By Chris Gacek
I follow national security news stories pretty closely, but I have to admit to being shocked by Human Events magazine’s publication of an excerpt from a new book. It is Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, by Marc Thiessen. Thiessen was a top speechwriter for President George W. Bush. For that reason he had access to very highly classified national security documents and information.
One excerpt about information gathered from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”) is astounding, mind-boggling:
[KSM’s] resistance is described by one senior American official as “superhuman.” Eventually, however, the techniques work….
He begins telling his CIA de-briefers about active al Qaeda plots to launch attacks against the United States and other Western targets He holds classes for CIA officials, using a chalkboard to draw a picture of al Qaeda’s operating structure, financing, communications, and logistics. He identifies al Qaeda travel routes and safe havens, and helps intelligence officers make sense of documents and computer records seized in terrorist raids. He identifies voices in intercepted telephone calls, and helps officials understand the meaning of coded terrorist communications. He provides information that helps our intelligence community capture other high-ranking terrorists,
KSM’s questioning, and that of other captured terrorists, produces more than 6,000 intelligence reports, which are shared across the intelligence community, as well as with our allies across the world.
Perhaps I’ve been under a rock, but I never heard these details before. I assume they are correct.
Some of the KSM information appears to have foiled an August 2006 plot to destroy seven airliners flying across the Atlantic from London-Heathrow in a revised version of KSM’s failed 1994-1995 Bojinka operation.
Top CIA officials are clear that the enhanced interrogation methods in the Bush counter-terrorism program were essential to obtaining extremely valuable, life-saving information. According to Thiessen, Obama shut the program down within 48 hours of assuming office when he signed Executive Order 13491. That order allowed only interrogation techniques permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual 2 22.3. The manual does not permit water boarding, for example.
The Left and President Obama have completely misread the desires of the American people on this matter. I put it this way: Jack Bauer – Yes; Nation Building – No. That is, the American people want to fight the jihadists in any manner necessary to kill and defeat them anywhere in the world. They have never waivered on this principle, and that includes keeping Guantanamo prison open in Cuba. It also means keeping it filled. That said, the American people have never been keen on protracted wars of attrition, counter-insurgency, and/or nation-building – see, Iraq and Afghanistan.
To be fair, President Obama may have been fooled by John McCain’s idiosyncratic positions on interrogations and Gitmo. I mean idiosyncratic for a Republican. Inside the GOP there are very few people who agree with McCain on either position.
That said, the Obama Administration clearly does not understand how Americans feel about Jack Bauer’s War. Consequently, its behavior after capturing the underwear bomber left bare a policy which American’s deem to be ill-advised and dangerous. Instead of treating Flight 253’s Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant, Obama/Holder have decided to try him in federal courts. After singing for a mere six hours, Abdulmutallab was given a lawyer and has stopped talking. Now he’s negotiating with prosecutors.
Look above at Thiessen’s quote and think about the information that would have been lost had KSM only talked to us for six hours. Seven planes lost over the Atlantic? That’s a pretty high price to pay for adherence to glib liberalism.
This is a public opinion cancer that will not go away for the administration. The KSM trial in New York City may decimate the Democrat Party in that State, and it will go on for months and years. Now there will be a trial in Detroit for Abdulmutallab. And, heaven forbid, that an actual attack on the United States or Americans overseas succeeds. Obama would be finished instantaneously. Every Gitmo prisoner brought to the United States will constitute a new crisis.
Therefore, it is completely unsurprising that Scott Brown, the senator-elect from Massachusetts, was able to pound Martha Coakley on this point. Brown is a USAF reserve JAG officer who was able to hammer away at the Dem’s soft position on terrorism. This he succeeded in doing even in ultra-liberal Massachusetts.
In sum, while we are correct in focusing on the health care legislation as the core political issue at present. I would argue that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and national security strategy are hurting it and doing so at an increasing rate of damage with the passage of time.