Law vs. War
Two items of interest from reader DL. The first from AP news:
WASHINGTON (AP) - An Army intelligence officer says his unit was blocked in 2000 and 2001 from giving the FBI information about a U.S.-based terrorist cell that included Mohamed Atta, the future leader of the Sept. 11 attacks. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer said the small intelligence unit, called "Able Danger," had identified Atta and three of the other future Sept. 11 hijackers as al-Qaida members by mid-2000. He said military lawyers stopped the unit from sharing the information with the FBI. The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks left the Able Danger claims out of its official report.
The second is from the New York Times.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. ...
"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001. He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Special Operations Command of the Defense Department had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States.
Belmont Club readers may also wish to read the US Army War College's recent monograph, Law versus War, whose subject is described as follows:
The authors address one of the fundamental assumptions underlying the conduct of the War on Terrorism - the nature of our enemy, whether perpetrators of terrorist activities are criminals or soldiers (combatants). Although the United States recognizes that terrorist acts are certainly illegal, it has chosen to treat perpetrators as combatants; but much of the world, including many of our traditional allies, have opted for a purely legalistic approach. Disagreement about assumptions is not the only basis for divergent policies for confronting terrorism, but certainly explains much of our inability to agree on strategies to overcome what we recognize as a serious common and persistent international problem. Their insights into how our respective cultures and histories influence our definitions, assumptions, and subsequent policy decisions can assist us to respect and learn from competing strategies. They correctly surmise that our current international struggle is too important for us to ignore assumptions underlying our own and competing ideas.
I wonder whether I should have included this quote attributed to former President Clinton in the New York Magazine, but only directly available by secondary citation.
"I desperately wish that I had been president when the FBI and CIA finally confirmed, officially, that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole," Clinton tells New York magazine this week. "Then we could have launched an attack on Afghanistan early." "I don’t know if it would have prevented 9/11," he added. "But it certainly would have complicated it.”
Despite his failure to launch such an attack, Clinton said he saw the danger posed by bin Laden much more clearly than did President Bush. "I always thought that bin Laden was a bigger threat than the Bush administration did," he told New York magazine.
What's striking is the use of the word "officially", which suggests President Clinton may have 'known' Osama Bin Laden was a danger with intellectual certainty without being able to assert it officially. That in turn suggests that Osama Bin Laden was implicitly or even subconsciously provided with the protection of due process by a President who felt he would have to defend any action he took against OBL. Those who followed the Army War College monograph will have seen the distaste of legal scholars for applying the concept of war to counterterrorism because it implies action on a "switch that is either on or off." The legal ideal is "violence on a dimmer switch." (page 7) Clinton it would seem, at least subconsciously preferred the dimmer switch.