Joseph Mussomeli Liberty National Security News Senior Contributors Terrorism

Everything You Ever Feared to Know About American Security Policy

Everything You Ever Feared to Know About American Security Policy

Two questions ought to all the time be requested time and again once more earlier than safety measures are carried out: At what level do safety measures impede safety? And at one level is a free individuals no longer free?

It has been quiet just lately right here within the homeland. Terrorist bombs and different assaults proceed unabated within the Center East and sporadically in Europe, nevertheless it has been fairly some time by trendy requirements since any terrorist assault right here in the USA. This being so, it’s tempting to assume we’re lastly beginning to do issues proper; that may be a temptation we ought to resist. We’ve definitely improved our technical expertise at dealing with the worldwide terrorist menace: worldwide cooperation is way higher than a couple of many years in the past, and even cooperation between and amongst U.S. businesses, for therefore lengthy higher recognized for his or her rivalries than their competencies, has markedly improved; and technological developments from drones to pc surveillance have made reachable in any other case inaccessible people and knowledge. However whereas all these enhancements are laudable, they don’t tackle—and even acknowledge—the elemental flaws that guarantee our vulnerability to terrorist assaults. Under is a brief itemizing of the intrinsic weaknesses in our counter-terrorism technique.

1. We Are Our Authorities’s Second Highest Precedence

Most US authorities officers would vehemently disagree with this assertion. They might argue that defending American residents is the authorities’s highest precedence and that all of them work lengthy, troublesome hours making certain our safety. Their view, whereas mistaken, is honest, and there are arguments that appear to help their view that our authorities has no higher concern than our security. For instance, courting again at the very least to the Reagan administration, we now have been prepared to ignore our personal legal guidelines so as to safeguard our residents. Certainly, the Iran-Contra debacle clearly proved not solely our willingness to violate our legal guidelines to shield residents, however even our willingness to help and abet our enemies, offering them deadly weapons in trade for help in liberating American hostages in Lebanon. Whereas we have now not been as craven as another nations in our willingness to bend guidelines and morality so as to save certainly one of our residents, our fixation on defending our citizenry has the unintended consequence of putting it additional in peril. Our enemies know that we have a fetish for shielding life that’s extra sacred to us than regulation or honor. One is reminded of C.S. Lewis’s harsh remark in Miracles that a “mere life-addict is no more respectable than a cocaine addict.” Our enemies additionally know that our media will expend extra footage on one American held captive or slain in a terrorist assault than they’ll on dozens dying from a pure catastrophe or in our internal cities.

Our authorities’s highest precedence? To make sure that, if one thing does occur to an American citizen, authorities officers aren’t blamed for it. Many will assume that that is primarily the identical factor as making certain our security and it’s true that the 2 priorities typically overlap. Nevertheless it stays a critical vulnerability that when authorities has to select between making certain safety and making certain that it isn’t blamed for a breach in safety, the federal government instinctively chooses the latter.

The injury this worry of culpability causes is gigantic and assorted. First, it predisposes authorities to reveal delicate info prematurely, recklessly risking sources and strategies, so as to show to the general public that it cares for our welfare. Second, it compels the federal government to be extreme in issuing menace warnings. Like these listening to the proverbial boy crying wolf, many people more and more ignore menace warnings due to their proliferation and basic vagueness. Third, and conversely, these similar warnings trigger others to be needlessly fearful and inculcate a siege mentality that in the long run can hurt an open society. Fourth, the worry of culpability impedes essential work. That’s, even earlier than 9/11 however much more now since Benghazi, there’s a persevering with effort to slender and circumscribe what our diplomats and different U.S. representatives can do when stationed abroad. Security officers now dominate abroad operations, and personnel are more and more strait-jacketed in how they can carry out their features as a result of Washington fears the results if anybody ought to be harmed.

And eventually, and maybe most significantly, this reflexive avoidance of duty can truly improve the menace. There are myriad examples of how our authorities’s want to keep away from any blame has hampered and harmed our nationwide pursuits and additional endangered what the federal government hopes to shield, however I’ll supply two small examples from my very own expertise that occurred sufficiently way back that describing them won’t trigger any issues. Each occurred whereas I was stationed in Bahrain in 2000 and 2001, simply as we have been experiencing an growing quantity of obscure intel suggesting that some type of giant terrorist assault was being deliberate. A presidential election was going to happen in November 2000, and the White Home turned overly nervous that a large-scale assault anyplace would hamper the administration’s probabilities of retaining the presidency. Due to this worry, there was a daft, certainly comical, proliferation of menace warnings issued to shield the federal government from blame. Because the election neared, panic set in and the State Division despatched out a poorly vetted directive to all Center East posts, ordering personnel to not ship their youngsters to faculty at some point. It will be important to level out that there was completely no intelligence that faculties have been being focused and nobody in Washington solicited the opinion of the embassies concerned. I can’t say what the response was in different embassies, however in Bahrain most mother and father have been outraged that Washington was drawing consideration to a non-existent drawback—the concentrating on of faculties—which may truly encourage terrorists to contemplate attacking them. There was additionally no concern in Washington for how native governments may react to a unilateral choice to hold all college students from the official American group away from faculty, whereas all different youngsters continued to attend. Thankfully, in crafting their cable to posts, Washington used the phrase “should keep their students” out of faculty. We selected to interpret the time period “should” as suggestive slightly than directive and we despatched our youngsters to faculty. The ambassador bravely endured criticism from Washington for having executed so, whilst many in Washington privately acknowledged that the “no school” directive had been unjustified, besides on political grounds.

The second instance includes that very same faculty in Bahrain, however this time it was the Division of Protection, relatively than the Division of State, that overreacted and elevated the danger to the scholars. Simply after the election, in late 2000 and early 2001, as intelligence reviews of an impending assault someplace continued to proliferate, the worry of a faculty assault–once more with no dependable intel–took maintain of those that have been liable for faculty safety. Because the faculty in Bahrain is a DoDDS-sponsored faculty, it fell beneath DOD jurisdiction. With little prior session with both the embassy or the host authorities, closely armed U.S. Navy safety guards have been deployed to “protect” the varsity from a nonexistent terrorist menace. The sight of those guards strutting down the hallways of the varsity with their M-16s was disturbing to many of the scholars and fogeys, however the considered being blamed for an assault, although the worry was based mostly on fable, was all that mattered to these making the choices about safety. Each the embassy and the faculty mum or dad affiliation argued towards deploying the guards, insisting that the danger of an unintentional firing was far higher than the danger of a terrorist assault, however the Navy refused to pay attention. It was not till a number of weeks later, when the inevitable occurred—a Navy guard unintentionally left his loaded rifle unattended within the faculty cafeteria whereas he went to get a drink of water—that the Navy backed down and eliminated the guards from the varsity corridors.

2. The Cult of Security: A New Cartesian Precept: “I am protected,
therefore I am (important).”

Whereas many bemoan the more and more burdensome nature of our safety measures, there are those that quietly savor them. That is definitely true of the safety apparatchiks themselves who now virtually exert veto energy over their supervisors when it comes to any security-related matter, but in addition of lots of these supervisors as nicely. There has developed a peculiar notion amongst our greater officers that their intrinsic worth is by some means associated to how a lot safety they warrant. I’ve recognized a number of ambassadors and high-ranking army, for instance, who insist on having bodyguards, in addition to lead and chase automobiles, not out of any true concern for his or her safety, however merely to enlarge their significance to all those that are available contact with them. It’s farcical, and makes apparent that one thing has gone critically awry in our safety posture, when any American Cupboard-level official has far larger safety necessities than most heads of state. Slightly self-reflection by these officers may trigger them embarrassment, however as an alternative they preen and strut, basking of their illusory significance.

three. Simpler to Ratchet Security Measures Up Than Down

Every time a terrorist assault happens or credible terrorist-related info is obtained, there’s a pure reflex to react to it by augmenting safety measures. Whereas this can be a utterly comprehensible response, few ever acknowledge that when these enhanced measures are carried out, it’s far more durable to return to regular. There all the time stays the lingering worry that when the improved measures are withdrawn, a terrorist incident will happen and they’ll then be held accountable. Over time, this aversion to being held accountable leads to a unnecessary proliferation of safety measures.

four. The Male Crucial: When One thing Occurs: Do One thing, Do

Virtually each husband has at one time or one other encountered the state of affairs the place his spouse will complain about an issue, and his speedy response is to attempt repair it slightly than commiserate about it. Whereas laudable in a family state of affairs, this male response can develop into fairly absurd within the aftermath of a terrorist assault. Think about our response after 9/11: Though no enemy plane have been concerned within the assaults, American and NATO fighter jets patrolled the sky over New York Metropolis for months afterwards; faculties in distant states had lockdowns and native police despatched patrol automobiles for reassurance; our president declared that the 9/11 assaults demonstrated the necessity to speed up our missile protection methods and, in an much more incomprehensible response, led us to warfare in Iraq, which had nothing to do with the September 11 assaults.

Comparable safety non-sequiturs are carried out in numerous methods at our embassies and army bases around the globe every time we really feel threatened indirectly. My private favourite was that after the united statesCole was attacked in Yemen, all fifth fleet ships docked in Bahrain–a basically totally different place when it comes to safety and host authorities cooperation–have been despatched out to sea. On the similar time, all of the households of our Navy personnel have been left “stranded” on land, directed to keep inside their houses as a lot as attainable. The irony couldn’t have been higher: the protectors fleeing to the ocean, whereas their defenseless households huddled alone of their houses.

One of the best instance from American historical past, nevertheless, stays the choice to intern greater than 110,000 individuals of Japanese heritage throughout World Warfare II. Admitting that there had been no precise acts of sabotage dedicated by any Japanese-People, Basic De Witt employed all of the logic and penetrating perception we now have come to anticipate from safety specialists: “the very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such actions will be taken.”

5. Private Braveness and Bureaucratic Braveness will not be Synonymous

If somebody pointed a gun at me, I might wilt. I unabashedly acknowledge that there are extreme limitations to my sense of private braveness. So, I am all the time pleased with and grateful for these amongst us, notably our regulation enforcement and army personnel, who danger their lives to guarantee our security. It was, subsequently, a shock to understand that people who can fly dozens of sorties over enemy territory or fearlessly cost right into a constructing by means of a hail of bullets, typically wilt like flowers when confronted with making safety selections that they may be held accountable for. Whereas there are legitimate causes for warning–real concern for the security of personnel, particularly–the unhappy fact is that safety selections are more and more made merely on the idea of what’s least possible to trigger a menace to one’s profession quite than what’s a sensible menace to one’s personnel. All the time choosing the most secure choice, even when it might hurt morale or impede getting work executed, insulates supervisors from ever being held accountable. The expectation of dealing with an ARB (Accountability Evaluation Board) is way extra scary to some leaders than charging a heavily-fortified enemy place. Taking prudent danger, particularly after the Benghazi witch hunt, is for a lot of not a viable choice.

6. Security Considerations Are Terribly Politicized

This drawback in all probability warrants an article all its personal. Some disturbing current examples of this are the 2012 de-listing of MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq) as a overseas terrorist group (apparently, in the event that they solely slaughter Iranian civilians, it isn’t terrorism); the 2017 inclusion of Iran on the record of six Islamic nations whose residents may be barred from entry into the USA (regardless of Iranian residents by no means having participated in any terrorist assaults on American soil); and the absence of Saudi Arabia from this similar listing (though most terrorist assaults that do happen in america have been impressed by the Wahhabi cult’s ideology). And all these examples pale beside the double normal at work in differentiating between political violence, together with assassinations, perpetrated by allies, corresponding to Israel, and that dedicated by enemies who make use of the identical means.

An Inflationary Development

Simply as grade inflation impairs our academic system and worth inflation can injury our financial system, safety inflation endangers us. It places in danger our civil liberties and it takes from us our consolation and sense of well-being. It additionally, maybe counter-intuitively, renders us extra jaded, extra careless, and positively extra disdainful of safety measures which are already in place. Two questions ought to all the time be requested time and again once more earlier than safety measures are carried out: At what level do safety measures impede safety? And at one level is a free individuals no longer free?

We must not ever permit safety personnel to have the ultimate say in making coverage. It’s crucially necessary to rein in safety advisors and never let them dictate how and the place and why we stay. Danger avoidance is a harmful path to wander down unthinkingly. Think about if we had security personnel who might dictate and management our lives to the identical diploma. One easy instance: yearly about 30,000 People lose their lives in visitors accidents. That is horrible, and but it might simply be fastened: simply decrease the utmost velocity restrict to 15 miles per hour. We might save tens of hundreds of lives. The absurdity of this analogy is misplaced on safety specialists who need no losses to terrorism and different political crimes. This insistence on no losses and this extreme danger aversion impedes and curtails essential engagement around the globe.

The persevering with nationwide shame of GTMO, the NSA surveillance operations, the misnamed PATRIOT Act, and numerous different issues ought to be cautionary tales for all of us. Maybe Cicero was proper when he stated that “in times of war, the law falls silent.” However the best way it’s, isn’t the approach it must be. It’s exactly in occasions of conflict, in occasions of worry and in occasions of hazard that we have to be much more diligent to be sure that regulation and liberty are safeguarded. Sadly, the US doesn’t have nearly as good a document because it ought. From the Alien and Sedition Legal guidelines underneath Adams to the suspending of habeas corpus underneath Lincoln to the Espionage Act beneath Wilson to the present-day fears about terrorism, the inclination to sacrifice regulation, liberty, and customary sense for safety is an ongoing problem.

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The featured picture is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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