrorists overseas.

* In a scene right out of “The Andy Griffith Show,” four of the most dangerous Al Qaeda terror suspects imprisoned at a supposedly super-secure U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan picked the lock on their cell, changed out of their bright orange prison uniforms and made their way through the heavily guarded military base under the cover of night. They then crawled over a section of unsecure fence where a getaway vehicle apparently was waiting for them. They remain at large.

And the ugly:

* The former 9/11 Commission gave dismal grades to the federal government’s efforts to shore up national security and prevent another terror attack on the U.S.

Members of the commission, the creation of which was adamantly opposed by the Bush administration, gave the government more “F’s” than “A’s” among 40 grades measuring progress on the security recommendations they issued last year.

The panel gave the government an “F” on homeland security spending for the cities most at risk, on improving radio communication for emergency agencies (a problem laid bare in the wake of Hurricane Katrina), on airline passenger prescreening and on standards for terrorist detention.

The sole “A” was on vigorous efforts against terrorist financing.

Overall, there was one “A,” 12 “B’s,” 9 “C’s,” 12 “D’s,” 4 “F’s” and two “Incompletes.”

Since the commission’s final report in July 2004, the government has enacted the centerpiece proposal to create a national intelligence director, but has stalled in many other areas.

Former commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said that there are too many competing priorities, including waging three simultaneous wars – in Afghanistan, in Iraq and against terror – and that made it hard to keep people focused.

Former commission chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor, was more to the point:
We’re frustrated, all of us – frustrated at the lack of urgency in addressing these various problems. We shouldn’t need another wake-up call. We believe that the terrorists will strike again, so does every responsible expert that we have talked to. And if they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuse be?
I will be even more to the point:
Al Qaeda is more intent on attacking the U.S. than the U.S. is intent on preventing such an attack. Period.

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