Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Cares if Nidal Hasan is a Terrorist?

Is Nidal Hasan a terrorist? We can continue the underlying national discussion on racial profiling endlessly, but who cares? The debate is completely irrelevant, and the argument that political correctness killed thirteen people in Fort Hood is reflexive, not discerning. What’s really important, and frankly unnerving, is how Hasan slipped through the fingers of our national intelligence services given the highly controlled environment in which this atrocity occurred.

A cold-blooded murderer connected to proponents of violence against the United States murdered thirteen servicemen in a shooting rampage. Any investigation, regardless of whether it is initially categorized as homicide or treason, will include a thorough analysis of the events, communications and decisions that preceded the massacre. With or without consensus on his terrorist label, correct steps will be taken.

Authorities will inevitably flush Hasan’s extremist and social networks, including a closer inspection of even more Muslims. This is not very PC. Columbine is an analogous case from the perspective that yearns to attribute Fort Hood to a disgruntled, isolated soldier. In response to the shootings, police increased their presence in schools and paid closer attention to students. Adolescents were profiled, yet there was little uproar because of the logic behind this response to an act where potential perpetrators were so clearly identifiable. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies will respond in the same way to Fort Hood despite predictable cries of prejudice. Whether Hasan is ultimately judged as a terrorist will not change this outcome.

Conservatives have a point when they say that Nadal is the terrorist that no one wants to acknowledge, but they're wrong to fret about it. Similarly misguided are the right's frivolous accusations that “the system” is to blame, bound and crippled by excessive political correctness.

Desperate attempts to spin the story by the left, lead by many in the media, have only lent credibility to these claims. The New York Times may never concede that Hasan is a terrorist unless he says it outright or it finds a way to blame Bush. Obama and his administration “don’t want to go there” either, despite his quick dives into the racial fray in the recent past. His personal interest in not labeling the Fort Hood incident as an act of terrorism is blatant and has little to do with cultural sensitivity. Jihad back on US soil, less than one year after Bush leaves office? If the public reaches this conclusion, his presidency is nuked. He's not alone under the microscope, either. Also on trial is the modern progressive platform that Obama has wholeheartedly embraced. Regardless of these political maneuverings, Hasan was not the result of a porous defense against terrorism, weakened by our own moral qualms as some may believe.

A component of “the system” is “society” as a whole, which has been criticized for taking political correctness too far. This was allegedly evidenced by the failure of Hasan’s peers at Walter Reed to report his extremist views for fear of being accused of racism. While probably true to a certain degree, whose responsibility is it to root out and thwart terrorist plots in the first place? We don’t live in Nazi Germany and the CIA is not the SS. Intelligence assessments should not be based on personal accusations, and thankfully they’re not. The public and its sensitivity to perceived offense are not to blame.

Only homeland security, the CIA and FBI policies are relevant, and there is little to implicate these institutions of PC extremism. Guantanamo is packed with Muslims, as are CIA and FBI wanted lists, so if any group is getting a free pass it’s certainly not the Islamic community. In any case, Hasan did make the lists and had been the topic of discussion amongst his superiors. Up until that point, domestic counterterrorism measures worked and a potential extremist was identified. What happened, insofar as we can see, is that there was never enough evidence to nail him. Either the intelligence was weak or Hasan planned Fort Hood on his own without leaving a trail. Senator Joe Lieberman’s investigation and Hasan’s eventual interrogation will reveal important details as hindsight shifts into focus.

What’s really important about the Fort Hood massacre is that it occurred within the tightly controlled military environment and what that implies.

All of this reflects extremely poorly on the military and intelligence agencies, particularly since similar incidents have recently occurred. While it is exceptionally difficult to catch a lone wolf would-be assassin, there is an entire counterespionage infrastructure to prevent this possibility. If Hasan can rise through the ranks of the military, what’s to stop him from ascending further and passing information instead of killing people directly? Consider if Hasan had waited until deployment. Thirteen may pale in comparison to the potential damage dealt from within bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Counterintelligence is facilitated within the ranks of the Armed Forces by the closer inspection permitted of its members; truncated civil liberties come with the job. Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of Hasan’s attack is that the inability of more invasive government to prevent terrorist attacks undermines the basic premise of the Patriot Act.

Passed by a Republican congress then extended by a Democratic majority, the Patriot Act reflects the American population’s consensus to sacrifice personal liberties for security. So far, the decision has proven wise. While coming at a steep price, one difficult to reconcile with our national character and values, there’s just no better way to fight terrorism domestically. This may seem a bit cynical, but at least information-gathering methods today are minimally intrusive. Police still need warrants to search, and there have been no credible cases of abuse of the Patriot Act. What makes the law tolerable is its track record.

Incidents like Fort Hood will erode support for the Patriot Act. Individual human errors have the capacity to kill a general strategy that has proven successful and has no adequate substitute. For this reason it is of the utmost importance that the military, CIA, and FBI get their houses in order and keep the record clean. If military personnel who live under much greater scrutiny cannot be protected, then the American population cannot be expected to continue sacrificing its privacy.

Essentially, the protection we are paying for with liberty isn't what we expected it to be. Members of the armed services give up more than we do, but it's still not enough. So why pay in the first place?

Political correctness is just public relations. Terrorism or not, it’s a moot point as long as the appropriate authorities make meaningful improvements. Hasan is actually less effective as a terrorist if we don’t label him as such. The hypocrisy of this tragedy is that our free and open society is what protects attitudes like Nadir Hasan’s and allows them to foster. It’s that same society these men seek to destroy.

1 comment:

  1. love this blog, almost as good as

    keep it up netoborito!