Sunday, February 24, 2008

A couple national security questions for Barack Obama 

Matthew Continetti has an excellent essay that describes how and why the House Democratic leadership prevented what would have been a favorable bipartisan vote on the extension of the Protect America Act, the legislation enacted last summer to permit the surveillance of electronic transmissions passing through American switches. The result is that the National Security Agency has just lost a large proportion of its ability to filter telephone calls for threats, even between foreigners speaking in foreign countries. Continetti wonders with much justification whether House Democrats are serious about national security.

This causes me to wonder how Barack Obama -- he being the most likely Democratic nominee -- accounts for the complete failure of al Qaeda or other Islamist terrorists to pull off a second successful mass casualty attack in the United States after September 11. At the time, essentially everybody on left and right believed that more such attacks would be forthcoming, but there have not been any. Why? Is this because we (all) grossly overestimated the threat posed by Islamist terrorists? Was al Qaeda just a paper tiger that got a lucky break? Or is it because our foreign and domestic security policies have created conditions under which it is much more difficult to succeed in such attacks? If so, which foreign and domestic security policies are most responsible for interdicting al Qaeda or channeling their attacks away from Americans? Since we know Obama believes the Iraq war has made us "less safe," is there a possibility that more aggressive signals intelligence than is permissible within FISA's "probable cause" standard is the domestic security policy that has prevented another attack?

CWCID: Andy McCarthy.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 24, 10:15:00 AM:

The answer to your question could have been any one of your suggestions, or simply that our opponents have a more patient approach than we do. I am not ready to credit anything we did as a victory against terrorists and the next attack. As to signal intelligence, it is vastly overrated as compared to human intelligence. Our enemy operates comfortably under medeval conditions. We are subject to IEDs and car bombs around the world and it is only a matter of time before it finds its way to our shores. These attacks or simple suicide shoot-em ups need no internet or telephone coordination. Let's focus on human intelligence and see if we can't get some key assest in the Pakistani special police.  

By Blogger SR, at Sun Feb 24, 11:31:00 AM:

At the same time, there is absolutely no reason to abandon any other type of intelligence gathering, nor is there any reason for the NY Times to publicize any of the methods we are using.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 24, 01:12:00 PM:

SIGINT is extremely useful. HUMINT is as well, but in different ways. But for some reason, HUMINT has taken on this mythic quality in the last few years, ever since it was revealed publicly that we had a dearth of practitioners in that discipline. It has flaws, not the least of which is the capacity for error and deception.

The medieval terrorists are not, by and large, the ones who are threats to us. What the hell is a cave dweller in tribal Pakistan going to do to shopping malls in Saint Louis? It's the ones who speak English (or French, or German, or whatever) and dress in Western clothes and have encrypted laptops on which they arrange wire transfers for purchases of dangerous chemicals that are the immediate threat.

And these days, even the cave dwellers use tactical radios, private cell networks, and satellite phones.  

By Blogger Don M, at Sun Feb 24, 01:50:00 PM:

One problem is that Al Queda had a uniquely soft set of targets which they exploited. It was actually against the law to interfere with a hijacker. The brave ones on Flight 93 were actually acting contrary to the law.

Earlier, it was required that any pilot of an aircraft that carried US Mail HAD to carry a pistol. The golden age of hijacking began after that law went off the books.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sun Feb 24, 02:16:00 PM:

"Continetti wonders with much justification whether House Democrats are serious about national security."

I don't wonder about it at all. I've said this here before and I'll say it again: by far the biggest reason I changed my registration from Democrat to Republican after 35 years as a Democrat is the Democrats' abandonment of national security to placate the Michael Moore wing of the party. I'm a one-issue voter on this; everything else pales in comparison.  

By Blogger SR, at Sun Feb 24, 02:44:00 PM:

Why doesn't the President issue a blanket pardon to any private citizen now or in the future who can show cooperation with National Security programs?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Feb 24, 03:05:00 PM:

SR, the issue is private class action lawsuits and the extraordinary expense that they impose -- as I understand it there are more than 40 pending against the telecoms. The presidential pardon power relates to crimes, not torts.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Feb 24, 04:11:00 PM:

I think it would be interesting if Barack Obama were asked a question of any difficulty whatsoever.  

By Blogger Pax Federatica, at Sun Feb 24, 04:22:00 PM:

My own theory on why we've not had any further attacks is that 9/11 was an own-goal for Islamic supremacism, a fact which the supremacists only belatedly realized.

Had there never been an attack on U.S. soil, Islamic supremacism would likely still be out of sight, out of mind to most Americans, even most conservative Americans. Take away the subsequent London, Madrid and Bali bombings and you might even be able to say the same of Westerners elsewhere. Meanwhile Islamists across the West could have quietly continued to build up their political clout and slowly Islamize their host nations from the inside out. Without 9/11 casting the world's spotlight squarely upon Islamic supremacism, those of us raising red flags about the gathering threat would have found it much harder to get most folks (never mind the MSM) to take them seriously.

Not that I would ever expect Obama to answer your question to this effect, of course.  

By Blogger SR, at Sun Feb 24, 05:40:00 PM:

OK, so Presidential immunity is out the window.
How about the House Republicans attempt to
invoke a discharge petition to get the bill to the floor?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 24, 06:43:00 PM:

Democrats believe that 9/11 was a "fluke" and also (under their breath "justified.")

The reality is that in 1993, under Egyptian Islamic Jihad (predecessor to AQ) tried to topple one tower onto another to kill 50,000 people. The goal? To kill enough Americans to make them "surrender to Islam."

This goal has not changed. Sigint has helped foil plots because AQ conspirators, like the Egyptian Islamic Jihadists in 1993, rely on telephone calls, messaging, etc. to co-ordinate people in Europe, Pakistan, and Africa.

Most Dems would likely welcome another attack because they'd feel it justified. But they don't think it's possible because they (as they did in 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2000) dismiss attacks as "unimportant." If we lost NYC to a nuke attack Dems would justify it and then claim it could never happen again.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 24, 08:24:00 PM:

BARACK OBAMAS idea of border security is to open the borders and granting instant amnesty and citizenshit to all illegal aleins  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 25, 12:59:00 PM:

We haven't been attacked again because there is no profit in it; nothing for the Muslims to gain.
Election of a democrat as president, however, is a guarantee of an attack because it will be the mechanism to get the US to the bargaining table.
The attack will take place after the November election, probably, before the dem actually is sworn in, but after a point where we could bomb the daylights out of the probable perps.
The dems and other anti-Americans would use the attack to sit down with the aggrived Muslims to see if we can't better understand their deep feelings and what we can do to resolve the ancient wrongs.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 26, 11:35:00 AM:

"We haven't been attacked again because there is no profit in it; nothing for the Muslims to gain."

So the thwarted Fort Dix attack, and the Buffalo cell, and seized explosives coming across the Canadian border, and the Washington Snipers, and suicide bomb in Oklahoma, (bet you never heard about that one) and the raids in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, just.... never happened?

And this is all just stuff that made it to the press. Other things don't.

The lack of attacks in the US is not for lack of effort on their part. It's for expenditure of effort on ours.

Witness the series of attacks that both failed (sarin stockpile in Paris, German trains) and succeeded (Madrid, London, Bali) abroad to see that the terrorists are not just biding their time.  

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