Mansoor Ijaz, an American of Pakistani origin, negotiated Sudan's offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1996 and 1997 and jointly authored the blueprint for a ceasefire of hostilities between Indian security forces and militant Islamists in Kashmir in July and August 2000. If new US National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon needs a reminder of how stark the enemy threat is, he need look no further than today's discovery of printer cartridges rigged like explosive devices aboard UPS airliner cargo holds that left Yemen bound for Jewish Synagogues in the United States. A dry run? You bet. And not just to test the holes in air cargo security systems, but to test the reaction time and responsiveness of our national security apparatus.
The backroom maneuvering that led to Donilon's ascent and the departure of his predecessor, Gen. James L. Jones (USMC Ret), is a dangerous reminder of what happens when politics enters the world of intelligence gathering, analysis and policymaking. Donilon, whose reputation as a backroom Democratic Party wheeler dealer precedes him, would do well now to shed that skin and get down to the serious business at hand in containing and controlling threats that are approaching four-dimensional complexity against American--and global--security interests.
History is replete with bad decisions made by men and women charged with securing America who lamely, selfishly and often purposefully politicized intelligence for narrow political objectives. Those failures should serve as a reminder to Donilon and the team he assembles that America's enemies are lurking and waiting for any sign of weakness to attack us. And attack us they will.
Much of the failure to deal with militant Islam inside the Clinton presidency came from his national security team, which (with the exception of former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke) had little practical experience with military campaigns, counterterrorism strategies, guerrilla warfare tactics or other facets so critical to ensuring modern-day security. They repeatedly, and with increasing stridency, politicized intelligence gathering, analysis and policy responses. Sudan, on which I write from personal knowledge and experience, was a prime example of what America can never afford to allow again.
Politicized intelligence was the Achilles heel of many a past president, with disastrous consequences emerging every single time. President Obama must insure that the principal legacy left by his outgoing national security adviser--integrity of the intelligence analysis and policy-response process, and a strategic vision for securing America against an ever growing array of threats--remains the baseline from which America makes its national-security policy decisions. If he does not, he may find one day soon that the very terrorists he was elected to thwart have come home to roost. More at: