Republicans Sabotaged Clinton's Anti-Terror Efforts
By Mike Hersh
President Clinton took the oath of office January 20, 1993. February, 26
- barely a month later - terrorists detonated more than 1,000 pounds of explosives under the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring about a thousand people. Bill Clinton and the Democrats never dreamed of trying to blame the outgoing George Herbert Walker Bush Administration.
They just began working to keep us safe from terrorism.
As reported by the "debunking" website, snopes2.com: Within a year, law enforcement officials hunted down four of the "blind cleric" Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's disciples, then prosecuted and convicted them for the bombing and sentenced them to 240 years in prison in March 1994.
Officials captured the prime suspect Ramzi Ahmed Yousef in 1995. A court convicted him in November 1997 and sentenced him to 240 years in prison as well. An additional suspect fled.
"In August 1998, President Clinton ordered missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan in an effort to hit Osama bin Laden, who had been linked to the embassy bombings in Africa (and was later connected to the attack on the USS Cole). The missiles reportedly missed bin Laden by a few hours, and Clinton was widely criticized by many who claimed he had ordered the strikes primarily to draw attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As John F. Harris wrote in The Washington Post:
In August 1998, when [Clinton] ordered missile strikes in an effort to kill Osama bin Laden, there was widespread speculation - from such people as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) - that he was acting precipitously to draw attention away from the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, then at full boil. Some said he was mistaken for personalizing the terrorism struggle so much around bin Laden. And when he ordered the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City, some Republicans accused him of hysteria.
See: "Claim: The Clinton administration failed to track down the perpetrators of several terrorist attacks against Americans. Status:
False." http://www.snopes2.com/rumors/clinton.htm. Also see: Lauria, Joe. "U.S. Embassy Bombers Get Life Sentences." The Ottawa Citizen. 19 October 2001 (p. A5). As well as Randolph, Eleanor. "4 Guilty in Bombing of World Trade Center," The Washington Post: 5 March 1994 (p. A1) and "Trade Center Bombers Given 240 Years Each," The Washington Post: 25 May
1994 (p. A1).
Republicans typically couldn't decide whether President Clinton was too blasé or too "hysterical." In reality, his response was appropriately focused on bin Laden and al Qaeda according to top anti-terror officials of the Reagan and Bush I administrations. What did Bill Clinton do?
Issued January 23, 1995 his Executive Order 12947 "Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process," provided for prevention and punishment of efforts to fund terrorism and authorized the FBI and Treasury Department to investigate and prevent financial support of terrorism. It read in part:
"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America ... I, William J. Clinton, President of the United States of America, find that grave acts of violence committed by foreign terrorists that disrupt the Middle East peace process constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."
This executive order provided for prohibition and punishment of transactions to support terrorism including transfer of "property and interests in property of ... the persons [found] to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of disrupting the Middle East peace process, or ... to assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or services in support of, such acts of violence...."
This order held that "any transaction or dealing by United States persons or within the United States in property or interests in property of the persons designated in or pursuant to this order is prohibited, including the making or receiving of any contribution of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of such persons [and] any transaction by any United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, or has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate, any of the prohibitions set forth in this order, is prohibited."
Clinton ordered the prohibition of donations "by United States persons to persons [which] would seriously impair [his] ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, [and determined that any] investigation emanating from a possible violation of this order ...
shall first be coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and any matter involving evidence of a criminal violation shall be referred to the FBI for further investigation...."
See: Executive Order 12947 of January 23, 1995, Federal Register, Vol.
60, No. 16,
Later, President Clinton expanded that Order, explaining to the Speaker of the House: "On January 23, 1995, in light of the threat posed by grave acts of violence committed by foreign terrorists that disrupt the Middle East peace process, using my authority under, inter alia, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ... I declared a national emergency and issued Executive Order 12947. Because such terrorist activities continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, I have renewed the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12947 annually, most recently on January 21, 1998."
He added, "I hereby report to the Congress that I have exercised my statutory authority to issue an Executive Order that amends Executive Order 12947 in order more effectively to respond to the worldwide threat posed by foreign terrorists [to add] Usama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin (a.k.a. Usama bin Ladin), Islamic Army, Abu Hafs al-Masri, and Rifa'i Ahmad Taha Musa to the list of terrorists that are subject to the prohibitions contained in the Executive Order." See: "Clinton's Letter to Congress on Freezing of bin Ladin Assets," August 22, 1998
President Clinton also ordered a "terrorism threat assessment of every federal facility in the country," which had "already begun" when, in February 1995, the Clinton Administration introduced a counter-terrorism bill in the Senate (S. 390) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 896).
Note: this was before the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Oklahoma City bombing on April 19 that year.
President Clinton's proposals would have expanded pre-trial detention and allowed more federal wiretaps of terrorism suspects, eased deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes, allowed the detention of aliens convicted or suspected of crimes, let the President criminalize fund-raising for terrorism, and revived visa denial provisions to keep dangerous people out of the US.
Unfortunately, Republicans sabotaged Clinton's efforts to keep us safe.
If in force before April 19, 1995 federal officials might have detected and prevented the Murrah Building plot. 9/11/01. If the Republicans had passed Clinton's proposals before September 11, 2001 we might have blocked the al Qaeda terrorist plot that killed 3000 Americans. We all know what happened eight months into the illegitimate Bush/Cheney reign of error.
Republican Congressional leaders shot down Clinton's proposals, tried to impeach him on trumped up grounds, and dragged their feet when it came to national security. They did this even after the Murrah Building bombing. Clinton's "Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995" would have:
"[P]rovided clear Federal criminal jurisdiction for any international terrorist attack that might occur in the United States [including] Federal criminal jurisdiction over terrorists who use the United States as the place from which to plan terrorist attacks overseas." Allowed deportation of "alien terrorists without risking the disclosure of national security information or techniques."
It would have "prevent[ed] fundraising in the United States that supports international terrorist activities overseas," implemented "an international treaty requiring the insertion of a chemical agent into plastic explosives when manufactured to make them detectable," and granted "more tools to federal law enforcement agencies fighting terrorism."
These proposed "tools" would have included: Providing for "disclosures by consumer reporting agencies to the FBI for counterintelligence and counterterrorism purposes." Also "relaxed standard[s] for obtaining 'pen registers' and 'trap and trace' device orders which already exists in routine criminal cases, to national security cases."
Note: a "'pen register' is a device which records the number dialed on a telephone" and a "'trap and trace' device is similar to 'Caller ID,'
providing law enforcement with the telephone number from which a call originates. [This] would not permit law enforcement to monitor actual conversations being conducted."
Clinton's proposals "would require hotel/motel and common carriers such as airlines and bus companies to provide records to the FBI pursuant to authorized national security requests just as they must do now for virtually all state and local law enforcement. [This because] FBI has found that, while some of these entities voluntarily provide such information, an increasing number refuse, absent a court order, a subpoena, or other legal protection.
Clinton also sought to "fund costs associated cases which arise in connection with terrorism crises, including logistics and other support"
and he wanted to "Create an interagency Domestic Counterterrorism Center headed by the FBI" to "establish a partnership effort between the Justice Department, including the FBI, and other federal and state law enforcement authorities to coordinate [ant-terror] efforts within the United States."
President Clinton "directed the Attorney General to conduct this assessment and report her recommendations in 60 days. The assessment has already begun" and directed "the FBI Director, the Attorney General, and the National Security Adviser to prepare a presidential decision directive authorizing any and all further steps necessary to combat foreign and domestic terrorism.
The Clinton Administration also submitted "New Legislative Proposals"
which called for investigations and hiring "approximately 1000 new agents, prosecutors, and other federal law enforcement and support personnel to investigate, deter, and prosecute terrorist activity," and would have made it more difficult for terrorists to commit - and easier for law enforcement officers to detect, prevent and investigate - terrorist acts.
It would have required "the inclusion of microscopic particles in certain raw materials, thereby permitting law enforcement to trace the source of the explosive even after a device has been detonated" and "permitted military participation in crime-fighting involving weapons of mass destruction ... to permit military participation in criminal cases involving chemical, biological, and other weapons of mass destruction; areas in which the military has specialized expertise."
Today, some Republicans claim President Clinton "did nothing" to combat terrorism. Back then - when they might have prevented the 9/11 attacks - Republicans blocked or stalled all of the anti-terrorism proposals above. First, they stone-walled for months despite Clinton Administration warnings. Then, the GOP watered-down key provisions.
Finally the Republican Congress passed S.735 "A bill to prevent and punish acts of terrorism, and for other purposes." It became Public Law
No: 104-132 when President Clinton signed it, despite his and others'
concerns that the Republicans watered down the bill too much.
As CNN reported: "Congress on Thursday passed a compromise bill ... a watered-down version of the White House's proposal. The Clinton administration has been critical of the bill, calling it too weak. The original House bill, passed last month, had deleted many of the Senate's anti-terrorism provisions...." See: "Congress passes anti-terrorism bill," CNN April 18, 1996:
Republicans weakened and blocked anti-terror legislation several times, sabotaging Clinton Administration efforts to keep us safe. President Clinton and his administration never stopped working to combat terrorism and kept pushing the Republicans for adequate anti-terror laws.
Other Clinton Administration anti-terrorism legislative proposals
include: The Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act of 1995, The Counter Terrorism Technology Research Act of 1995, The Antiterrorism Amendments Act of 1995, The Effective Death Penalty and Antiterrorism Act of 1995, and the Senate and House versions of The Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995.
According to CNN, Republicans refused to cooperate with President Clinton's efforts to protect us from terrorist attacks: "July 30, 1996 President Clinton urged Congress Tuesday to act swiftly in developing anti-terrorism legislation before its August recess. But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.
"Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, doubted that the Senate would rush to action before they recess this weekend. The Senate needs to study all the options, he said, and trying to get it done in the next three days would be tough. One key GOP senator was more critical, calling a proposed study of chemical markers in explosives 'a phony issue.'" See: "President wants Senate to hurry with new anti-terrorism laws," CNN July 30, 1996:
Despite President Clinton's extensive efforts to combat terrorism - and their own refusal to help, even eagerness to hinder those efforts - Republicans shamelessly blame Bill Clinton. The Washington Post
reported: "The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had been over for a few hours when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) announced his conclusion about the root of the problem. 'We had Bill Clinton backing off, letting the Taliban go, over and over again,' the conservative from Orange County declared at a news conference."
"On the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal [October 5, 2001] Rush Limbaugh penned a column on how 'Mr. Clinton can be held culpable for not doing enough when he was commander in chief to combat the terrorists who wound up attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon.'" See:
Harris, John F. "Conservatives Sound Refrain: It's Clinton's Fault." The Washington Post: 7 October 2001 (p. A15).
What does all this prove? That besides lacking any sense of honor, honesty or decency, top Republicans don't know the first thing about national security. They didn't care enough about the Atlanta Olympics bombing, the first WTC bombing, or even the Murrah Building bombing to do anything to prevent the next terrorist attack. Republicans remained soft on terror when they might have made it harder for terrorists to kill Americans. Again, we all know what happened eight months into the illegitimate Bush/Cheney reign of error.
Even though President Clinton knew about the al Qaeda threat and took action to kill bin Laden, and to punish and thwart terrorists and their plots. The Clinton Administration warned the Republicans about terrorism more than six and a half years before 9/11/01 and then again as the illegitimate Bush Occupation stole into office. Still, the GOP did nothing or actually blocked most efforts to keep us alive!
Here's more from President Clinton's Letter to Congress on Freezing of bin Ladin Assets: "Usama bin Ladin and his organizations and associates have repeatedly called upon their supporters to perform acts of violence. Bin Ladin has declared that killing Americans and their allies 'is an individual duty for every Muslim ... in order to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Holy Mosque.' These threats are clearly intended to violently disrupt the Middle East peace process."
He stressed, "I have authorized these actions in view of the danger posed to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States by the activities of Usama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin (a.k.a. Usama bin Ladin), Islamic Army, Abu Hafs al-Masri, and Rifa'i Ahmad Taha Musa that disrupt the Middle East peace process. I am enclosing a copy of the Executive Order that I have issued exercising my emergency authorities."
The Republicans ignored these warnings "from President Clinton to the leaders of Congress explaining why he ordered the freezing of all assets controlled by or affiliated with terrorist chieftain Usama bin Ladin."
See: Clinton's Letter, August 22, 1998:
Under Bush and Cheney, their anti-terror task force never met until it was too late. Their top defense officials, Rumsfeld and Rice, tried to slash anti-terror funding and claimed terrorism wasn't their responsibility respectively. It took the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon before the Republicans woke up and recognized the serious terrorist threat.
The next time a Republican tries to blame President Clinton for their refusal to cooperate with his efforts to keep us safe, don't get angry.
When Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice or any right winger claims only Republicans can protect us from terrorism - despite their failure to do anything in response to the specific warnings about the looming al Qaeda threat - don't just decry their hypocrisy and lies. Make a big donation to anti-right wing efforts like this website, or the Democratic National Committee.
Also, vote against any and every Republican running for any office. Your life and your family's lives depend on it. Never forget, Republicans are soft on terror and soft in reason. All they can do is blame others for their mistakes. They can't keep us safe.
© Copyright 2004 by Mike Hersh of MikeHersh.com
Bio: Mike Hersh is a writer, lawyer and activist living in the Washington, DC area. He graduated from Cornell University and the Washington College of Law, founded two small businesses, and then became a full-time writer and activist. He is the webmaster of MikeHersh.com and several political online communities.
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