Winning a battle…losing the ?By
I am almost three hundred pages into former CIA director’s George Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm. I am reading it because I have this hunch that Mr. Tenet got thrown not only under the Bush bus, but the Washington at large bus. I haven’t yet made a determination on that, but I admired him during the Clinton years and want to hear what he has to say. It hasn’t gotten to the Iraq part, but I’ve gotten through the late nineties, 9/11, and its immediate aftermath. The entire time I’ve been reading I’ve been reawakened to the depth and determination of the terrorist threat. The book has honestly caused me this constant sinking feeling like they, al-Qa’ida, are going to hit us again 9/11 style and it can happen at any time.
Today’s thwarted terror plot on JFK airport only underscores my concern. Details are sketchy right now, but obviously a few folks here in the US, conspiring with people overseas, intended to terrorize the US population with a spectacular attack, kill who knows how many, hurt the economy among other things. It seems that our law enforcement and/or intelligence agencies did their job very well in this case. The problem is, in my view, that our law enforcement and/or intelligence agencies did their job very well in this case. In other words, the terrorist threat remains very real and thus we have to continue to work everyday on undermining this threat and never take our eye off the ball.
My guess is that this will be a back page story by tomorrow. But we know that had the plot succeeded, it would be wall to wall coverage for a week or more. It would be another national crisis. I think we owe it to ourselves to conduct a review in this case just as we would had the plot succeeded. It is just as important to know what works as what doesn’t. It is just as important to understand the pain points in the investigation even though we caught the guys. We should be asking if the LAPD, for instance, could have worked as well protecting LAX as the NYPD did in working with the FBI and other federal agencies. Since it is likely that the DOJ obtained FISA warrants instead of bypassing the process, I’d like to know whether that is working as it should. These guys were doing just the thing — making international phone calls — that the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program was aimed at. I’m not saying we need that again, but it is obvious that we need the capability. Did the Iraq war help, hurt, or play no role in this effort? Let’s put it all up on the whiteboard and see what we can learn.
John F. Kennedy, targeted posthumously in this attack, used to say that success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan. Before we return to the blissful paradise of Lindsay Lohan stories and the like, let’s get these thousand fathers to ask the unthinkable what-ifs.