Category Archives: Terrorism

10 years later, some reasons to feel better

Our editorial today cites some reasons to feel better today than we did 10 years ago, when the slaughter of nearly 3,000 Americans provoked shock, outrage and fear, including: Osama bin Laden can be spoken of in the past tense. The United States is much more secure and prepared. No additional attacks have occurred on U.S. soil. Afghanistan is no longer ruled by the Taliban, Iraq is no longer ruled by Saddam Hussein, and the Arab world is toppling other dictators in a messy pursuit of economic opportunity, human rights, representative government and the rule of law.

Constitution protects more than one religion

As he sentenced a troublemaking local pastor to serve probation time, pay $300 in fines and stay at least 1,000 feet away from the Islamic Society of Wichita, Sedgwick County District Judge Phil Journey delivered a worthy message last week not only to the pastor but to the community: The Constitution provides protection for people of all faiths. “What if the shoe had been on the other foot and someone from the Islamic center had come to your place and tried to convert your members and had blocked your driveway?” Journey asked Mark Holick, pastor of Spirit One Christian Ministry. Holick had been convicted of loitering and disturbing business at the Islamic center as local Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan. Especially as the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 nears, Wichitans and all Americans need to remember that the country was attacked not by Islam but by terrorists who’d twisted Islam to serve evil. As President Bush put it in visiting a D.C. mosque just seven days after the 2001 attacks: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. Islam is peace.”

Does Obama have duty to prosecute Bush officials for use of torture?

President Obama has been plenty busy dealing with the present. But, argues Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, the president and Attorney General Eric Holder have a legal obligation to investigate and prosecute those involved in the use of water-boarding and other torture techniques during the Bush administration. Failure to do so is damaging U.S. credibility with other countries, as well as putting U.S. service members and intelligence personnel at risk. “Obama’s inaction places the United States in violation of its international legal obligations,” Roth wrote. “The United Nations Convention Against Torture (ratified by the United States and 146 other countries), as well as the Geneva Conventions, do more than prohibit torture at all times, even in war. They also require that torture be investigated and prosecuted. The duty to prosecute is no more optional than the duty not to torture.”

With friends like Pakistan . . .

From a New York Times article about Pakistan arresting some of the CIA informants who helped us track down Osama bin Laden: “Some in Washington see the arrests as illustrative of the disconnect between Pakistani and American priorities at a time when they are supposed to be allies in the fight against al-Qaida — instead of hunting down the support network that allowed bin Laden to live comfortably for years, the Pakistani authorities are arresting those who assisted in the raid that killed the world’s most wanted man.”

Don’t discount ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’

In the Wall Street Journal, former CIA Director Michael Hayden put “individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence” in the same category as “truthers” and “birthers.” The truth is, he wrote, that “information derived from enhanced interrogation techniques helped lead us to bin Laden.” What’s more, if the deniers “truly believe that these interrogations did not and could not yield useful intelligence, they should demand that the CIA identify all the information derived directly or indirectly from enhanced interrogation. And then they should insist the agency destroy it. They should also insist that significant portions of the 9/11 Commission Report be rescinded, as it too was based on this data.” Of course, never mind whether torture is legal.

Torture didn’t lead to bin Laden

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., countered the assertions that waterboarding helped the U.S. find Osama bin Laden, writing in a Washington Post commentary that such “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually led Khalid Sheik Mohammed to claim bin Laden’s courier was married and elsewhere. “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” McCain wrote. “Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading. Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive.”

Pro-con on decision not to release bin Laden photos

President Obama made the right decision in not releasing photos of Osama bin Laden taken after he was killed. Nothing will be gained by publishing gruesome pictures of the dead man. Conspiracy theorists, no matter the evidence, will continue to argue that bin Laden is still alive and that the photos, taken by U.S. sources, are fake. The reaction on the Arab street to word of bin Laden’s death among Hamas and other radicals shows that they believe he’s gone. Who are we trying to convince with the release of the grisly photos? As for those who accept the accounts of bin Laden’s death, but who, either out of curiosity or hatred, want to see what the founder of al-Qaida looks like with a bullet hole above his eye and his brains hanging out, I say satisfy your lust in your own way and on your own time. The U.S. government is under no obligation to do it for you. I accept the word of eyewitnesses, DNA evidence and officials who have seen the photographs that Osama bin Laden is dead and gone. Tis enough, ’twill serve, as least for me. — Colbert I. King, Washington Post blog

With all due respect to President Obama, he is making a serious mistake by not releasing a photo showing that Osama bin Laden was killed. Obama is expecting the world to trust his word, America’s word, that bin Laden is gone — but there are many doubts about American credibility in the world today. Furthermore, bin Laden has been a “phantom” lurking out there, somewhere, perhaps in Afghanistan, perhaps in Pakistan, perhaps in Somalia — but lurking and virtually no trace of him. Many American intelligence officials began to think some years ago that he was dead already. A senior FBI agent once asked me, “You don’t really believe he is still alive, do you?” If that is what high-level Americans in the terror-tracking business thought, what does Obama think that those through the Arab world will think? Not releasing a photo of some sort furthers a bad trend of governments — that the public doesn’t have a right to know, that governments are better stewards of the truth and of basic information than the public. It is undemocratic and stiflingly paternalistic. WikiLeaks was a market reaction to the massive expansion of official secrecy, not just in the U.S. but elsewhere in the world. Obama’s decision to hold back the bin Laden photos only aggravates this trend. — Steve Clemons, Washington Note

Obama’s TV audience was big, but not biggest

About 57 million TV viewers watched President Obama announce Sunday night that U.S. military forces had killed Osama bin Laden — the largest TV audience of his presidency so far, the Washington Post reported. Two other presidents have drawn bigger audiences. About 82 million watched George W. Bush address the nation in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and nearly 68 million people watched, in 1998, when Bill Clinton acknowledged his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Did torture help us find bin Laden?

It’s still unclear if “enhanced interrogation techniques” played a role in determining where Osama bin Laden was hiding. But that hasn’t stopped people from rushing to judgment. Less than a day after bin Laden was killed, some former Bush administration officials and conservative pundits claimed that the death vindicated the use of waterboarding. But Democratic lawmakers and other officials contend that the intelligence information wasn’t obtained by torturing terrorism detainees. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, put the debate in proper perspective. “This whole concept of how we caught bin Laden is a lot of work over time by different people and putting the puzzle together,” he said. “I do not believe this is a time to celebrate waterboarding; I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work.”

Kansas delegation tweeted approval

When al-Qaida attacked the United States in 2001, Twitter’s launch was still five years away. But the microblogging service provided a means of instant reaction for members of the Kansas delegation to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death:

“Justice has been served. God Bless America!” — Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler

“I am deeply proud of the courageous work performed by my brethren who worked so doggedly to take down Bin Laden.” — Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita

“Our Intelligence Community and military personnel deserve our gratitude for their tireless efforts to never stop looking for bin Laden.” — Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

“Osama bin Laden’s death is a historic success in the War on Terror. Our troops & intelligence officers worked relentlessly for this moment.” — Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Bipartisan cheering for bin Laden’s demise

“This really is one of those moments when there are no red states or blue states, just United States; no MoveOn progressives or tea party conservatives, just Americans,” columnist Eugene Robinson wrote about the killing of Osama bin Laden. “Triumphalism and unapologetic patriotism are in order. We got him.”

Agroterrorism attack coming, Roberts warns

As he did before Sept. 11, 2001, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is warning about a possible terrorism attack, this time aimed at America’s agriculture and food supply. “Experts in the field warn, this threat is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when,’” Roberts said at a symposium in Kansas City, Mo., last week on agroterrorism. “The effects of such an attack would be devastating. Halting exports or shipments of agriculture production and all other exports due to contraction of disease by just one animal would have a ripple effect unlike we have seen in the U.S.”

King on a witch hunt?

Rep. Peter King (in photo), R-N.Y., needn’t wonder whether anybody will notice his Homeland Security Committee hearing today on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus thinks King’s inquiry is appropriate and important. “To ignore the religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb to politically correct delusion. To ignore the homegrown religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb even further,” she wrote. But others have a big problem with King’s probe. “To focus an investigative spotlight on an entire religious or ethnic community is a violation of everything America is supposed to stand for,” wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. He added: “There is nothing wrong with the relentless investigation of terrorism. That’s essential. But that is not the same as singling out, stereotyping and harassing an entire community.”

Obama sounding like Bush on Gitmo

President Obama’s decision to again try some terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to indefinitely detain some prisoners is drawing a lot of unwanted (by the administration) comparisons to President Bush’s policy. It also has upset civil liberties groups. “The detention of Guantanamo detainees for nine years without charge or trial is a stain on America’s reputation that should be ended immediately, not given a stamp of approval,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

No more ground wars?

“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. MacArthur so delicately put it,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said in a blunt speech to West Point cadets. He also called for the nation to reshape its budget to “prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.” Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about Gates’ comment, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seconded the need for a “new kind of warfare” but said sometimes “it does require U.S. military intervention,” pointing to Afghanistan.

Pro-con: Are intrusive screenings really needed?

Just as children forced to take castor oil hated the experience, millions of Americans loathed the intrusive body-scan and pat-down security measures imposed at U.S. airports last fall. Surprisingly, though, the revulsion period was briefer than first assumed as travelers realized the added security rules may, after all, be good for them. The real question is, of course: How much safety is too much safety in this decade-long war on terror? The only sane answer is that we don’t know. One thing, though, is clear: Militant jihadist groups exist on our continent, hate America and, by extension, all Western civilization. Body scans and pat downs are odious, but ignoring the possibility of being blown up to smithereens while landing in, say, Detroit is reckless. — Bogdan Kipling

The Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizures, a requirement historically interpreted to prevent searches like these without reasonable suspicion. Taking what amount to nude photographs or conducting an aggressive and intrusive physical search based merely on a desire to travel by air is unprecedented. We have the tools to conduct effective searches for potential terrorists. Equipment exists to detect explosives — the so-called “puffer” machine — that is both more effective and less intrusive than either pat downs or X-rays. Credit-card companies already conduct more effective identity checks on their customers — completed in a matter of seconds. Surely they are not beyond the capability of either the airlines or the Transportation Security Administration. — Andrew Morriss, University of Alabama

With friends like Karzai, Pakistan . . .

karzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai (in photo) complained during a meeting with Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other officials that he now has three “main enemies” — the Taliban, the United States and the international community, the Washington Post reported. “If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” Karzai fumed.
Meanwhile, two new classified intelligence reports say there is a limited chance of success in Afghanistan unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border, the New York Times reported. Currently, insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops.

Why U.S. won’t do as Israel does

airportscanMany people have pointed to Israel’s airline security as confirmation that the United States has lost its way on the issue. But, as Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus noted, “the Israeli approach is an alluring mirage that would not withstand transplantation. Israel has two airports and 50 flights a day. It conducts intrusive background checks and questions passengers extensively. The process can take hours.” Her Post colleague Dana Milbank figured the cost of replicating Israel’s screening system at $40 billion more a year. He wrote: “Implementing the Israeli model also would amount to a massive government jobs program — just the sort of junk conservatives said they wouldn’t touch.”

TSA measures better than dying

airportscanAs “don’t touch my junk” has joined “don’t Tase me, bro” in the American lexicon in recent days, the public reaction to the Transportation Security Administration’s new “enhanced pat-down” has been loud and negative. But consider the alternatives, including death. “Groin checks or not, tight security is what we need now, unless you want another angry al-Qaida kid with plastic explosives in his tighty whities sitting next to you on the way to Miami,” wrote New York Daily News columnist Joanna Molloy. “Hey, you don’t want to get checked, don’t fly. I can’t imagine most TSA agents enjoy zapping you or feeling around your privates. They don’t want to touch your junk. They just want it to arrive safely at its destination.” TSA Director John Pistole told a Senate committee Wednesday that the full-body scans and invasive pat-downs — used if fliers refuse the scan or set off a metal detector — are necessary to fight terrorism.

Terrorism can’t be sole focus

giulianilookingrightThere was a rare point of bipartisan agreement Sunday between President Obama and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (in photo), with the latter agreeing with the president that the long war on al-Qaida and terrorism doesn’t have to dominate our foreign policy. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Giuliani said: “It’s a significant enemy, but it’s not an enemy like Nazism and communism, in a sense that it is a worldwide conflagration.” He added: “We have to be able to deal with it with strength, but we also have to be equally willing to give attention to the issues with Asia,” Africa, Europe and South America.

Gates called the nutty pastor

quranburnEven Defense Secretary Robert Gates got pulled into trying to convince the nutty pastor in Florida not to burn the Quran. The Wichita native called the pastor Thursday afternoon, shortly before the guy canceled the burning. But it wasn’t the appeals from Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and others that made the difference. It was a supposed pledge (which never was made) to move the ground zero mosque.

Torture shouldn’t be a state secret

shhhhThe Obama administration is almost as bad as the Bush administration in pushing for secrecy powers. It opposed attempts by former prisoners of the CIA to sue over their torture in overseas prisons because it might expose secret government information. In a 6-5 ruling, a sharply divided federal appeals court agreed with the administration this week, overturning a decision last year by a panel of three circuit judges allowing the former prisoners to sue. But the dissenting judges noted that even if there were state secrets that needed protecting, the plaintiffs weren’t given the chance to make their case in court using nonsecret evidence including a sworn statement by a former employee of Jeppesen Dataplan, a Boeing subsidiary, about the company’s role in “torture flights.” And they warned that secrecy protections shouldn’t be used to shield the government from allegations of “gross violations of the norms of international law.”

Quran burning could endanger U.S. troops

koranburnPlans by the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., to burn the Quran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, could do real harm to the war on terrorism and put U.S. soldiers at even greater risk. Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multinational Forces in Afghanistan, has warned that the burnings would “undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”

With friends like Pakistan . . .

PakistanThough U.S. officials hailed Pakistan’s role in capturing a top Taliban leader last January, some analysts questioned at the time whether Pakistan’s real motive was to insert itself in peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan. That suspicion appears to be on target. Pakistani officials are now saying that they set out to capture the Taliban leader, and used the CIA to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that the leader had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the New York Times reported.

Pro-con: Does mosque belong near ground zero?

911flagWhile opposition to the opening of an Islamic center at ground zero is certainly not surprising, it reflects a dismal level of intolerance, bigotry and ignorance that continues to plague our country. To characterize the existence of a place of worship for God-loving, law-abiding Muslim citizens as a “stab in the heart” to Americans (as Sarah Palin did) is to presume that Sept. 11 was a religious attack that exclusively targeted non-Muslims. The victims of Sept. 11 spanned countless ethnicities, races and religions. While Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri would like us to believe that their actions are divinely sanctioned and religiously ordained, there is no question to anyone who has studied Islam that there is absolutely no basis in Islam for their acts of terror. The Islamic cultural and community center envisioned by Imam Faisal Abdul-Rauf and the organizers in New York City will be one step toward reclaiming Islam’s true spirit, fostering reconciliation and bridging gaps that desperately need to be mended. — Hadia Mubarak, Washington Post’s On Faith blog

There should be no mosque near ground zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13-story, $100 million mega-mosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history. Where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self-deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now, at this site on this issue. — Newt Gingrich, Renewing American Leadership