When will we ever learn?
Most American have no frame of reference for what it means to live in a totalitarian society. Because of the horrible events of September 11, 2001, Americans are about to get a taste of what it is like to live in a state where everyone is presumed to intend harm to his or her fellow citizens. What our law enforcement and our intelligence agencies will have to do in the days and months ahead will be terribly inconvenient and annoying; however, it is inevitable.
The basic conflict that devastated lower Manhattan is as old as the Crusades when Christendom and the Muslim world squared off over The Holy Land. Only today the Holy War is between Judeo-Christian “haves” on one side and Muslim fundamentalist extremist “have-nots” on the other.
But the elites of the Muslim extremists are obviously not without means. Their murderous activities are funded by the oil fields of the Middle East. We need to cut off that funding. That will require steely resolve on our part.
Instead of pandering to the enviro-nuts, we need to develop our own abundant oil and gas and coal resources with a goal toward greater energy independence. Moreover, the next attack will probably be by germ warfare bearing missiles. We must build a shield against missile attack by rogue states and terrorist groups.
And, pity our military and intelligence communities which are partly at fault (but not to blame) for not detecting and foiling the events of September 11th.
Historically, at the outset on any war, we blame our intelligence organs for a lack of warning. But, historically, at war’s end, the first activities to suffer massive budget cuts are the intelligence gathering agencies. We never seem to learn this lesson.
But the core reason why the CIA has been unable to recruit agents to penetrate the cells of the Bin Laden organization in recent years is because of some nutty policies adopted by the Clinton White House, former CIA Director, John Deutch, and his close aide, Nora Slatkin.
Deutch and Slatkin issued directives to the CIA’s case officers that they could not recruit penetration agents unless the prospective recruits had clean human rights records and were “good” people. This was “political correctness” at its worst.
Hello. The kind of people who will act as spies and betray their colleagues are, by definition, “bad” people, people who are not politically correct. Combine that kind of naviete with 50 percent cuts in military and intelligence budgets during the Clinton years and you have a recipe for the kind of disaster we just witnessed.
When this observer was in the “spook” business, we used to say that it takes a really honest person to live outside the law. Americans need to grow up and understand that effective human intelligence gathering operations abroad are almost always conducted in violation of the laws of the “host” country and are illegal. We must staff our intelligence agencies with men and women of the highest integrity and them ask them to perform their duties (and heres the irony)in an environment where they, and their agents, must live outside the law and perform illegal acts.
In Europe, where this observer operated many years ago, our tasks were relatively easy. The spies we tried to recruit and their targets were of the same skin color and generally of the same ethic background. A West German looked like an East German.
Penetration of the Muslim extremists is much more difficult. It is not something that can be done from the relative comfort of an embassy and diplomatic cover. It requires the recruitment of dirty, smelly, greedy, politically incorrect criminals with some sort of family feud motivation against their Muslim co-religionists.
Our nation just paid a high price for the naviete and stupidity of eight years of political correctness and budget cuts applied to intelligence operations. Will we ever learn this lesson?
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a former intelligence officer and the co-author of a novel on terrorism – The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn.
©2001. William Hamilton.