I’m deeply sympathetic to the first half of Mr. Zakaria’s charge; the more serious bureaucratic and moral indictment, however, runs exactly counter to his. Concerning the wasted billions, the Department of Homeland Security, the rest of the agencies, departments, and bureaus that make up
Predictably, but unwisely, Democrats and Republicans demanded ludicrous amounts of funding for security and intelligence institutions whose functions they barely understood, and to counter a threat that had no resemblance to any the United States had confronted before. Armoring aircraft doors, tightening up airport security, and turning off the visa mill to Muslim men of an impressionable age was sufficient to discombobulate Al Qaeda’s penchant for aerial terrorism. The absolutely critical war in
Whatever the subject, “smaller-is-better” arguments seldom win the day in
In my experience, senators and congressmen on select intelligence committees or staffers on the National Security Council rarely delve into the nitty-gritty of exactly how additional staff members accomplish anything of additional value. It is always good to recall that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most articulate (if not always sober and fair) Cold War critics, who knew the organization was stuffed with ill-informed analysts and prevaricating senior operatives, never once, to my knowledge, reduced Langley’s appropriations.
Now for the good news: I just peeked outside and we are emphatically not becoming a police state. We were not doing so under President George W. Bush and we are not doing so under President Barack Obama, who has left untouched most of his predecessor’s intelligence and counterterrorist programs and tactics (with the notable exception that Mr. Obama has been killing a lot more holy warriors with drones and attempting to capture and interrogate far fewer of them).
No doubt: Innocent Muslims find themselves caught in the net, but the truly grievous miscarriages of justice appear to have been relatively rare, especially given the scope of the threat that Al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations present. My former colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Gary Schmitt, and I spent two years—2006 to 2008—visiting European internal-security and domestic-intelligence services. AEI has recently published a collection of essays—Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism—by Gary and European contributors that compares and contrasts American and European approaches to counterterrorism.
The conclusion: Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front.
I’m quite certain that Mr. Zakaria might not approve of some of the things that
So, too, in the
What becomes so striking about the
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard.