June Girard: Showing our hand to terrorists
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
There is an appalling network of killers whose carefully thought-out atrocities are a powerful force in the world. These killers are joined in a single minded effort to destroy democratic rule. We call them terrorists and we have declared war on them.
Transparency and terrorist defense strategy is an oxymoron. Imagine if we had announced during World War II that we had broken the Japanese and German code and explained how we did it and said now we know they are planning an attack, we just don't know where.
So why, in early August, did our government close 29 embassies in the Middle East and Africa and announce that they had overheard a conversation planning nefarious acts against the West between the leader of al-Qaida and the leader of their Yemen based partner, but we just don't know where?
In May, President Obama had said the war on terror was coming to an end. A great hue and cry had already arisen regarding the secrecy of U.S. actions in monitoring national and international telephone calls and the brutal attack on the embassy in Libya in September of 2012. So now, in the interest of transparency, we should announce how and when we are spying? Intelligence gathering is done secretly by every democracy to protect its citizens. We need not reveal the sources of our intelligence.
President Obama recently announced reforms to overseeing the NSA and asked Congress to revisit the section of the Patriot Act that gives the government sweeping powers to collect phone call data. Defending the surveillance programs he said, the "American people need to have confidence" in them too.
If the fact that we monitor their calls is well known, why wouldn't terrorists use that knowledge to make false statements to distract us from their real plans, or to make their communications more secure in the future, or to gain international publicity?
Should we be skeptical of telephone or online chatter between Islamist terrorists? Barbara Bodine, former ambassador to Yemen, said the removal of diplomats from Yemen was not an overreaction. The subsequent Yemeni claim of thwarted attacks on their vital infrastructure could be seen as confirmation of her statement.
Because a Christian general wanted to be president, because Muslims wanted the power denied them for decades, because Syria wanted a client state next to Israel, because Iraq's president hated Iran and because we helped to arm both sides, all this came to us.
Al-Qaida's partner in the Arabian Peninsula has recently been the most active branch to plot attacks on the West. Hezbollah was developed as an underground movement in Iraq. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power as a Shiite religious leader in Iran favoring global jihad against all non-believers, his regime helped Hezbollah develop its terrorist capabilities. Khomeini said "Islamic Principles" were to maintain "revolutionary and sacred rancor and use their oppressive-burning flames … against the world-devouring United States and their surrogates." The new ayatollah -- Ali Khamenei -- has declared he remains faithful to the Islamic Revolution.
Al-Qaida is increasingly active in the Sinai and has joined rebel groups in Egypt. It now has more fighters and more territory than it had 10 years ago. It appears the growth of terrorism has been underestimated by us. Even though he died in 1989, Khomeini's influence can be seen today in Islamic terror organizations like Hezbollah, Al-Qaida, Hamas and the Taliban. And we want to tell them and their followers how and when we gather intelligence to anticipate their activities?
June Girard lives in Gainesville.