Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2003 / 13 Shevat, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | If there is another major terrorist attack within the United States, the various Democratic presidential aspirants hope to profit from it. They have been accusing President Bush of not doing enough to protect the homeland. "Washington is not doing enough to make America safe," said Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"The American people are only slightly safer today here at home than we were on Sept. 11, 2001," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachussetts said Bush had "squandered" the year since the attacks by failing to make "the preparations necessary to deal with an obvious problem of growing terror."

There is plenty to criticize in the Bush record on homeland security, but Bush's principal failing is that he hasn't moved fast enough to reverse foolish policies put in place by earlier Democratic administrations, which may explain why Democrats have been long on rhetoric, but short on details of what they would differently.

The manhunt currently under way for up to 19 Muslim men thought to have entered the country illegally around Christmas eve emphasizes that far and away our most important task is to gain control of our borders. The gargantuan size of the problem is illustrated by the fact that the range of estimates of the number of people in this country illegally - 10 to 13 million - is greater than the population of Chicago.

To gain control of our borders, there must be a substantial increase in the number of personnel who guard them, and a change in laws and administrative rules to expedite deportation of illegals.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Border Patrol, the agencies principally responsible for protecting our borders, must be at least doubled, arguably trebled, to give us a reasonable chance to prevent more illegals and potential terrorists from sneaking into this country, much less to hunt down illegals already here.

But more important than an increase in manpower and money is a change in leadership, and removal of restrictions which prevent the conscientious from doing their jobs properly. Good leadership can make important strides with inadequate resources. Poor leadership will squander even munificent resources.

The INS is unquestionably the least competent federal agency. These are the wonderful folks who, months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, granted permission for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers to attend flight schools here. These are the folks who last fall granted U.S. citizenship to a known terrorist under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. These are the folks who ordered the release of Beltway sniper John Lee Malvo after the Border Patrol had nabbed him on an immigration violation. These are the folks who lost track of 2,000 resident aliens wanted for questioning in the wake of Sept. 11. We could protect ourselves better by flushing money down the toilet than by spending it on the INS until there is a major change in leadership. Perhaps it will be provided in the new Department of Homeland Security. We shall see.

The failures of the FBI prior to Sept. 11 have been widely publicized. The situation is worse than most Americans realize. Few paid attention last month when FBI Agents Robert Wright and John Vincent said their superiors had blocked them from opening a criminal investigation of terrorists suspected of taking part in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

The many journalists who lionized Minneapolis FBI Agent Colleen Rowley and the few who paid attention to what Wright and Vincent had to say did not mention the principal reason why the FBI has dropped the ball so often: Idiotic guidelines put in place by Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995 forbade FBI agents gathering intelligence on terrorists from sharing information with FBI agents working on criminal cases involving terrorists.

Americans will not be secure until we realize that what we have to fear most from the federal government is incompetence driven by political correctness, not a trampling of civil liberties. We need to worry less about hurting the feelings of terrorists, and more about the harm terrorists can do.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly