Letting our guard down

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Probably more vigilance and money are being devoted to protecting tomorrow's inauguration of President Bush from terrorists than have been dedicated to any public event on U.S. soil in history.

But what if it isn't enough? Suppose -- God forbid -- an Islamic terror cell buried deep within this country for years has been given the code it has been waiting for to conduct the most public assassination of American public officials.

No one will be able to claim we weren't warned, or defend against the charge that we deluded ourselves with political correctness, inattention and bureaucratic rivalries.

The Fox network's remarkable series 24 brilliantly and persuasively warns America about a secret terrorist family that has been embedded in this country for years. The family blends into a quiet neighborhood until the call to action is sounded and the secretary of defense is kidnapped and threatened with beheading.

Just how effective this fictitious show could be in awakening docile Americans to reality is evident from the reaction by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asked Fox to send public relations spots to stations carrying the show. The spots say that all Muslims are not terrorists.

All Muslims don't have to be terrorists. The ones who are and who are among us are sufficient to bring more death and damage to this country.

One of the most compelling books I have read on terrorism in America is Holy War on the Home Front: The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States. The author is Harvey Kushner, who has consulted for the FBI, Federal Aviation Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Services and Customs Service.

Mr. Kushner contends that our government and media are not doing enough to protect us. One example: The immigration process is still so flawed that even those applicants who testify to having committed terrorist acts are allowed into the country because the FBI doesn't cooperate with immigration officials.

Insult was added to that injury last week when it was revealed that the FBI is on the verge of scrapping a $170 million computer overhaul the agency said was critical in the war against terrorism. The computers don't work. The bureau will pay a research firm $2 million to discover what's wrong and see if it can be fixed. Adding ludicrous to stupid, The New York Times reported some veteran agents are resisting the transition to computers because they favor pens and pads.

Further problems in our defense against terrorism, as recorded in Mr. Kushner's book, include federal judges who continue to give probation to illegal aliens identified as members of terrorist organizations. Some of them, he writes, have even been granted work permits and citizenship.

Liberal judges, he writes, are not deporting criminals with known or suspected ties to the secret Islamic terrorist network.

"High-level sources within the Department of Homeland Security" tell Mr. Kushner the Cabinet agency won't even be "somewhat functional" until 2006.

Mr. Kushner weaves together so many threads in the Islamic terror network that if there is another attack, his book will serve as an indictment for our failure (again) to pay attention to numerous warning signs, including the recruitment of minority and disillusioned males in our prisons; Islamic religious schools (as of 1997, he writes, there were more than 100 day schools and more than 1,000 Sunday or weekend schools in the United States, many of them affiliated with mosques, "expanding the reach of Wahhabi doctrine"); mosques planted largely with Saudi money in our cities that serve as "regular stops on fund-raising trips for terrorist leaders and their sympathizers" (Mr. Kushner says the number of mosques has grown from about 50 after World War II to more than 1,200 today); and government agencies, which, having been neutered by "sensitivity trainers," let their guard down because they don't want to be accused of racism or bigotry.

Read this book and/or watch 24 for a chilling reality check. Government must get tougher, or it will be complicit in the deaths of more than the 3,000 people who died 9/11.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.

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