Bill Burck and Dana Perino
Janet Napolitano, President Obama’s secretary of homeland security, has been rightly criticized for her declaration that “the system worked” in the thwarted plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Secretary Napolitano and the Obama administration quickly pulled up stakes on that position in the face of ridicule from all corners. Less noticed is the administration’s continuing insistence that another system will work to protect the country from future attacks. This time they have put their unquestioned faith, and our security, in the hands of our civilian law-enforcement institutions and the federal courts.
The Justice Department announced charges against Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab in a press release with characteristic matter-of-factness, including the standard reminder that “criminal complaints contain mere allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Press releases serve many purposes, not least of which is to inform the public that a dangerous person has been apprehended. Charging Mutallab with a crime is no cause for relief, however. Instead, the decision renews concern about how seriously the administration is taking the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and whether we are slipping back into the pre-9/11 mindset of treating terrorism as principally a law-enforcement problem. Whatever legitimate role our civilian authorities may have in eventually bringing Mutallab to justice for attempting to blow up the airplane, experience and common sense tell us they are a poor means of addressing the more immediate problem — acquiring intelligence to stop the next attack before it happens.
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