Our security officials’ mental paralysis, of which they are unaware

Paul Sperry writing in the New York Post chronicles the federal government’s repeated moves over the past several years to subject travelers arriving from Pakistan—the prime source of Muslim terrorists in the West—to more stringent examination, and its repeated retreats from these moves in the face of charges of “racial profiling,” a pattern that culminated in Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad’s no-sweat re-entry into the U.S. following his months-long visit to his native country.

Reading Sperry’s account, you can’t help but wonder, why do these federal homeland security officials such as Mueller and Napolitano keep trying to pinpoint dangerous groups such as young Pakistani men, since each time they do so, they will (as they must realize) inevitably be condemned for “profiling,” and will inevitably retreat from the policy? Why do they keep picking up the ball and dropping it again? I think the answer is that, as security officials, they can’t help but be aware that Pakistanis represent a particular threat and can’t help but try to do something about it; but that, as liberals, they can’t help but shamefacedly abandon the effort in the face of charges of racial profiling. Furthermore, as liberals, they are incapable of reflecting critically on the anti-profiling (i.e., anti-rational discrimination) orthodoxy and of saying to themselves, “There is something wrong with an ideology that prevents me from protecting America from a known terrorist group.” It’s as though the thought, “We must protect America,” and the thought, “We must not discriminate,” are in two different parts of their brain which are never allowed to come into contact with each other, preventing the contradiction between them from being seen and resolved. So the security officials keep veering helplessly between the one part of their brain and the other: “We’ve got to stop those Pakistani terrorists from coming in … We must not racially profile.” “We’ve got to stop those Pakistani terrorists from coming in … We must not racially profile.” “We’ve got to stop those Pakistani terrorists from coming in … We must not racially profile.” They cannot allow themselves to perceive the contradiction between these two mutually contradictory prime directives, as that would compel them to question their liberalism. Instead, they continue to bounce back and forth between the two directives, not aware of how they are bouncing, never learning from the futility of the experience, and never changing.

The situation is analogous to what happens to a rocket when it is launched from the earth with insufficient velocity to escape the earth but too much velocity to fall back. The earth in our analogy is liberalism (meaning the sacred command never to discriminate or profile), and the rocket’s velocity away from the earth is the desire on the part of our security officials to protect America from terrorists. The force of the earth’s gravity—the pull of liberal orthodoxy—is too great for the rocket to escape and actually do its job of protecting America from terrorists; but the rocket’s velocity—the desire to protect America—is too great for the rocket simply to be pulled back to the earth and crash. The balance of those two forces puts the rocket into orbit around the earth, in which the rocket keeps trying to escape the earth (i.e., the security officials keep trying to protect America), and the earth keeps pulling it back (i.e., liberalism keeps preventing them from doing so).

Here is Sperry’s column:

How Faisal snuck through
May 15, 2010

Of all the holes in US secu rity highlighted by Faisal Shahzad’s failed effort to blow up Times Square, here’s the most outrageous: Almost every major domestic anti-terror operation over the past several years has involved travelers from Pakistan—yet Homeland Security still lacks a comprehensive strategy to shut down “terror tourism” from that nation.

US intelligence reports show that officials have agonized for years over this threat, while deploying an insanely ad hoc system to ID and catch such “tourists.” Shahzad, who trained at Pakistani terror camps, merely exposed again just how ineffective that system is.

Six years ago, Homeland Security ordered customs agents at JFK and other international airports to examine all travelers of Pakistani descent—including US citizens—for “rope burns,” “unusual bruises,” “wounds/scars” and other signs of minor injuries suffered while attending “terrorist training camps in Pakistan.”

The sensitive two-page action alert—dated June 17, 2004—warned that individuals trained in the Pakistani camps “are destined” to carry out terror attacks inside the US.

A lot of good it did. The system flagged Shahzad—but he was allowed to continue traveling to Pakistan and eventually obtain a US passport, all the while eluding FBI monitoring.

The “Pakistan watch” intensified in January 2005, when the Department of Homeland Security directed airport inspectors to help intercept “Pakistani-based young men in their 20s traveling to the US.” The men were believed to be plotting to attack New York and other terror targets. But inspectors stood down once that specific threat passed.

Months later, British citizens of Pakistani origin bombed the London subways after training at Pakistan camps—and DHS ordered US border authorities to renew their focus on Pakistani travelers. But Washington soon backed off the increased scrutiny after the Pakistani Embassy and US Muslim groups complained about profiling.

Then UK authorities foiled the August 2006 plot to blow up planes over US cities. The Pakistani Britons in that cell had also trained at camps in Pakistan—so Homeland Security again put agents back on high alert for Pakistani travelers.

The department even created a temporary watchlist, called a “one-day lookout,” to screen high-risk passengers inbound from Pakistan. Those flagged (in the so-called ATS-P computer system) are subjected to a battery of questions and additional searches to determine if they’ve visited Pakistan terror camps.

And that system flagged Shahzad this past February when he re-entered the US from a five-month stint in Pakistan. He was sent to secondary inspection for a more detailed screening, where his bags were searched and he was asked about his long stay in Pakistan.

In fact, during that time he learned bomb-making at a terror camp. But he simply explained that he was visiting family and was released from custody. (“Looking for a bride” is another common line jihadist suspects returning from Pakistan use to escape investigation.)

DHS agents sent a report to the FBI, noting that Shahzad had been flagged after bringing some $80,000 in cash into the US. There were other red flags as well, such as the fact he’d come back this time without his wife.

But the bureau didn’t aggressively follow up. “The FBI should have kept an eye on him,” a DHS official told me.

Maybe the bureau was still smarting from the response to its September 2008 FBI manhunt for Pakistan-trained cells (launched in response to leads developed in the arrest of an al Qaeda operative). That got tamped down after Muslim groups led by CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and their Hill cheerleaders hounded FBI Director Robert Mueller for singling out young Muslim men. (House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers hammered Mueller in a public hearing over “racially profiling” Pakistanis.)

After the bombing attempt last Christmas, DHS increased airport scrutiny of travelers from Yemen, Pakistan and other high-risk Muslim nations. But howls over profiling soon prompted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to scrap the policy.

This politically correct, piecemeal system isn’t enough to protect us from the growing threat of American turncoats training for jihad in Pakistan.

Bad guys like Shahzad—and Najibullah Zazi, the Queens native who plotted to blow up the New York subways, and Daood Gilani (aka David Headley), who helped plan the Mumbai massacrestill slip back into the US after training to kill in Pakistan, then go on their way.

We need to close the front door overseas: Washington should place a moratorium on new visas for young male immigrants from Pakistan until the terror camps are permanently closed. And the FBI must keep a closer eye on young Pakistani-American men and their mosques—and not apologize for it.

Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before one of them uses his overseas terror training against his American countrymen—this time successfully.

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institu tion media fellow and author of “Infiltration.” His latest book is “Muslim Mafia.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 15, 2010 08:55 AM | Send

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