Monday, December 28, 2009

Learning from the Christmas Attack

On Christmas Day, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, boarded a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. He had one thing in mind: to murder everyone on the plane.

Luckily for the people on the aircraft, his explosive chemical concoction failed, and courageous passengers took him into custody. Because of their courage, we don’t need to sift through a destroyed aircraft and a bunch of body parts to learn what happened. The experts will undoubtedly produce recommendations and policy changes based upon what this incident reveals about weaknesses in air travel security, but we know some things even now.

First, this is not just about the terror organization called Al Qaeda. The threat is much larger. The bloody hands of Islamist terror reach out from Iraq and Afghanistan, from Europe, from Africa, even from right here in our backyard, perhaps from a local mosque where a radical imam preaches a hatred of the West that most Americans can’t fathom.

We also need to dispel the stereotype that radical Muslim extremists are underprivileged and poorly educated. Like Osama bin Laden and the doctors who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Scotland, they can be college graduates who grew up with wealth and privilege. Abdulmutallab’s family is among Nigeria’s elite. His father, the chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria and a former minister in the Nigerian government, sent him to the finest schools in Nigeria and England, where the terrorist studied engineering. So wealthy is the family that they maintain a $4 million flat in London’s posh West End, where Rolls Royces are more common than Hondas are in most neighborhoods.

Just as the terrorists don’t fit the common stereotype, we should also remember that most Muslims are not pro-terrorist. Most are law-abiding and good religious people who want nothing more but to live in peace. These folks, however, aren’t the threat. Those who have created a perverted form of Islam that characterizes the West as its evil enemy are. They, unfortunately, dominate governments and sway public opinion in the Islamic world. Their ideology of hate must be confronted and those who believe in tolerance encouraged.

Perhaps the most important lesson we must learn is that we must put the gathering and dissemination of accurate intelligence ahead of concerns about political correctness. If we intend to prevail or even just survive in this battle against radical Islam, we must put an immediate and complete end to political correctness – period! In this case, as with Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood terror assassin, we had information indicating that there may – just may – be a problem with these people, yet one way or another, they slipped through a crack. That this may have happened because some in positions to take preventive action felt they would be stigmatized as not politically correct and damage their careers is appalling.

The airlines and the Transportation Safety Agency, which reports to the Department of Homeland Security, follow a rigid set of guidelines to insure our safety and security in and around the airports and on aircraft. There is, however, a general suspicion that these rules are subjectively applied. We have all heard stories of a 90-year-old woman being searched before boarding a flight while a passenger who would fit the identical profile of Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 bombers, is less likely to be confronted because no one wants to be subjected to an allegation that they were racially profiling.

In the case of Major Hassan, although people were alarmed by his behavior, no one acted, and he was able to pull off a jihadist attack, killing 14 people. For Abdulmutallab, the procedural error occurred after his father went to the United States Embassy in November, concerned about his son’s radical beliefs and worried that he might attempt to do something bad to the United States.Abdulmutallab was allowed to board the KLM flight without even a second round of screening.
There are at least three separate watch lists that the U.S. security agencies maintain and monitor to track suspected terrorists, terror sponsors, and terror sympathizers. Evidently, Abdulmutallab was on the list that is supposedly the most minimum threat level. According to the authorities, his being on that list did not call for any additional screening over and above any other airline passenger. If that’s true, then what exactly is that list for? More importantly, if his father did, in fact, notify the U.S. Embassy of his concerns, then why did that not raise a flag somewhere, that this man should be looked at? If Dad thinks you’re nuts and murderous, then maybe you are and someone should look into it.

In the past 36 hours, I’ve watched all the reports on CNN, FOX, and NBC, about airports enhancing their security measures, and looking at new screening equipment and approaches to security in the airline industry.

This is insanity. If there’s anyone in the security business who is surprised by this attempted attack, they need to find another line of work. If they don’t get it by now, they aren’t going to.

El Al Airlines, Israel's national carrier, is by far the safest airline in the world despite its being one of the biggest terrorist targets in the world. Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv is the world’s safest airport, so why aren’t we mirroring their security protocols?

Passengers at Ben Gurion are spared the hassle of having to remove their shoes and don’t have the luxury of curbside check-in. Here in the United States, a passenger is barely spoken to, with the exception of continuous instructions on getting through the screening process. In Ben Gurion, however, you’re spoken to constantly. From the second you enter the terminal, security and airline agents alike are looking for clues that raise a red flag, such as bulky clothing or nervousness. There are also profilers who monitor your behavior and interview travelers for anything out of the ordinary. If they are intrusive or politically incorrect, it’s just too bad. Their approach saves lives, and to them, that’s what counts.

This morning, I listened to an airline official say that, based on this recent event, they were now looking at screening equipment that could x-ray clothing to determine if something were concealed beneath it.

That’s great, but that equipment has been out for years, so why isn’t it being used now? The answer is the same as to why we aren’t using Israeli type profilers at the airport. We don’t want to insult anyone or hurt their feelings.That’s the wrong approach, if we intend to do the job that has to be done. We have to concentrate on security first, and feelings second.

But changes inside the security profession aren’t enough. We, as a country, have got to understand that the terror threat is real and is here to stay, and we need to proactively take steps to address it. President Barack Obama’s order for a review of the watch lists requirements and protocols couldn’t come at a better time. In addition to this and the improved screening equipment, we must understand the threat posed by radical Islam.

In numbers, those who seek to destroy us through terror are smaller than the millions America faced in World War I and II, but, unlike those enemies, who could be recognized on the battlefield by their uniforms, our present enemy exploits civilian guise. There is no single face or uniform or color or ethnic background that identifies them. The single trait they all share is a sick and demented hatred that drives them to use themselves as the weapons of their war and to happily die in its cause. This makes them formidable enemies, but not enemies than can’t be resisted.

We need to fix the flaws in a system that has to be as close to perfect as we can possibly get it because this enemy will keep on coming.

This time we were lucky. The next time, we may not be.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Give Our Troops Resources

Between the New York City Police and Correction departments, I led a combined staff of nearly 70,000 men and women, and I oversaw a $4 billion dollar budget.

In the jail system, I had the responsibility of overseeing the 125,000 inmates who entered the system annually; in the police department, I had to worry about the 8 million to 12 million people who lived in, worked in, or visited New York City daily. In both departments, we had enormous successes, much of which I received the credit for, but the reality is that the men and women in the field are responsible for the real successes or failures of any administrator or executive.

An enormous part of leadership is getting the right men and women in place to do the job, knowing and understanding those people, inspiring them to do the job, and then providing them with the tools, and staff they need if you intend to succeed.

Be it a grocery store in New Jersey, a car wash in Florida, a Walmart anywhere in the country, or the NYPD – the principles are all the same. And that goes for our military as well.

Wednesday marked the eight-year anniversary of the U.S. and coalition invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. A few days earlier, hundreds of Taliban insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades overran two outposts near the Pakistan border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops.

It was one of the deadliest assaults against U.S. forces in more than a year.
Almost simultaneously, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said that the situation in Afghanistan is serious and growing worse — and without more boots on the ground, the United States risks failure in the war it has been waging. That said, we have two choices to make: Give him what he needs to do the job, or pull our troops out and get them home.
Continuing this battle understaffed and ill-equipped is a guarantee for heavier losses that no one wants to see.

Let’s not forget the Soviet–Afghan War, which lasted more than nine years involving the Soviet Union and India, supporting Afghanistan at its request, against the Islamist Mujahedeen Resistance. Supporting the mujahedeen were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a few other Muslim nations.

This war ultimately was labeled the Soviets' Vietnam because of the interminable nature of the war and the Soviets' inability to achieve any sort of victory. And that was the Soviet Union, a world power whose idea of the Geneva Convention is using tanks to run over protesters at an antiwar rally.

The U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan today are fighting a battle in terrain that is nearly impossible, and their enemy is like mountain rats that live in the rocks and caves. What is worse yet is that the enemy likes those conditions.

This is no easy job.

McChrystal said he needs more troops to get the job done. He is the man on the ground tasked with a strategy to accomplish a mission. There’s no better example of this type of exercise than the merger in Iraq and the successes Gen. David Petraeus had in 2008. There’s no need to speak to the members of the Armed Services Committee for advice unless that advice is how to expedite the logistical request and get McChrystal the tools and resources he needs to get that job done.

It's now or never — for every day we waste, we put the lives of those fighting for us on the line even more than they already are. If we are not going to grant the general his request, then call him and his troops home, salute each and every one, and thank them for a job well done.

If we are, then let’s get on with it. McChrystal and the men and women under his command deserve no less.
Until the decision is made one way or another, God speed to all. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Take Out Iran's Nuclear Facilities - Now

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to world peace grows stronger by the day with new evidence that Iran is building an underground plant to enrich uranium that can be used for an atomic bomb.

When asked if Iran had sufficient uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad sidestepped the question, saying the new facility won't be operational for 18 months, so Iran has not violated any IAEA requirements.

However, the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, who heads the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying: "This new plant, God willing, will soon become operational and will make the enemies blind." That doesn’t sound like they will be using this facility for energy, does it?

Iran, its president, and Khamenei jeopardize global nonproliferation, the European nations, the Middle East and in particular, Israel — a country that Ahmadinejad has already identified as his principal target that should be blown off the map.

In their spare time when they are not working on their own atomic bomb, Iran is also helping Venezuela detect uranium deposits which experts suggest that their reserves could be significant.

This insanity must be stopped, and stopped now.

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Tehran to open the site to the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency or face consequences.

The head of Iran's nuclear program suggested that United Nations inspectors may be allowed to visit the site, but history has shown that depending on the U.N., its inspectors, or sanctions have never been effective.

The threats of isolation and increased pressure by the international community will not work when China and Russia are saying publicly that they will not support sanctions against Iran.

Anyone who believes that Ahmadinejad is worried about denying his country the resources that would come with international or U.N. sanctions are a bit naïve. We have seen what he thinks of the Iranian people during his last election, when he basically took his position by force, deadly and otherwise.

Ahmadinejad and Iran’s manufacturing of nuclear weapons must be addressed, and addressed now. We cannot negotiate with a madman and we cannot wait until it’s too late or we or others might be taken by surprise.

Our allies in Europe and the Middle East are in danger, and Israel could face complete annihilation. We can’t afford another Iraq, but we don’t have to have one. Either we take out these sites, or give Israel or someone else the help they need to get the job done.

It is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Mindset to Defeat Terror

On Sept. 20, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress following the attacks on America on 9/11. I sat two rows behind first lady Laura Bush as the president spoke of “a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.”

He spoke of a new and unconventional enemy and said, “They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.”

He said, “These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.”
Well, for the past two weeks, we have learned of a carefully organized and massive plot to bomb a number of targets across the United States by a 24-year-old, Afghan-born Al-Qaida operative named Najibullah Zazi, precisely the enemy Bush spoke of in 2001.

Throughout the course of this investigation by the FBI and New York City Police Department, we have heard that Zazi had several pages of hand-written notes of bomb-making instructions inside a computer that he kept in his possession. He allegedly wrote those notes last year when attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.

"You're talking about subway stations, public places where potentially thousands of people could be killed," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett. "And in addition to that, when you add multiple locations, you're talking about potentially a horrendous number of people dying.”

Since Zazi’s arrest, federal agents have tracked down a number of beauty supply stores in Colorado where Zazi and accomplices purchased unusually large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, which would be used to create improvised explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement that, “We believe an imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted,” and added, “we are investigating a wide range of leads.”

Based on reports, it appears that Zazi was the ringleader of this al-Qaida cell and had a number of co-conspirators in Colorado and New York, and that the principal targets were probably in New York.

That being said, perhaps it’s time to look at things a little differently when it comes to keeping our country safe and free from the threats of this new and unconventional enemy.

Immigration, criminal profiling, and the Patriot Act are just for starters.

Our immigration laws have loopholes the size of Texas. Putting aside our inability to prevent intruders from illegally crossing our borders, many of our immigration policies are no better.

For example, a military commander from Saudi Arabia comes to the United States to attend a military course and brings his wife, who is eight months pregnant. Their baby is born a U.S. citizen, the family travels back to Saudi Arabia, and the child can return anytime during their lifetime with no restrictions. If by chance that child is raised or infested with the radical Islamic beliefs of Osama Bin Laden and his followers, there is nothing we can do about it. That child has the same rights and any other U.S. citizen.

Another example, based on a true story, is that a naturalized Pakistani father living in Georgia takes his two U.S.-born teenage sons to Karachi, Pakistan, drops them in a madrassa (an Islamic learning center) for four years to be indoctrinated in radical extremists beliefs. The two young men return to the United States with an incredible hatred for our country and there is nothing we can do about it.

Another example: A family from Syria is chosen thru the U.S. immigration lottery to acquire a green card. They come to the United States and acquire their green card with the understanding that they will live in the U.S. However, as soon as they receive it, they head back to Syria (using their Syrian passport) and return every six months to show up for immigration interviews until they become U.S. citizens. They then live in Syria and keep the U.S. citizenship in a drawer in case they need it.

Since political correctness has scared our legislators to death, they can’t find the courage to say publicly that we as a country must begin profiling to identify the new enemies we face, both here and abroad.

Call it criminal profiling, terrorist profiling, or whatever you wish, but don’t confuse it with racial profiling. Take the sex, age, religion, education, place of worship, travel history, and an assortment of other things that resemble the personal pedigree of Najibullah Zazi, Mohammed Atta (one of the 9/11 ring leaders), and a few of the Islamic extremist bombers in Madrid and London, and throw them into a massive super computer of every public and law enforcement data base in the U.S., and I promise you will identify a number of people we should be watching that we are not.

The civil rights advocates will scream constitutional violations, racial profiling, big brother watching, and on and on. So what! I’d rather find these people before they strike than be conducting investigations after a device was activated somewhere in the New York City mass transit system.

As for the Patriot Act, every time we hear of a plot that involves an extremist group that intends to attack our country from within, I look at how the Patriot Act has helped in the investigation. This one probably takes the cake.

The CIA observed Zazi in Pakistan frequenting a location known to be a hangout for al-Qaida operatives. The CIA relayed that information to the FBI in the United States and a target is born. Roving wiretaps, CIA-FBI communications and coordination, local and state involvement in the federal investigation, and more led to the arrest and uncovering of what could be the most substantial al-Qaida attack plot in the U.S since 9/11.

Since the details continue to filter in, only time will tell how big this plot was, but one thing is for sure: the Patriot Act was a viable tool in allowing the federal agents to accomplish their goals of taking down this cell.

Unlike World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, or even the first Gulf War, this is a new enemy that far surpasses the others in numbers. It’s an unconventional enemy and must be fought by unconventional means. Immigration, the Patriot Act and profiling are just some of the tools that local, state, and federal authorities will need to do their job.

If we are going to beat them, we must think like them, create laws to combat them, and understand that the days of battling a foreign enemy through conventional means are over. Our military must change, our local, state and federal law enforcement must change, and most importantly, our political leadership on both sides of the aisle must change.

In concluding his speech in 2001, Bush said he was “confident of the victories to come.”

For your sake and mine, I just hope he was right.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Terror Threat Increase

Be it Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colorado or New York City, the past week has demonstrated that al-Qaida and radical Islamic extremism are alive and ever present and still pose a significant threat to our homeland, U.S. targets abroad and our international allies.

According to published reports, U.S. Special Operations personnel killed a terror suspect in Somalia that U.S. intelligence sources said was a link between and Islamic militia in Somalia, al-Qaida in Pakistan and a group of young Somali-Americans from Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis boys told authorities that they recognized the suspect as one of their instructors at an al-Qaida training camp in Somalia.

On Wednesday, federal agents searched the home of a Colorado man that the FBI said might have possible links to al-Qaida. According to another source, authorities believed that he was involved in a potential bomb plot involving hydrogen peroxide-based explosives that led members of the New York Joint Terrorist Task Force to raid several apartments in Queens, New York.
Both the NYPD and FBI said there were no specific terrorist threats, however, their investigation is continuing in New York City and halfway across the country on home-grown chameleons that appear to be far more educated than we have dealt with in the past.

The Taliban continues to trouble coalition forces in Afghanistan, and a number of Islamic extremists have moved into east Africa where British and American Special Operations groups are attempting to hunt them down.

Federal authorities are reporting increased chatter, and we’re witnessing international training and links between training camps abroad and cities all across this country.

At a time when political divisiveness, healthcare and the economy are dominating the airwaves, let’s not lose sight of what appears to be an increased terror threat against us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gadhafi is not Welcomed in New Jersey

On May 15, the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. It now looks like a bad decision.

The resumption of diplomatic ties with the U.S. should have never occurred as has been evidenced by Moammar Gadhafi’s recent hero’s welcome and support for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence agent and lone man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 in Lockerbie, Scotland.

If you are supporting terrorists, in my book you are a terrorist. Although Gadhafi has made a concerted effort to scam his way back into the good graces of the international community, his transparent support for the Pan Am 103 bomber is a clear demonstration that he is the same man he was in the 1970s when he established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil, provided terrorist groups with arms, and offered safe haven to terrorists.

He aided Spain's ETA, Italy's Red Brigades, and Palestinian groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Libya was also suspected of attempting to assassinate the leaders of Chad, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).

Gadhafi’s regime was also implicated in the 1989 bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger in which 171 died. In 1986, Libya sponsored the bombing of a Berlin disco popular among U.S. servicemen, killing two U.S. soldiers.

Gadhafi is planning to attend the United Nations General Assembly next month. In doing so, he intends on setting up camp in Englewood, N.J., just across the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan.

New Jersey was home to 38 victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. Allowing him stay here while visiting the U.N. is a disgrace and a slap in the face, not only to those who died from New Jersey, but to all the victims from Flight 103.

At 11 a.m. on Aug. 30, Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes will hold a rally in protest of Gadhafi’s expected stay.

Every American should join him to send Gadhafi and others like him a message: Terrorists and sponsors of terror are not wanted in the United States.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Europe Must Stop Cowering from Terror

In 2005, Germany's high court ordered the release of a Syrian-born Mamoun Darkazani, who was being held in a German prison in connection with the 2003 Madrid bombings. He was also allegedly seen in a 1999 wedding video with two of the 9/11 suicidal attackers, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.

Spanish authorities investigating al-Qaida, along with 41 other suspects, including Osama bin Laden, indicted Darkazani. He was released because a German federal court thought it would be illegal for him to be extradited against his will.

A notorious Spanish terrorist, Inaki de Juana Chaos, a member of the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna terrorist group, or ETA, was sentenced to 3,000 years in prison for the murder of 25 people in the 1980s.

He was released after 21 years, benefiting from a 1973 law that allowed reductions of sentences for good conduct. His good conduct in prison included making death threats to prison governors. In a letter written after one of the killings, he said of the victims: "Their tears are our smiles, and in the end we will roar with laughter."

In 1985, four armed Palestinian terrorists hijacked the cruise ship, Achille Lauro, killing a defenseless elderly man in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, and then dumping his body overboard.
As the hijackers attempted to escape, then-President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. fighter jets to intercept the plane carrying the terrorists. Their plane was forced to land in Signolia, Italy, where they were taken into custody.

They were sentenced to 25 years for kidnapping and murder but later released for good behavior.
European nations as a whole, have committed to fighting global terror and have talked a good game, until it comes to having the backbone and courage to stand strong in the face of threats or political influence.

The recent release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the lone man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, is just another example of a European nation cowering to terror.
There were 270 victims of that attack, and the person responsible was released, only to receive a hero's welcome in Tripoli, Libya.

This raises two questions: Why was he released? And should we be revisiting our decision to remove Libya from the U.S. State Department’s list of terror sponsoring states?

His sentence alone was totally outrageous! A 27-year sentence equaling 36.5 days in prison for each person he killed. However, it’s far worse since he only served eight years, meaning that he only served 10.8 days per person that he killed.

Were the lives of Susan Cohen and Joanne Hartunian’s daughters or Bert Ammerman’s brother worth no more than 11 days of al-Megrahi’s time?

Scottish officials said that they were bound by Scottish values to release al-Megrahi because he had prostate cancer and was diagnosed to only have months to live.

Were they not bound by Scottish values to ensure that he was held accountable for the murders he committed? If not, that is a disgrace.

One of my all time favorite movies is “Braveheart” – the major motion picture directed by Mel Gibson, which was based on the life of Sir William Wallace, one of Scotland's greatest heroes.
In the late 1200s, Wallace fought passionately for Scotland’s freedom from English rule, and eventually died for his cause. Be it legend, rumor or actuality, Wallace knew more that 800 years ago that you had to fight for freedom and that that fight could never end.

Here we are in 2009 fighting an enemy that despises those very freedoms that Wallace fought for and that we so often take for granted. Be it the U.S. or U.K., Spain, Germany, Italy or Scotland, the enemy today is a global network of those like al-Megrahi who have found joy in the murder of innocent civilians all around the world.

They have no remorse for their actions, nor do they care for those left behind, and if given the opportunity to do it all over again, I promise you they would not hesitate a minute.

al-Megrahi should have remained in prison until his death. It is the least that the Scottish authorities could have done to demonstrate to the world, their determination to fight terrorism.

Releasing him is nothing but a slap in the face to the victims of Pan Am 103 and all those in the war against terror today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Armed Protests Jeopardize the President, Public

According to a number of press reports, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, stood among protesters outside a convention center in Arizona where President Barack Obama was giving a speech Aug. 17.

This appears to be the latest incident in which protesters have openly displayed firearms near the president.

In Arizona and several other states, it happens to be legal for people to purchase and carry these types of weapons without a permit. Gun-rights advocates say they are exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and protest; others who argue for more gun control say it could be a disaster waiting to happen.

I happen to be a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and strongly believe in our constitutional right to bear arms. However, I also have had the responsibility of overseeing the protection of several heads of state, including at one of the world’s largest gatherings — the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in September 2000.

I believe that there is no greater responsibility in this country than that of the men and women in our federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations charged with protecting the life of our president.

In order to protect the president, the Secret Service recruits other federal, state, and local agencies to assist them daily. The military supports the Secret Service through the use of explosive ordnance disposal teams and communications resources. When the president travels, an advance team of Secret Service agents works with host city and state law enforcement, as well as public safety officials, to jointly implement the necessary security measures.

Knowing and understanding the threats we face from terrorism alone is reason to ensure that the security arrangements for the president is of the highest standard. In addition to those possible threats, there are reports that the threats against this president are 400 percent higher than that of any other. If the threat and vulnerability assessments are accurate, this president and vice president should have the highest levels of security in the history of the Secret Service whether they like it or not.

There are reports that the vice president has ordered his protective detail be minimized during certain travel. We have also seen President Barack Obama mix it up with a crowd from time to time, and I assure you it was against the wishes of their detail leaders responsible for keeping them safe.

What principals like the president and vice president sometimes do not understand is that they have the responsibility to stay alive, just as the Secret Service has the responsibility to keep them alive.
If they intentionally or unintentionally interfere with or preclude the Secret Service from doing its job, they jeopardize their own lives as well as the lives of those charged with protecting them. Perhaps more importantly, they could jeopardize the stability of our country if something were to happen to them.

Allowing armed protesters to show up where the president is speaking is irresponsible and could cause a catastrophic security nightmare for those charged with protecting him.

It endangers the protective agents, the protesters, the public, and the president. It creates an immediate distraction as each armed protester then becomes a focus of observation for the agents.
Although Arizona and other states may allow the possession of these weapons, who can tell that the person carrying them at the time is not a threat to the president or others? An unidentified man who had a rifle slung over his shoulder told a reporter for the Arizona Republic, that “I still have some freedoms,” and he may be right. But freedom to create alarm and a possible threat to the president is not one of them.

Use some common sense.

That man may have no ill intent and possess his weapon legally, but what if someone not so nice takes it away? Why create scenarios where the protective agents focus is instinctually aimed at the weapon’s carriers? What if there is an accidental discharge by someone who is not that proficient with his or her weapon that creates a stampede or serious distraction?

No responsible gun owner, law enforcement executive, or public official should endorse or allow these armed protests anywhere near the president.

The president and his staff should let the Secret Service do its job, regardless of political correctness, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should ensure that the president is protected at all cost . . . and if that includes stepping on some protester’s toes, so be it.

I’m all for the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms, but not at the cost of endangering the president. This is a dangerous practice and it must be stopped.

The job of protecting the president is hard enough. . . let’s not make it any harder for the men and women who have to do the job.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

9/11 Anniversary a Sober Reminder to Be Ready

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes after two jetliners slammed through towers I and II of the World Trade Center, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, I, and several others stopped at a temporary command post on West Street to survey the damage of the two buildings.

We met with Sgt. John Coughlin of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit and three of the most experienced men in the New York City Fire Department: First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan, Chief of Department Peter Ganci, and Chief of Operations Raymond Downey. They were standing beneath two of the largest buildings in the world that had just been devastated by terror, yet didn’t blink an eye. I was encouraged by their determination and humbled by their bravery. As we walked away from them, the Fire Department’s legendary chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, blessed us with the sign of the cross.

It was the last time I would see them alive.

As we approach the eighth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, I think of those men and the other men and women like them, who sacrificed their lives to save others. I think of the innocents in the buildings and planes, and those we lost at the Pentagon and in Shanksville.

More so, I think of how this particular anniversary should be an overwhelming reminder to all of us that an attack like this can happen again, even eight years later!

It was just over eight years between the first bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993 and the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. It was eight months into President George W. Bush’s first term, when we realized that the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans no longer protected us from the elements of war. We also learned of a new enemy that very few Americans had even heard of.

Osama bin Laden, radical Muslim extremism, and al-Qaida became household words overnight, as the fear of another attack lingered. We learned that this evil and unconventional enemy does not differentiate between civilian and military targets and has no limits in when it comes to mass murder and the annihilation of its enemy, including innocent women and children. We have since learned that it has no real leadership, is not run by an identifiable government, is larger in numbers than our enemies of World War II and has the ability to penetrate our international borders as well as to infiltrate our communities within.

So, here we are eight years after the infamous attacks on 9/11, and eight months into a new president’s administration, exactly where we were in 2001. Al-Qaida and Muslim extremism still threaten our nation, and our war against terror continues, both here and abroad.

Are we better off today than we were on Sept. 10, 2001?

The answer is yes we are — much better. But as we approach this eighth anniversary, we must also admit that we could be in a far better position today if our political leadership would put an end to partisan politics and look out for us as much as they do themselves.

The information age has brought us a far more educated terrorist, one who has access to the Internet and the international press and media so they are watching every move we make, just about in real time.

Our government’s operational secrecy seems almost impossible at times due to leaks of classified information and material. Some blame the journalists; I blame the traitors who release the information in the first place, because besides breaking the law, they jeopardize our national security as well as the lives of the men and women on the front line in this war.

As if that isn’t frightening enough, our political leadership today seems determined to keep the halls of Congress in chaos, focusing on partisan politics while failing to get anything accomplished. The better and brighter members of the House — Democrats and Republicans alike — are being stymied by those whose efforts are focused more on looking out for themselves, ingratiating themselves with a new president, or getting themselves re-elected.

The CIA director is complaining that partisan politics are interfering with operational capabilities and deteriorating the morale of the men and women who place themselves in harms way daily in their fight for our freedom, and the freedom of others.

The Department of Defense has been requested to redirect funds intended for the war, to fund such things as four jets at a total cost of over $500 million that would be used specifically for House members to travel around the world. Some of the same members of Congress who endorsed the purchase of the new aircraft ridiculed and lambasted senior officials of the auto industry when they traveled to Washington, D.C. for hearings. Talk about a hypocrisy.

If reports are accurate, 10 lawmakers — six Democrats and four Republicans — spent 11 days on an international junket in some of the most breathtaking spots on earth, diving and snorkeling at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, watching New Year's fireworks in New Zealand, and sleeping in a luxury Hawaiian hotel. They claimed it was a fact-finding mission to study climate change.

The cost to taxpayers: $500,000.

If House and Senate members are accountable to no one in their own organizations or parties, perhaps the American people need to pay closer attention to what’s going on. Perhaps we should be looking at term limits in the House and Senate . . . maybe we would get a lot more done, particularly by those politicians who in their second term would have nothing to lose. Perhaps then they would act in our best interest.

As it stands today, the ruling party blames the other for past and present failures, and when their incompetence becomes so transparent that their political poll numbers begin to plummet, they all blame the president.

Failure and incompetency in government should not be tolerated at any level, particularly when it comes to our national security. However, our present system seems to allow incompetency through this blame game, preventing real results.

If we learned anything from the attacks of 9/11, we learned that the people and groups that carried out the attacks have enormous patience. They toyed with us between 1993 and 2001 with the bombings of the Al Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in Yemen.

Today, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela continue their threats against us and our supporters, while bin Laden and his band of thugs pursue their promise of an attack far more spectacular than Sept. 11.

With that in mind, I have to wonder if our national security is where it should be today and are our domestic and international intelligence programs running efficiently? Are there accountability programs in place to ensure we’re not missing things as a result of interagency strife or turf wars as we have in the past? Do the men and women in our armed forces have the equipment they need to fight this war and keep them safe? How about our federal and local law enforcement agencies — do they have the tools they need to get the job done? And can we guarantee that the president is going to be given accurate and real-time information to make the decisions he must to protect our homeland?

Personally, I find it amazing that President Barack Obama’s directive to close down Guantanamo Bay hasn’t already been accomplished because we still don’t have a plan in place as to what we are going to do with the prisoners.

Are we going to try them in special military courts or civilian courts on U.S. soil? Are we trying them as enemy combatants of the U.S. — which they are, or are we trying them as violators of U.S. criminal law? If we’re not holding them at Guantanamo, where are they going and more importantly, do we then have the right by law to hold them?

What are the real answers and what takes so long to create a plan?

Have we seriously looked at our constitution and the laws of our land, when it comes to dealing with this new enemy and the war against terror? The answer is no, we have not. If we had, the Guantanamo Bay issue and others like it could have been resolved by now.

Our political leadership should have addressed and resolved many of these issues over the past eight years but its self-serving and partisan interests have prevented it from doing so, just as it is today.

When it comes to our national security, this must stop.

As we approach the eighth anniversary of the worst terror attack in our nation’s history — more damaging than that of Pearl Harbor — you have to ask, did we learn our lesson the last time and have we fixed our flaws to make sure it cannot happen again?

We have tried, but not enough.

Just as it was for Bush in 2001, it has been eight years since the last attack on the World Trade Center, and we are now eight months into Obama’s first presidential term.

Will history repeat itself? As someone who lived through it the last time, I pray and hope not.

But being a realist, I know that the enemy, both here and abroad, continues to wait — testing our patience, our courage, and our leadership. It is not if but when the next attack on our country will come. We ignored the warnings after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and never imagined an attack like that of Sept. 11, 2001.

Insist that our lawmakers stop the partisan in-fighting and put our national security before their own self-interests so they can fix the flawed programs and systems before it is too late.
The lives of the American people depend on it.