Jan 30 2006
In an excellent opinion piece out today Debra Burlingame, widow of 9-11, illustrates why those against the NSA surveillance of terrorists are wrong – dead wrong:
NBC News aired an “exclusive” story in 2004 that dramatically recounted how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda “switchboard” inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar’s brother-in-law lived. The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, “The NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn’t deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying.” Back then, the NBC script didn’t describe it as “spying on Americans.” Instead, it was called one of the “missed opportunities that could have saved 3,000 lives.”
As I pointed out here, the NSA policy was to delete all references to US contacts prior to 9-11 in homage to ‘The Wall’. They only passed on the fact there was contact with people overseas – never who they were contacting in the US. Up until 3 weeks prior to the attack, people were trying to tear down a Wall of over the top concerns about non-existing civil liberty issues.
Three weeks before 9/11, an FBI agent with the bin Laden case squad in New York learned that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were in this country. He pleaded with the national security gatekeepers in Washington to launch a nationwide manhunt and was summarily told to stand down. When the FISA Court of Review tore down the wall in 2002, it included in its ruling the agent’s Aug. 29, 2001, email to FBI headquarters: “Whatever has happened to this–someday someone will die–and wall or not–the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain problems. Let’s hope the National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, \[bin Laden\], is getting the most ‘protection.'”
Americans understand the mindset pre 9-11 was a national problem and allowed a lax response. But in the post 9-11 reality we have only one reponse for those who want to re-establish the insanity of ignoring threats for theoretical legal issues: “Please be quiet why we try and protect this great country”.
We will not fight wars in the courtroom. Please read the entire piece – it is something that should be framed for the ages. It describes how to win and how to lose a war.
Ed Morrissey has a great take on this as well here.