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Counterterrorism – Warning Signs Ignored

Many years ago, my late father, God Bless His Soul, had an idea in Pennsylvania to buy old buildings no one wanted and try to fix them up for low-income renters. The idea was necessary and worthy. But not every property was necessary and worthy. He would have me accompany him on some property visits. One time I went with him to such a place, which he thought was a good idea, and I did not. Then as I was walking into this building, my foot went through the floor. Looking up at him, and pulling myself up so I didn’t fall the rest of the way through the floor, I convinced him that this was a not a good decision. Sometimes we need to wake up on bad decisions. We need wisdom as much as we need stubbornness.  We have to have the courage to walk away from bad decisions, and to change our minds and paths.

When your foot goes through the floor, that is a warning sign and time for you to wake up. The answer is not to put a rug over it and pretend the problem isn’t there. Sometimes you have to realize not all decisions are good decisions. You can’t always make every bad decision work, and you have to have the courage to change.

But that is where American Counterterrorism is today. It has become so caught up in tactics and maneuvers that it literally is losing the plot on the real objectives of safety for our society. It never has fully grasped that tactics, without a strategy in a war of ideas, are simply stalling tactics, while effective for a while, will eventually be shown as totally blighted as long-term practices. This is not always readily evident, until we see warning signs of the blight and decrepitness. We will go along thinking the outside of the building and maybe the inside looks fine, just until our foot goes through the floor.

One of the decrepit practices in American Counterterrorism is the belief that we can have endless lengthy investigations of extremists – for year after year – in hopes that we will snare other “extremists” along the way, like a “patient fisherman.”  Or like these are just any other type of criminal.  But what the tacticians miss is that terrorists and extremists are not harmless fish, nor are they “typical criminals.” Terrorists and extremists are in the practice of death and destruction. Terrorists and extremists are not simply misunderstood youth and adults – they actively promote ideologies which seek the destruction of our shared human rights and lives. This is not a game.

For example, the arrest this week of Nicholas Young, a Washington DC Metro subway police officer, based on his support of the ISIS terrorist movement, was after six long years of investigation. During all of that time, he was a Metro Subway Police Officer. Now we have all been “reassured” that the public on the subway system was not in danger from this ISIS terrorist movement supporter, and that he was being “watched.” But allowing terrorist suspects and extremist aligned with terrorist causes to be members of our police, law enforcement, or any other vital public service – where the very lives of masses of the public are dependent – is a simply irresponsible decision.

Now that some members of Congress are asking logical and sane questions about such a reckless practice, some believe that this is simply a “political concern,” and only an issue for Republicans. As a long time user of the WMATA subway system mass transit, I can assure the public that a very diverse set of Americans and human beings travel on the Washington DC subway system of every economic standing, race, religion, gender, ethnic group, and of course, political views.

Playing dice with the public subway riders’ lives for six years was simply an unconscionable decision. It is astounding how little outrage we have seen, but this is largely affected by the political nature of the Establishment media, who believe that this dramatic public safety issue needs to be filtered by what is appropriate for their current political narrative.  This week’s arrest should be the number one story in the nation.  Instead, the corruption of our establishment media has allowed it to become buried as a local after-thought, important only to some local Washington DC news media – and then just for a moment.  This is why our media cannot and will not be a force any type of consistent advocate on public safety issues, human rights, and issues that require contextual consideration.  The challenge of extremist terrorism requires a more consistent public focus than what we see today.

Federal law enforcement will also tell you that the necessities of American law force them to create a vast and complex investigation for domestic terrorist suspects to find a law that will result in a compelling conviction. There are very few actual laws to deal with domestic terrorist threats, and this forces federal law enforcement to find some weapons charge, or find an unquestionable link to a specific illegal foreign terrorist organization, with a well documented support by the suspect.

Certainly we need rigorous investigations to ensure that the public is not unfairly persecuted. But the idea that a police officer can be supporting violent extremism for all of these years, and for years, actively supporting the ISIS terrorist movement, while still having a police authority in a vulnerable area like mass transit, should be the red warning flag to wake up a torpid counterrorism community.

Unquestionably, the first place we need to start is with new LAWS. We must challenge the righteous members of Congress who are astounded by this recklessness, to work to develop laws that allow for prosecution of domestic terrorists who work with and support groups of violent extremism. We cannot let such lack of legal authority drag on forever. There has to be a line at which conspiracy to work with domestic terrorists to plan acts of terror on American soil is a crime. Our law enforcement needs such clear cut authority with the federal criminal code.

But at the same time, our counterterrorism community needs to be shaken up, and roused from their slumber on the shared actual goal (and human right) of safety, while they are sleepwalking in misguided dreams that endless tactics will stop terrorist attacks. If Nicholas Young had actually committed a terrorist attack, while a member of the Metro Police force, in addition to any horrific tragedy in the loss of life and/or injury, the consequences in the violation of trust and public willingness to respect law enforcement would have been devastatingly destructive.

America needs a counterterrorism community that realizes it cannot play with the lives, safety, and trust in our law enforcement community, by endless tactic on tactic, while risking the very lives of those they have sworn to protect and represent.

Today, our counterterrorism community’s actions and failure to act are providing the basis for the next 9/11 Commission Report. To those who never read it, the warning signs were there, too many in our representative government simply did not have the will and the actual concern to do something about the warning signs. We don’t need another 9/11 Commission Report of the future to tell us where we have gone wrong, because we can clearly see it with our own eyes today.

When your foot goes through the floor, it is time to wake up and realize that you must change your path.