Alexander's Column

Homeland Security watch

Mark Alexander · Jan. 25, 2002

The Jihadistan front in Afghanistan is still deadly – and the frontlines continue to expand as Special Forces prepare to initiate search and destroy missions against terrorist cells around the world. “Dangers and sacrifices lie ahead,” President George W. Bush reminded Americans. He added: “[Al Qaeda] first thought they were hitting somebody, a nation which was soft…. They didn’t understand that when you attack America and you murder innocent people, we’re coming after you with full force and fury of a great nation and our allies.” (Of course, al Qaeda’s primary source of information on the U.S. was CNN.)

Special Forces units engaged in a firefight Wednesday night near Kandahar, with remaining and regrouping al Qaeda terrorists, killing 15 al Qaeda fighters and capturing 27. Our team suffered one injury. And reports now suggest that some fleeing al Qaeda cells may be regrouping to establish new bases in Iran and in Holy Land areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. We will keep you posted on these developments….

In the Pacific, our forces arrayed against Jihadistan combatants in the Philippines – to total a reported 660 soldiers in “support and advisory” positions only – faced demonstrations and opposition lingering since U.S. bases were closed at the Philippine legislature’s behest. However, the Muslim terror group Abu Sayyaf in the combined forces’ crosshairs so threatens the Philippine government that opposition has dwindled with arrival of the first few U.S. soldiers. (These Muslim terrorists have kidnapped Christian missionaries, and have been linked to terror chief Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network through significant operations traced back to the Philippines.)

And from Euro-land, the Leftmedia expressed horror and outrage that al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Base in Cuba are being handled with measures appropriate to their level of dangerousness, with even the British press piling on: In London, The Mail characterized the terrorist-prisoners’ conditions as “Torture! …Monstrous inhumanity.” The Daily Mirror deemed it: “Brutality in Our Name! …Barbarism. …These prisoners are trapped in open cages, manacled hand and foot, brutalized, tortured and humiliated.” (Apparently their only source of information is CNN!)

Responding to what he termed “hyperbole” about the detainees, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday objected to characterizations suggesting “America is what’s wrong with the world when it’s not.” Of course, the shackles and hoods were for transport only, as with most maximum-security prisoners, and the “tortures” include three good meals daily, medical care, and a USN Muslim chaplain to minister to their spiritual welfare. In other words, like many felonious thugs in U.S. prisons, they have more resources than the families of some U.S. military personnel!

On the home front, President Bush and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge met with the conference of U.S. Mayors and County Officials to announce that the central government will pony up sufficient funding for domestic counterterrorism efforts at the state and local level – rather than take the usual course of issuing unfunded mandates. “I’ll be calling on Congress to pass a funding increase for homeland defense of $38 billion. … Double over 2002,” said Mr. Bush. And not a minute too soon we might add! According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the most recent census indicates that there may be as many as 115,000 illegal immigrants from the Middle East.

As The Federalist promised last September when the president announced the Office of Homeland Security, we are watching this agency closely, and, thus far, its directives fall within the prescribed limits of the Constitution and are consistent with the spirit of federalism. And consistent with our recommendation at that time, Mr. Bush announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be the lead coordinating agency for Homeland Security.

And a federalism footnote regarding the “seat of government” from Mr. Bush’s conference address: “It’s a privilege for me to be with the country’s most accountable elected officials. … We always used to say, you know, the government that’s closest to the people is that which governs best. You’re what I call practical. The farther you get away from the local governments, we get a little theoretical.”

Speaking of doubling money to fight terrorism, the FBI and Postal Service raised the reward for the postal anthrax mailer, the “Unaplaguer,” by 100% – now $2.5 million. And a follow-up note regarding the hunt for the Unaplaguer: The Federalist reported the November 16th disappearance of Harvard biologist Don Wiley after a scientific gathering in Memphis – at the height of the anthrax mailings. What made his disappearance suspect was that Wiley’s primary research specialty was in biological pathogens, including research on a number of deadly viruses – the stuff of bio-warfare – and the circumstances: his rental car, fuel tank full and key in the ignition, was abandoned in the middle of a bridge over the Mississippi River. Wiley’s body was found in the Mississippi River in late December, and investigators have concluded that he died in an accidental fall from the bridge. There is no evidence to suggest that Wiley was connected to the Unaplaguer.