Streetwise Professor

April 7, 2010

From FBI Approved Pen Pal to Administration Approved Assassination Target

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:40 pm

Last summer, Army and FBI “terrorism investigators” reviewed Army Major Nidal Hasan’s email correspondence with Anwar al-Awlaki, and concluded it was all hunky-dory for a serving American officer to discuss jihad with a known advocate of anti-American terrorism (and a man who had associations with some 9/11 hijackers).  It was “research,” dontcha know.  Now, the Obama administration has decided that Awlaki is a sufficient threat to warrant his being placed on a list of those approved for targeted killing.

I know that a handful of Army officers who served with Hasan were disciplined for failing to take action against him.  Yes, they failed in their duty.  But I have yet to hear that either the Army or FBI investigators who gave a pass to Hasan’s exchanging mash notes with Awlaki  have been sanctioned, and their dereliction was far worse; after all, it was their specific duty to identify terrorist threats.  Nor has the military (or the administration) dealt adequately–or at all–with the rot of political correctness that almost certainly, in my view, created the atmosphere in which Nasan’s superiors and the investigators felt it to be the safer course (professionally) to let him turn jihadi before their eyes, rather than raise the alarm.

Awlaki didn’t go bad overnight.  He was an identifiable bad actor well before he was in touch with Hasan.  His ascension to a shoot-on-sight list just confirms how bad he really is–and was.  It also is an implicit acknowledgement of the Army’s and the FBI’s inexcusable error in judgment in failing to act against Hasan once his email exchange with Awlaki came to light.  But no one, it appears, is being held accountable for this.  And that, too, is inexcusable.

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  1. 1. Though I don’t mind extra-judicial assassinations of people like al-Awlaki, why do you, SWP – someone who always emphasizes the sanctity of rule of law when Putin or Obama are concerned – don’t condemn it is permitted against Islamist American citizens?
    PS. Just shows how ridiculous the “arguments” that Obama is soft on Islamists, or is one himself, are. Not even Bush went this far.

    2. I think contacting the intellectuals in extremist movements is a fully valid way of researching those organizations. To establish this contact, you need to seem to be sympathetic to them; it was hard to know that in Nidal Hasan’s case the sympathizing was for real. So without more information, I do not see how the Army or FBI “failed their duty”.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 8, 2010 @ 1:02 am

  2. S/O

    1. Carrying analogies too far, and failing to make distinctions, is the root of most intellectual error. There is a difference between war/armed conflict and virtually all of the situations in which I have criticized Putin or Obama or whomever for violating the rule of law. Moreover, please note that in this particular instance, a legal process was followed. There were reports of discussions of this matter going back to at least January, and in fact there were (incorrect) reports that Alwaki had been killed (around Xmas, if memory serves).
    2. This reminds me of something Lincoln said (I quote from memory): “I am to order the execution of a simple minded deserter, but not touch a hair on the head of the wily agitator that encourages him to desert?”
    3. Another way to look at your PS is that this demonstrates Obama’s breathtaking hypocrisy. He preened, and asserted his moral superiority over Bush in his criticism of Bush’s anti-terror policies, and claimed that he would alter them root and branch, but in fact expanded many of the extra-judicial aspects of Bush’s policies. I think that this is actually a predictable consequence of his adamant opposition to the use of military tribunals to try terror suspects. He recognizes that the civilian justice system is ill-adapted to handling such cases, but has painted himself into a corner by ruling out (for all practical purposes) military tribunals. So, the only alternative is to kill. BTW, Obama’s “Jupiter Complex” (raining death from the skies) is hardly a new phenomenon.
    4. Further re your PS. Evaluating Obama’s policy re Islam and Islamism is very difficult, because it lacks intellectual coherence. Yes, he goes beyond Bush in his use of certain means of waging conflict against Islamists, but is feckless in other policies and actions.
    5. Your number 2 is risible. Yes, if you wanted to research, i.e., collect intelligence, on such organizations, a sympathetic approach is more likely to be productive. But that should be a part of a disciplined, controlled intelligence operation, not freelancing by some guy who had already exhibited a variety of behaviors that indicated that his sympathies with Alwaki and his ideas were not feigned, but real. As for “hard to know” whether sympathizing “was real”–let’s consider the upsides and downsides. What was the upside if they were not, that they were feigned to advance his research? Wow, some field officer gained some limited insights to help him with a term paper. What was the downside if they were? Well, we know that, don’t we?: 13 corpses. Given the asymmetry, the risk-reward trade off was clearly not in favor of letting him go on his merry way. At the very least, the correspondence raised disturbing questions and possibilities that warranted further investigation. Instead, the Army and FBI said: “What, me worry? Nothing to see here.” That was serious dereliction of duty. Period.
    5. Re a comment on an earlier thread re Goble. You mentioned that Goble has discussed articles that convey diametrically opposed messages. Again, you seem to believe that if somebody cites or quotes something, that signifies agreement. Not true. A more charitable, and in my view, justified, interpretation of Goble is that he publicizes a wide variety of views not readily accessible outside of Russia. Most of his articles on WoE translate and describe material in Russian media, and he communicates a wide variety of views. No doubt he has his own opinion/worldview, which you no doubt don’t agree with, but his editorial voice is muted in most of those articles. You should actually congratulate him for his willingness to publicize competing and conflicting views on contentious issues.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 8, 2010 @ 10:21 am

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  4. SWP sees nothin but PC run amok.

    rkka sees a leadership of a severely stressed institution reluctant to recognize that a valuable asset (an officer with scarce and critical language skills) has gone bad.

    Sounds like a banking industry I know of.

    You’d think SWP would be familiar with this sort of thing, but that might interfere with his enjoyment of the pleasure of an ideologically satisfying rant.

    Comment by rkka — April 8, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  5. You go on believing that, rkka. It’s late, and more later, but in the meantime riddle me this: if his (Arabic) language skills were such a freaking vital part of his job in the army, why was he scheduled to be deployed to a country where they don’t even speak Arabic?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 8, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

  6. Um, SWP, because he is also a trained psychiatrist, if not a good one? The Army does not have many of those either.

    And Arabic is used in Afghanistan, though not a lot. It is the religious language of Islam. It is spoken mostly by clerical types, with most people knowing verses of the Koran in Arabic through rote memorization.

    Comment by rkka — April 9, 2010 @ 5:30 am

  7. Make up your mind. One minute it’s his language skills, which have nothing to do with psychiatry. The next minute it’s his psychiatric training, which has nothing to do with his language skills. (And yes, hopefully the Army doesn’t have a lot of “not good” psychiatrists.)

    And what effing difference does it make if he could understand the Koran verse that some goatherd memorized. And just how would he have employed these vaunted language skills in his duty responsibilities in Afghanistan? If he were in intelligence, maybe. But not as a psych. Admit it–the language thing you emphasized was bullshit and now you’re just backpedaling.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 9, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  8. The only bullsihit here is your concept of an Army so ridden with PC.

    All my claims have the advantage of actually being true.

    The Army is an organization under stress.

    Arabic language skills are scarce and critical for the Army.

    Psychiatrists in the Army are also scarce and critical for an Army under stress.

    It’s your attribution of it all to PC that is pure BS conjecture.

    Comment by rkka — April 9, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  9. Having actually experienced military pc up close and personal (can you say the same?), I know it exists, and it is rife.

    If you have any doubts about the pervasiveness of Army PC, all you have to do is look at the puke-inducing statements by Army Chief-of-Staff Casey (a failure in Iraq, kicked upstairs–thanks, W!) in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

    You make a series of statements, which arguably are true, but you provide no evidence of a causal connection with Hasan’s getting repeated passes. Again, there is no demonstrable connection between the fact that he spoke Arabic and his being retained. His Arabic had nothing to do with his duty; the Army did not assign him to duties where his Arabic would have been useful; and his assignment to Afghanistan makes it abundantly clear that the Army did not intend to utilize his Arabic skills. So give that one up. It’s so lame Jesus couldn’t make it walk.

    Bad psychiatrists are worse than no psychiatrists at all, IMO. Indeed, given the reports of the way that Hasan treated some of his patients it is abundantly clear that his professional failings were so severe that they alone justified his separation from the military. The fact that he was not provides even more grounds to question why he was not–and to conclude that PC had everything to do with it.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 9, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

  10. I wonder if Hasan corresponded with Awlaki in Arabic. If so, that’s probably the only use he got out of it.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 9, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  11. Professor, regarding your quote of Lincoln: It is never legitimate to physically attack somebody who did not himself engage in physical violence. Besides, to enact the death penalty for desertion is morally wrong – unless you believe in slavery or slave contracts. It doesn’t matter what’s ‘common practice’ – slavery was once ‘common practice’, but that does not make it right.
    As for extra-judicial killing: there is also no legitimacy for that, especially not for the government. If you can’t get the ‘bad guy’ by morally legitimate means (of which ‘legal’ is possibly intersecting subset), then you have to refrain from getting him.
    The NYT article says that al-Awlaki “believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in the”. That doesn’t sound like evidence to me. If he would get killed while engaging in an attack, that’s one thing, but to kill him because he is ‘believed’ to do so is simply murder. If there is irrefutable evidence that he has engaged in attacks, then it would also be legitimate to kill him – even after the fact. But, just based on ‘believe’???
    It’s always sad to see how raison d’etat can make monsters out of otherwise decent human beings.
    The American Kill List is absolutely unacceptable for a civilized state.

    Comment by mk — April 12, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

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