On December 25th there was a clear failure to connect the dots that could have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane bound for the U.S with a bomb strapped to his body. However, as explained last week at Heritage by former Homeland Security Advisor, the Hon. Kenneth Wainstein, the U.S. would not have even been in the position to try and piece together this intelligence information before the Patriot Act lowered the walls between intelligence and law enforcement.
Immediately after 9/11, intelligence operators realized that they possessed too small of a tool shed to effectively fight terrorism. As Mr. Wainstein explained, Congress can take a lot of credit for responding with the 2001 passage of the Patriot Act and subsequent amendments of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Yet, there is no way to say that the intelligence and law enforcement community have every tool they need, because the terrorist threat is evolving every day. Add to this fact that criminal investigators often have more powers than national security investigators, due to historic fears of abuse of authority and lack of sufficient oversight, and the result is that in many cases the U.S. is fighting terrorism with one hand behind our backs.
Now, many of the tools created in response to 9/11 are beginning to weaken even further. For example, on February 28th three key provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire following a 60-day extension. To avoid another 9/11 or other tragedy Mr. Wainstein suggests several legislative proposals such as making these key provisions permanent. Fighting the long war against terrorism truly demands a “Time for Certainty in Counterterrorism Policies.”