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  • Morning Bell: Confronting Terror The Best Way We Can

    While opinions about America’s post–9/11 policies come and go, facts remain: The U.S. has thwarted 40 terrorist plots through an aggressive and prioritized plan of offense to protect America. That is not a plan to abandon now, in an age of increasingly high-tech terrorism.

    As John Yoo, a former official in the U.S. Department of Justice between 2001–2003, said yesterday at The Heritage Foundation, “The most important thing to happen in the U.S. in the last 10 years was nothing… the most important question to ask is why and whether it was worth it.”

    Now a legal scholar, Yoo bared his thoughts in a new, multi-authored book of essays on the 9/11 tragedy and its aftermath, Confronting Terror. The book includes reflections from a variety of notable figures on issues like presidential authority during a time of war, enforced interrogation, and other controversial issues.

    In the 10 years since al-Qaeda terrorists killed nearly 3,000 American citizens, there has been much anger and some justice—but often, profound disagreement on the best way to combat a new kind of war with a stateless enemy.

    Yoo, a co-editor of the book with Dean Reuter, appeared on a panel with contributors former ACLU President Nadine Strossen and Heritage’s Ed Meese.

    On 9/11, the future of America’s national security situation was immediately turned upside down. While the nation is unquestionably safer today than it was before 9/11, security questions remain delicate as intelligence experts and military leaders attempt to navigate a safe but effective pathway.

    In the book, Yoo criticizes the Obama Administration’s opposition to holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, where enhanced interrogation tactics have had led to life-saving information. When American intelligence can no longer obtain that kind of valuable material from the only people who have it, how will the U.S. thwart their plans?

    As Yoo writes:

    Gaining the information in the heads of terrorist leaders remains the most effective means for stopping terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. Our enemy has no territory, population or regular armed forces. It operates covertly, concealing its movements and communications within everyday economic traffic and aims to launch a surprise attack on innocent civilian targets…only by learning al-Qaeda’s plans can we preempt its attacks on the U.S. homeland.

    What is known is that the U.S. counterterrorism strategy has worked. To alter a successful tactic for political gain would be foolish. Ten years removes America from the shock of the attacks, but time has offered determined terrorists space to refine plans for another attack.

    A big part of keeping attacks at bay is also a strong troop presence overseas. While the President made some good choices to keep troops in place, his strategy has been flawed from the start. Now it’s getting worse, as Congress cuts an already burdened defense budget and faces a heavy troop drawdown—an order that came before the troop buildup even began. Fulfilling political promises to withdraw troops has trumped military security and the necessary incremental assessments President Obama should make as the 2012 election nears.

    As Heritage’s James Carafano wrote yesterday on Fox News.com:

    The president believes America can be kept safe with a “small footprint” defense—a limited number of special-forces boots, smart missiles and attack drones that can play “whack-a-mole” with a selected number of targets. Covert operations and surgical strikes can be useful tactically, but they are no good as a world-wide strategy.

    … Meanwhile, Mr. Obama will peck at them from afar–just as Presidents Clinton and Bush did before 9/11. In a few years we’ll be right back where we were on September 10, 2001.

    Yoo echoed these sentiments, noting the success of U.S. intelligence operations in their many forms, including the Patriot Act and enhanced interrogation techniques. He credited the killing of Osama bin Laden as President Obama’s “greatest foreign policy and national security achievement”—recognizing that it came about only through intelligence learned from those detained under the laws of war combined with electronic surveillance to locate bin Laden’s hideout.

    As Yoo reminded, most of the post–9/11 national security agenda was approved by a bipartisan majority of Congress again and again. Many who voted for the security provisions now in place have flip-flopped in order to appease a political base.

    It’s too easy to revert to pre–9/11 thinking, but America will wish it hadn’t if and when terror strikes again. We are still a nation at war. It’s no accident that 9/11 was the only attack of its kind—lest President Obama and others in Congress begin to think otherwise.

    Quick Hits:


    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    29 Responses to Morning Bell: Confronting Terror The Best Way We Can

    1. Charles says:

      In using the term "enforced interrogation" did the author mean to say "enhanced interrogation"? All interrogation is "enforced", yet not all interrogation is "enhanced". There is a big difference, just ask the interrogatee.

    2. Robert, TX says:

      Try securing our borders – for real. We have had the Patriot Act for ten years, how many radical muslims and criminal aliens have been deported? We should have won both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in less than two years – with complete and utter victory. Instead, the best cover our brave troops have is to stack up the rules of engagement volumes (yes, multiple volumes) in front of them. And we still haven't shut down these ridiculous pirates in Somalia. And we sit here (on are butts) waiting for [another meaningless] election. The Oath Keepers are outnumbered by the Retirement Keepers.

    3. carol,az says:

      "Yes we are still a nation at war ": Terrorism doens't have holidays._This is todays update from the border . These people were tortured and murder becasue of what they said, against the war of terror, on the internet in their own counrty. http://www.Borderlandbeat.com__re: 9/13/11
      The biggest breach for security here in America is in North America._ Terrorism { not cartel gangs} , as reported from the American press, has killed 44,000 people.__This isn't misunderstood Mexcio as you have been lead to believe by most America press. This is genocide.
      This is America _with Mexcio, the whore and the pimp, helping to support the under belly of the drug trade, tansporting human being for greed to American Buss., weapons going South and the milions exchanged through banking 24/7.

    4. openeyes says:

      enhanced interrogation should not be an issue for terrorists in the first place. Thay do not come under the Geneva conventions, and as non-uniformed beliggerents should be handled in one of 2 ways:
      1. Spies
      2. Pirates.

      Both leave a lot af leeway and we should stop messing about with this nonsense. As non-state agents I personally believe the existing piracy agreements should apply.

    5. Whicket Williams says:

      Americans do not have the capicity for thinking. They just absorb what theyare told. Everybody with a platform has an agenda.

      • Clearhead says:

        Your comment about American people not having the capacity to think, although not universal in application, does illustrate a certain degree of validity. Case in point — a large segment of the population, after more than two and a half years of clearly demonstrated unsatisfactory activity on the part of the present administration, are still "BEATING AROUND THE BUSH" May we suggest optical and mental diagnosis and repair for them all.

    6. Casey Carlton says:

      The terror we have seen, according to some experts, is only the head of the snake. The rest is hidden, at least to a degree. What we have seen in the Middle East (the "Arab Spring") must not be ignored. There is an organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, that many in this country know little or nothing about. This group is a worldwide organization whose aim is the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, in which Islam is the ruler.

      Why is this not a good thing? With the caliphate comes Shariah law, and our Constitution will no longer exist. So, we need to consider the aims of the Muslim Brotherhood as we consider international terror.

      • Leith N Wood says:

        Thank you Casey for an informed comment. Our own country and government is unwilling to call 911 what it was and continues with " politically correct " garbage. One can find honest information on line from "Act For America" and "Jihad Watch". Our college students are being indoctrinated with liberal progressive misinformation and the majority of the press is worthless. It was they who got Obama into office.

    7. far2right says:

      What Heritage is now advocating is a perpetual state of quasi-Marshall Law where the Executive Branch may continually spy on American citizens without warrants from judges, restrict due process for every human being, and violate our God given right to be secure in our persons. That is, Heritage is advocating for continual violation of the U.S. Constitution in perpetuity. Surely this government is intelligent enough to figure out by now how to conduct this war (which is not formally declared by the way) while not violating the unalienable rights to U.S. citizens. In fact, I submit that implementing efforts to secure borders (all political boundaries, ports and air ports) would be much less expensive than the enormous cost to keep the enemy on the run. The ultimate goal for the enemy is to strike on the main land. If this is taken away, then the effort on the battle field becomes much more scaled back.

    8. johninohio says:

      "A big part of keeping attacks at bay is also a strong troop presence overseas."

      I think a lot of people would like this to be explained, including me. I'm skeptical.

    9. MSMII says:

      Obama and Clinton have now made an argument for not toppling dictators, religious discrimination. They said, according to the Washington Post, that by toppling murderous, oppressive, deviant dictators like Kaddafi and Mubarak, the people will be introduced to religious intolerance.; a claim that I find absolutely baseless and pure propaganda. It is also an excuse to not get involved in Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen while there is Iranian supported slaughter going on daily.

    10. Wayne Peterkin says:

      While I generally agree with this article and we are indeed safer today than before 9/11, I suggest we also keep in mind the part blind luck has played in our success. The "underwear bomber" would have succeeded had his device gone off. The "Times Square bomber" would have succeeded had his device gone off. There have been examples where the attacks were technically successful had the perpetrators simply had the brains to correctly set up their devices. Our security efforts deserve some praise as do the hard-working professionals that are trying to protect the nation, but we have had some very good fortune as well.

    11. toledofan says:

      I think one of the biggest problems right now is that the majority of Americans have no trust in the government to do what is right and everytime something happens, a 'credible' threat is made there is just so much skepticism because it's hard to believe anything this administration says. I mean, let's face it, can we depend on Holder to manage to legal process for us and get a good result. Heck, they won't even go after guys with ball bats outside of a voting place or stop an insane fast and furious gun smuggling ring. Security is touchy but if it's done in the open with all the laws being followed, people held to account, then it's easier to accept. I guess if we were serious about our security we'd be doing a better job along the borders.

    12. paul collins says:

      It is time we stop playing with these idiots.Either turn our troops loose to do the job or bring them all home.Then tell them that if they want to live they.they better stop their vicious attacks or we will destroy them completely.We also need to vote those out who are trying to destroy our country from within.

    13. DakotaDean says:

      I agree with both far2right and johninohio. It is as futile as trying to empty Lake Superior with a bucket for America to police the rest of the world. Bring the troops home (INCLUDING from Germany, Japan, Korean DMZ and the Mideast). DO NOT cut the Defense budget, rather redeploy the resources to our borders to truly secure them and further develop our defensive technologies.

      Radical Muslims will always hate America and what it stands for no matter what we do, but constantly meddling in the Mideast will breed contempt for America among moderate Muslims no matter how benevolent our intentions. Put the shoe on the other foot: how would we react as Americans if Canada or Mexico were constantly dictating our actions? England tried that a little over a couple hundered years ago. How'd that work out for them?

    14. Al Metcalf says:

      The purpose of the terrorist is not to strike at our mainland. The purpose is to destroy our nation by any method possible and then make it over as a Caliphate of Islam.
      If Iran gets the ability to build a nuke with EMP ability and they have the rocket to launch it from the Atlantic coast it is game over for in one fell swoop we will be back to 1900 as far as our communication is concerned because all of our super modern communication systems will be inoperable in a single moment. Our biggest threat is Iran at the present time.

    15. BigD says:

      I appreciate The Heritage Foundation and usually agree with you. However, your Morning Bell “Confronting Terror the Best Way We Can” is off the mark, both logically and philosophically.

      Your inferred logical construct of: it’s either 1) the way it was on 9/10/01” or 2) a Patriot Act Police State, is a false dichotomy. There are other choices. How about we go hard after the foreign bad guys and let our citizens continue to enjoy their unalienable rights bestowed by God and guaranteed by the Constitution? 9/11 was a systemic failure of our military and civilian intelligence bureaucracies born of bone-headed turf wars, ego games and politics.

      Hell, yes, we should kill or capture, detain, and aggressively interrogate enemy combatants. But tapping my phone and fondling frightened little six year old American girls at airports is just flippin’ stupid! If you lose a quarter in your back yard, looking for it under the streetlight in front of your house because there is more light in the front yard is plain dumb. We have a really good profile of the terrorists, let’s look for them and stop sexually molesting ordinary folks at the airports, etc. Let’s deport the likely terrorists that are currently in the USA and stop foreign terrorists from entering the USA in the first place. The solution ain’t rocket science, guys.

      Ben Franklin 1769: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

      • Robert, TX says:

        Wow! Good stuff. I laughed my tail off, even though the subject is not funny. Nobody in Washington D.C. knows how to accomplish anything – just how to steal money and pad their pockets. And it is not much better in the private sector. Do you expect our government to start making sense? So do I.

      • Mary Kaszynski says:

        I'm with you, BigD. It's a matter of finding the right tools to counter threats "in age of increasingly high-tech terrorism." Investing in intelligence, cybersecurity, and special forces (the guys that took out OBL) is far more effective, and fiscally responsible, than spending $2 billion a week (DOD's number) to maintain troops in Afghanistan.

    16. Noel Crownover says:

      The Morning Bell is great… but they're just TOO LONG; it takes awhile to read them every day. Could they be shortened up a bit?


    17. Ron W. Smith says:

      Just imagine one of our enemies having a footprint as large as the one(s) we have in the Middle East in our neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada. For how long would we tolerate that without trying to eliminate the enemy? Not for very long I suspect. But we expect those not on our side in the Middle East to react passively to our footprint(s) there and not to resort to the only weapon readily available or affordable to them, terrorism. Sounds to me like failed thinking on our part, thinking that has led to clearly failed and VERY expensive foreign policy decisions that have led us into intervention after intervention, war after war. And the outlook, despite constant repetition of the "win the war on terrorism" mantra here, looks no less rosy than it did years ago. Terrorism hasn't won its war with us, but we haven't won our war with terrorists. They've waged their war on the cheap, and we've waged our war at huge expense, creating a national debt of more than $14.5 trillion while at it.
      "The road not taken" is looking ever more attractive to many Americans–discussion and debate of our foreign policy decisions open to all and for all interested parties to participate in. Talk is cheap, maintaining military presence around the world VERY expensive In these lean times, all options for reducing the national debt should be on the table, open discussion and debate a good starting point.

      • Texasgal9 says:

        I disagree with this entire article! Wrong! Much more we can do to prevent another 9-11.

        1) Acknowledge the "umma" and under present conditions we dare not do that. For the "Umma" is the entire ideology of Islam.

        2. Close muslims immigration to the USA.

        3. Deport muslims who came here since 1990. Possibly even earlier, back to the immigration changes instigated by Ted Kennedy! I have talked to a fierce Islamist from Pakistan who told me he only got here thanks to Ted Kennedy and a sponsor. This engineer told me he's all for Sharia law.

        4. Declare war on Saudi Arabia – true enemy and instigator of 9-11.

        5. Read and study all speeches of Benjamin Netanyahu – he KNOWS the truth about primatives and the evil eye (envy) and how education of these peoples still won't catch up with their evolution (try to teach a grizzy bear to be "tame")

        Sorry but these are the hard facts from someone who admires Winston Churchill and his assessment of moslems.

      • Ron,

        I dont think it is correct to suggest that the national debt is the result of foreign policy. Defense spending is less than 1/5 of the federal budget and the fastest and most dramatic rise in federal spending is in programs like Social Security and Medicare. If you add up all the means tested welfare programs in the federal government, they also exceed defense spending.

    18. G S Glenn says:

      We are PRIMARILY at war with radical Islam and we need to have much more scrutiny on who we let into our county and why; regardless of possible hurt feelings or claims of profiling. We cannot win wars in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and we cannot continue to outspend our enemies a million to one. We will go broke way before we defeat the enemy. What? We're there already??

    19. Andy730 says:

      I suppose we can spend another $768 billion on defense next year. We can finance it by selling more bonds to China, handing them means to take us over without firing a shot, and cut aid to the sick, the elderly, and the unemployed. This would keep the defense contractors busy, keep manufacturing jobs in the US, and keep our troops gainfully employed killing foreigners.. Alternatively, we can adopt a less antagonistic foreign policy, get control of our finances, stabilize gas prices, bring our troops home to be reunited with their families, but then they wouldn't have work and the defense contractors wouldn't make as much money. This may be an over simplification but it is one worth trying as the status quo is not working and is unsustainable.

    20. John Ames says:

      I would like to see Heritage host a forum where advocates and opponents with first hand knowledge of enhanced interrogation would discuss actual facts and try to find where they can reach consensus and identify where there is disagreement that can be resolved by further data and analysis. There seem to be good arguments on both sides. How can we create a good policy? Just talking past each other doesn't create much enlightenment.

    21. whattheheck says:

      Conservative is staying home. Progressive is staying overseas. Even though the founders faught to Americanize the land. I find it hard to believe they would have justified attacking multiple countries for the sake of citizen safety. As several others already quoted here. You cannot trade liberty for security and expect to still be free. The Heritage is taking points from global powers gearing them to so called conservatives. ie the CFR. Read the EEOC's statement on 9/11. This article is exact parallel to it. Ying to yang. Republican to Democrat.

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