December 30th, 2009
11:58 AM ET

Hard Questions, All-Too-Easy Answers

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/30/gavel.jpg]

Bill Burck and Dana Perino
National Review

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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Filed under: President Barack Obama • Terrorism
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Mike formerly from Syracuse

    Janet Napolitano's comment as well as previous comments including calling terrorism 'man caused disasters' merely shows how inept this Administration is in dealing with a major threat to the American way of life. Treating terrorist attacks like a law enforcement problem just emboldens the enemy who have no rules other than the one to kill as many of us as possible. Unfortunately it will take another 9/11 for this administration to wake up to the fact that this IS a war and not a case of jaywalking.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  2. John Kisha

    Funny how it was OK to prosecute the shoe bomber in the federal court system. Some people have short memories–or is it that they are just hypocrites?

    December 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Anna

    I have heard and read a lot of very interesting analysis. But I would like to know how many contractors or what is the percentage of contractors among the CIA staff? You cannot expect people who spent half of the time worrying about their contract to be a 100?% effective.

    December 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  4. Tim Gibson

    The fact that Obama has chose to now call terrorist “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” is in itself a problem and a sign of weakness with implications we should feel sorry for this terrorist who intended to attack our people and our country in a jihad suicide mission because of his unprivileged life even though he was not proverished but only felt alone and needed a friend.

    Even the crocodile hunter found out the hard way about nature.

    December 30, 2009 at 1:00 pm |

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