Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai's Lesson: It Pays To Listen

Posted Tuesday, December 02, 2008 4:20 PM PT

War On Terror: U.S. warnings beginning in October of an imminent terror attack didn't save India. And if Democrats continue to doubt the value of aggressive terrorist surveillance, America can expect the same fate.

Read More: Global War On Terror

The world was stunned by the murder last week of nearly 200 people in India's financial capital, Mumbai, apparently by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, which demands the end of Indian rule in Kashmir and Islamist rule throughout South Asia.

The seven-plus years of remarkable safety America has enjoyed have had the unfortunate side effect of lulling all too many of us into complacency about the reality of the 21st century. (This is why we at Investor's Business Daily mark the 11th of every month with a reminder to readers of the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, running photographs of some of the tragic or heroic events that took place that day.)

The prevention of a repeat of 9/11 wasn't magic. Nor was it luck.

We have our courageous law enforcement officers at the federal, state and local level to thank.

And we have the unsung heroes working in secrecy within the National Security Agency, monitoring telephone and computer communications that may come from or go to terrorists to thank, as well as the intelligence operatives working for the CIA and other spy agencies, some of whom gather lifesaving information in exotic ways.

Perhaps most importantly, we have our outgoing commander in chief to thank, the much-maligned President George W. Bush. There's no doubt that history will vindicate the president who went far beyond his Constitutional duties in selflessly protecting the American people.

For years, Bush's political foes have sought his scalp for approving the NSA's terrorist surveillance program and the CIA's black prison terrorist interrogation program. (Some in Congress intend to continue seeking his scalp even after he leaves office next month.)

Both programs were highly-classified secrets, but their existence was leaked separately to the New York Times and Washington Post by misguided anonymous government sources who obviously can't tell the difference between Watergate and the war on terror.

The NSA operation conducted rapid-response monitoring of domestic communications involving possible terrorist contacts; the much-criticized CIA interrogation program used foreign locales to interrogate high-ranking al-Qaida members and other terrorists possessing high-value information. Both programs have saved hundreds of innocent lives, perhaps many more.

To the president's opponents, however, these are unconstitutional abuses of power and serve as an excuse to try to destroy a two-term presidency that until lately was getting credit for a vibrant economy and its unrelenting struggle to fight the growing global terrorist threat, especially in Iraq.

There were no dark, Nixonian motives behind this president's approval of those two programs; there was only a determination to protect the homeland to the fullest extent possible — even if it meant risking his own political neck.

George W. Bush must forever get credit for that.

An intelligence official told ABC News this week that U.S. intelligence agencies warned India in mid-October of a possible attack "from the sea against hotels and business centers in Mumbai," while a second government source revealed that the Taj hotel and other specific locations were actually named in the U.S. warning.

About a month later, on Nov. 18, Indian intelligence intercepted a satellite phone call to a number in Pakistan used by a Lashkar-e-Taiba leader indicating a possible seaborne attack.

Whether our warnings to India were sufficiently heeded or not, it's clear that high-tech surveillance is one of the free world's best methods of preventing terrorism. It should be used as much as possible to prevent the slaughter of more innocents.

In a new report from Congress' Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, six months of study revealed what common sense long ago should have told us: Terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction against a U.S. city, if we let them.

Let us fervently hope yet another pleasant surprise from our new president will be that he realizes better than his fellow Democrats what works.

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