More Lies from the Middle-East
Does anyone buy this crap
Saudi Cash: OK, let's see if I have the story straight. In 1998, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States receives a letter from a Jordanian-born woman in San Diego, a woman she has never before heard of, who tells her that she is facing high medical bills. The Saudi princess authorizes a wire transfer of $2,000 a month from her account in Washington to the account of the San Diego woman. Over the next three years, tens of thousands of dollars are transferred from Washington to San Diego, apparently without any questions asked.
Now, by an amazing coincidence, it turns out that the woman who received the money is married to a man who gave money and help to two of the 9/11 hijackers.
All weekend, Saudi spokesmen covered the talk shows, denouncing the possibility that there could be anything suspicious in this connection. And given the long record of Saudi generosity, who can doubt that the princess's story must be true?
Intelligence Failure: Whether Princess Haifa was privy to it or not, it is becoming more and more evident that the 9/11 attack involved much more than just a handful of conspirators. The attackers drew support from across the Arab world and from sleeper cells inside this country. It's not easy to conceal a plot in which so many people play a part. So how did US intelligence miss it? Why was America caught so utterly by surprise?
According to a brilliant story by Heather Mac Donald in the current City Journal, America's ignorance was self-inflicted. More precisely: America's ignorance was inflicted upon it by political and media elites who feared their own cops more than they feared terrorists. Remember that legacy Bill Clinton was looking for? According to MacDonald, we found it on 9/11.
"[I]nhibitions [upon intelligence-gathering] reached their peak destructiveness with Attorney General Reno's 'Procedures for Contacts Between the FBI and the Criminal Division Concerning Foreign Intelligence and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations,' issued in July 1995. Immediately dubbed 'the Wall'" the 1995 guidelines erected a mind-boggling and ultimately lethal set of impediments to cooperation among all relevant anti-terrorist personnel.
"Let's say—and this is a purely hypothetical example—that David Dell, an agent in the New York FBI office, has a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] wiretap on Abdul Muhammad, an Islamic fundamentalist Yemeni affiliated with a suspected al-Qaida support cell in Brooklyn. Muhammad is not yet tied to any crime or criminal conspiracy; Dell is surveilling him to determine the extent of al-Qaida strength in New York. In a phone conversation with a fellow Yemeni in Pakistan, Muhammad mentions a dying swan and several Muslim names that Dell does not recognize. Several desks away in the FBI's downtown office, Sam Simpson is investigating the al-Qaida bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Simpson also worked on the al-Qaida bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, for which he traveled to Yemen and Kenya to execute warrants.
"In a sane system, Dell and Simpson would be able to talk to each other about their cases, for although Dell doesn't recognize the names and swan references in Abdul's recent conversation, Simpson came across some of the named men while he was in Kenya and recognizes the code that Abdul is using. The content of the Abdul intercept would help Simpson's criminal case, and Simpson's knowledge of the code and identities of the men would help Dell map out the extent and possible goals of the Brooklyn cell. And if Dell interviews Muhammad, in a sane world Simpson would be in on the interview, since he might recognize the significance of some of Muhammad's replies in a way that Dell could not, and he would then be able to press Muhammad immediately for further information. Simpson might even suggest to Dell that he expand his surveillance to a grocer in Brooklyn, suspected of running an informal credit scheme, or hawallah, that may have sent money to the USS Cole conspirators.
"That reasonable (and, to repeat, entirely hypothetical) scenario is not the world of the Wall. Under the Wall, Dell and Simpson may not talk to each other, because Dell is receiving FISA information, and Simpson is working on a criminal case against terrorists. If Dell wants to pass any information to Simpson "over the Wall," he first has to get permission from FBI headquarters in Washington, which then notifies the OIPR. If permission is granted, which is by no means certain, someone from the OIPR has either to come from Washington to New York or monitor all further communications between Dell and Simpson over the phone. This bureaucratic Rube Goldberg machine radically chills communication, of course; but the deeper problem is that without Simpson's expertise, Dell may not even recognize the significance of the information he is receiving, and so it may not even occur to him to request a Wall bypass. And as far as Simpson's offering suggestions to Dell about other targets that would strengthen both their investigations, forget about it."
Read the whole story, and you'll appreciate why David Brooks has complained that if there were any justice in journalism, McDonald would be lining her mantlepiece with Pulitzer Prizes.
Gingrich On First: In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, James Traub asks why Bill Clinton, "the man who defined the 90's as Reagan did the 80's seems to have left a much less lasting imprint on his party than Reagan did." It's a question we're going to be hearing often as the Democrats search for explanations of their '02 defeat.
It's a question many conservatives may have trouble taking seriously. It's like asking "why didn't Chester Arthur leave as lasting an imprint as Abraham Lincoln?" It's just not the nature of shifty political operators to leave much in the way of a legacy behind them - except for a lingering wonder (admiring wonder among their supporters, astounded wonder among their opponents): "How did he get away with it?"
Above all things, Clinton hated making decisions. That's why he kept talking and talking and talking - admittedly very cleverly, but in the end, utterly uselessly. What Clinton liked was not political achievement but political maneuver, and of that art he was one of the most skillful practitioners since James G. Blaine.
For six years after 1994, Clinton cunningly beat back the Gingrich insurgency. Sometimes he stole their ideas. Sometimes he discredited their ideas. But ever and always, the ideas at play in the 1990s were the ideas of Clinton's opponents.
Gingrich lost every hand to Clinton. But the politics of the 1990s were always his game.
That Ledeen Deposition: A reader alerts me that the Ledeen deposition I mentioned last week can be found at a site I am very glad to learn of: web.archive.org. Four years later, Michael's dry wit under cross-examination still makes for entertaining reading.
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