With the latest NIE report out, it’s like going back in time to the summer of 2001 when President Bush was told in his Presidential Daily Briefing that “Bin Laden determined to attack the United States.”
Al-Qaeda has reestablished its central organization, training infrastructure and lines of global communication over the past two years, putting the United States in a “heightened threat environment” despite expanded worldwide counterterrorism efforts, according to a new intelligence estimate.
The assessment was released yesterday in a two-page declassified summary of key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate titled “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” The estimate mentioned a number of possible threat sources, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to self-generating radical cells in Europe and this country.
It was the second government report in the past week that pointed to a heightened risk from al-Qaeda. The other, written by the National Counterterrorism Center, was titled “Al-Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West.”
Bin Laden’s ability to establish a safe haven for training and planning has been uppermost in the minds of intelligence and counterterrorism officials since the late 1990s. Missile strikes authorized in 1998 by President Bill Clinton against al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan appeared to have little effect on bin Laden’s operations. In the summer of 2001, President Bush received an intelligence warning titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the U.S.,” but the Sept. 11 attacks occurred before action was taken.
Since then, various administration officials have hailed the success of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. In February 2003, then-CIA Director George Tenet told Congress that “more than one-third of the top al-Qaeda leadership identified before the [Afghanistan] war has been killed or captured.” Three months later, Bush increased that number to “about half” in a speech he gave in May, amid early concerns that the two-month-old Iraq war had diverted administration attention from the hunt for bin Laden. “Al-Qaeda is on the run,” Bush said.
Either the president was wrong or he was full of it when he made that claim. And since the president is never wrong…
So much for the much-vaunted “gloabl war on terrorism.” They’ve spent literally billions of dollars to create a huge ineffective bureaucracy that so far has done nothing but increase sales of travel-size bottles of shampoo and slip-on shoes. They have instilled fear and played games with pretty color-coded posters and sold us rolls of duct tape and plastic sheeting. They’ve made the airports a nightmare of security mazes yet left the ports and the cargo terminals go untouched. And all the while this rag-tag army of religious whackos has been getting stronger, in no small part due to the fact that one of the reactions to their strike in September 2001 was to invade a country that had nothing to do with the attack in the first place, lay it open like a splayed chicken, and basically say to Al-Qaeda, “here, have a breeding ground.”
The White House will, of course, spin this as justification for the administration’s tactics and proof that the war has been worth it. They’re going to use it to justify their fearmongering and their political attacks on Democrats, knowing that in the past it has worked, regardless of the fact that not only have they done nothing to reduce the threat of terrorism, they’ve made it worse. But as long as they have an excuse to play politics and play Commander Guy, they don’t really care what Bin Laden is doing.
Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.