On Point: Homeland Security: Offense as Homeland Defense

by Austin Bay
Aug 7, 2002

If you want to defend Here, take it to them Over There.

As Congress debates and the administration constructs the newDepartment of Homeland Security, we need to remember that the best homelanddefense includes a very good offense.

Offense, however, isn't the sole province of the Pentagon.

Terrorist attacks are a persistent form of surprise attack. Ifan open society -- this America, with porous borders, free movement and apopulation that appreciates convenience -- intends to avoid terroristsurprise, it needs to stop terrorists before they strike.

Human imagination is a wonderful gift. However, imaginationstoked by fear will always find new fears. During a recent highway trek, Ilistened to a couple of radio talk shows hash over "Condition Yellow," theHomeland Security Advisory System's tag for an "elevated" threat ofterrorist attack. The U.S. government color codes threat levels -- green is"low," blue "guarded," orange "high," but the fearful always see red (which,by the way, indicates a "severe" threat).

Paint one caller's imagination screaming scarlet: He sawvulnerability everywhere. Despite his case of public jitters, credit him forhonesty -- since 9-11, we've all seen shadows. Another caller, however notedthe threat level had been "yellow" for months, with possible attacks on theGolden Gate Bridge, an unnamed seaport and Washington mentioned in the mediaas imminent targets. Yellow verged on a continuous cry of "Wolf."

The truth is, these ARE imminent targets for apocalypticterrorists and future terror strikes remain likely. Yes, domestic securityhas tightened. The American media is now security conscious. We've morelights, cops and news cameras covering the shadows. However, security isnever a sure thing. Sit and wait, even as you put moats and walls aroundFortress Kansas, and in classic military terms, the enemy has theinitiative.

The U.S.-directed military offensive in Afghanistan took theglobal initiative back from Al Qaeda. Last fall's smackdown of the Talibandealt America's terrorist adversaries a severe psychological and moral blow.This spring's Operation Anaconda killed Al Qaeda fighters in droves --though, unfortunately, largely outside the eyes of a press corps that couldconfirm the extent of the success. Don't underestimate the connectivity.Battlefield victory makes the FBI's job much easier.

The arrest in Pakistan of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda ringmaster,has exposed terrorist cells in Seattle and Oregon.

Attacking terrorist financial operations is a difficultoffensive operation, but the nodes and networks supporting terrorist gangsare under siege. Are they smashed? Of course not. The siege and squeeze,however, has thrown terrorist operations out of kilter.

Certain support nodes don't succumb to aggressive diplomacy,embargo and special forces strikes. Don't buy the balderdash that an attackon Iraq isn't justified. Saddam has violated the post-Desert Storm U.N.resolutions that allowed him to stay in power. That's all the justificationrequired. However, rogue states empower terrorist networks. Saddam'sdestruction will serve as an object lesson to other states on or near theaxis of evil.

The offense -- at least, the offense America needs to wage aneffective counter-terror war -- must also begin at home. I'm not sure Ibelieve the headlines that 5,000 Al Qaeda faithful lurk inside U.S. borders,but out of 280 million people, statistics make a case. Racial profiling's anugly practice, one with a shameful history. However, a terrorist "criminalprofile" has emerged, and it requires a shameful lack of intellectualintegrity to deny it.

The terrorist faithful tend to fall into the category of male,foreign-born, Muslim, angry, Arab and in America on iffy or byzantine visas.Hounded by reactionary cadres of the politically correct, we're reluctant toacknowledge any of these characteristics except the anger and possibly thecurious visas.

No question -- a Johnny Lindh Walker could try to sneak TNT on aplane, but that's why we need well-trained, professional personnelconducting thorough security searches.

A good offense risks offending a few people. The StateDeptartment is going to offend when it shuts down the Visa Express, but ourpre-9/11 visa controls bordered on farce.

"Terrorist profiling," tempered by civil liberty safeguards, isa necessary security tool for focusing security resources, and to argueotherwise risks lives and offends common sense.

Read Austin Bay's Latest Book

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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