Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Selling out of the War on Terrorism

The question we have to ask ourselves is that are we safer today than we were four years ago? Remember March of 2000? The whole Y2000 problem had been shown to be a Chicken-Little joke, and the sky or at least the world wide computerized systems of automation hadn't failed. We were gearing up for the fall 2000 elections, and bin-Ladin had been reported in poor health while President Clinton dropped in for a visit on Musharaf in Pakistan. For those whose memories are a little vague, here's a counter-terrorism summary for 1999-2000 of where America stood at the end of the millenium.

So that was then? Where is America now? Are we safer today than we were four years ago?

Well, late last year according to KR-Washington various experts testified that:

" A growing number of counter-terrorism experts are challenging President Bush's assertion that Iraq is a major battle in the war against terrorism and are questioning whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq has hurt rather than helped the global battle against al-Qaida and its affiliates."

Well that was a claim. Do we have any proof that the 'War on Terror' is being neglected by the Bush Administration? Or possibly that the focus on Iraq has detracted from the effectiveness of the 'War on Terror'?

As it turns out, Paul O'Neill has detailed some of his work against the financial networks of terrorism as the former Treasury Secretary. The actions taken to fight terrorism financing have been wide-ranging and intensive.

Paul O'Neill also has some interesting comments in the book "The Price of Loyalty" by Paul O'Neill (ABC-news) and Ron Suskind. In the book, O'Neill reveals some summaries about what the financial counter-terrorism efforts were and also reveals that Tenet director of the CIA proposed to the President a wide-ranging behind the scenes espionage and assassination to target terrorists around the world.

The oldman himself has argued that we need a robust and forward counter-terrorism program. This program would ideally combined the best of both State and CIA foreign intelligence operations, as well as top-notch talent from FBI-organized crime, DEA, and Treasury to attack the networks and infrastructure of terror. Essentially it would focus on putting pressure and infiltrating/turning low-level informants by the use of survellience, deep cover agents, and coercion by cooperative foreign governments in order to work up the food-chain of terrorism to the big-bosses. A model for this could be the hunt for Escobar (thanks to Joe Katzman for this ref.).

So what's to say that we aren't doing that already? Well the oldman has maintained from what he has heard, that besides the special forces task forces, that this effort has not made very much real progress. Does the oldman have any evidence for this?

Now Newsweek has published a story arguing that the 'War on Terror' as far as financial networks goes has stalled in its tracks.

" The faltering investigation of Youssef M. Nada, the notorious former head of a Swiss- and Bahamas-based Islamic financial network called Al-Taqwa, is the latest example of how the Bush administration’s much-publicized campaign to dismantle the financiers of international terrorism appears to be losing steam amid waning support from some foreign governments, the officials say."

furthermore an expert has testified that:

Victor Comras, a former U.S. government sanctions expert and a member of a recently expired United Nations task force on international terrorism, said the Nada case is symptomatic of the loopholes and weaknesses in international efforts to shut down terrorist financiers. He said foreign interest in the issue appears to be fading—as does United States leadership in pushing for more vigorous action. “This is an issue which requires constant nagging,” said Comras, and “nobody’s nagging.”

So apparently, the strong drive to tackle the war on terror has been eroded both from lack of interest and a distraction created by the war in Iraq. As the oldman has affirmed before, this is the United States of America - the most powerful and rich country in the recorded history of mankind - and to be leader of the free world it is not too much to ask to be able to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Whatever Mssr's Bush, Cheney, and co. have done, they certainly have lost sight of the real goal and shortchanged the American people in their quest for both justice for what happened on September 11th 2001 and ongoing security in the future.

Can we truly believe that with terrorist financing moving beyond the grasp of the United States of America, that terrorism networks and organized cells will not spring up once more? Given the slackening of will and diminishment of focus, how long before another Mohammad Atta slips through our laughable visa and border security to begin building toward a new wave of attacks? Can we even be sure if Alqueda is as weakened as we think they have become, if we can't track the money? They could easily be operating underneath our radar, financed by monetary flows that we have no way of tracking.

It took years for Alqueda to build up between major attacks in the nineties, and the conspicuous absence of attacks on mainland America shouldn't be construed as a lessening of their desire to deliver such a devastating blow. America is more exposed and at risk than it ever was. So the answer is that no, we are not safer than we were four years ago!

Update: Credit where credit is due. Some relatively low-profile terrorism cases proceed in the Northwest. As reported by the CSM written by Brad Knickerbocker. Unfortunately, this kind of stuff is just nibbling around the edges. Not real progress.

UPDATE#2: The Administration sets up a new office to oversee financial terrorism. MSNBC reports that:

“The new office will not only focus on the financial war on terror, but protect the integrity of the financial system, fight financial crime, enforce economic sanctions against rogue nations and assist in the ongoing hunt for Iraqi assets,” a department statement said Monday.

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