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Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2001 / 19 Teves, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror -- LAST month, President Bush shut down three U.S, based "charities" accused of funneling money to the Hamas, a terrorist organization that was responsible for 20 bombings, 2 shootings, and a mortar attack that killed 77 people last year. These "charities" - The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Global Relief Foundation, and the Benevolence International Foundation -- raised $20 million last year alone.

But the information on which Bush largely relied to act against these charities was taped nine years ago, in 1993, when FBI electronic eavesdropping produced compelling evidence that officials of Hamas and the Holy Land Foundation had met to discuss raising funds for Hamas training schools and establishing annuities for the families of suicide bombers -- pensions for terrorists.

Why didn't Clinton act to shut these people down?

In 1995 and 1996, Clinton had been advised to do just that. At a White House strategy meeting on April 27, 1995, two weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing, the President was urged to create a "President's List" of extremist/terrorist organizations and their members and donors "to warn the public against well-intentioned donations which might foster terrorism." On April 1, 1996, he was again advised to "prohibit fund raising by terrorists and identify terrorist organizations," specifically mentioning the Hamas .

Inexplicably, Clinton ignored these recommendations. Why? FBI agents have stated that they were prevented from opening either criminal or national security cases because of a fear that it would be seen as "profiling" Islamic charities. While Clinton was politically correct, the Hamas flourished.

Clinton did seize any bank accounts of the terrorist groups themselves, but his order netted no money since neither al Qaeda nor bin Laden were obliging enough to open accounts in their own names.

Liberals felt that the civil rights of suspected terrorists were more important than cutting off their funds. Former Administration advisor George Stephanopoulos, Clinton's live-in ankle bracelet that kept him on the liberal reservation, explains in his 1999 memoir All Too Human that he opposed the proposal to "publish the names of suspected terrorists in the newspapers" with a "civil liberties argument" and by pointing out that Attorney General Janet Reno would object.

Liberals felt that the civil rights of suspected terrorists were more

So five years later, after millions have been given to terrorist groups through US fronts , the government is only now blocking the flow of cash.

Political correctness also doomed a separate recommendation to require that drivers' licenses and visas for non-citizens expire simultaneously so that illegal aliens pulled over in traffic stops could be identified and, if appropriate, deported. Stephanopoulos opposed the idea citing " potential abuse and political harm to the president's Hispanic base," and said that he had killed the idea by raising "the practical grounds of prohibitive cost."

Had Clinton adopted this recommendation, Al-Queda hijacker Mohammed Atta might have been deported after he was stopped for driving without a license three months before be piloted an American Airlines jet into the World Trade Center .

Nothing so illustrates the low priority of terrorism in Clinton's first term than the short shrift he gave the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the first terrorist attack on American soil. Although 6 people were killed, 1042 injured, and 750 firefighters worked for one month to contain the damage, Clinton never visited the site. Several days after the explosion, while speaking in New Jersey, he actually "discouraged Americans from overacting" to the Trade Center bombing.

In Sunday's New York Times, Stephanopoulis explains this lack of focus saying that the 1993 attack "wasn't a successful bombing." He added "It wasn't the kind of thing where you walked into a staff meeting and people asked, what are we doing today in the war against terrorism?"

The Clinton White House just did not get it. In sharp contrast to Stephanopoulos, U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Duffy, who presided over the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial , noted that the attack caused "more hospital casualties than any other event in domestic American history other than the Civil War."

But Stephanopoulos was just the hired help. Clinton was the President and Commander in Chief.. For all of his willingness to act courageously and decisively -against the advice of his liberal staff - on issues like deficit reduction and welfare reform, he was passive and almost inert on terrorismin his first term.

It wasn't until 1998 that Clinton finally got around to setting up a post of Counter Terrorism Coordinator in the National Security Council.

Everything was more important than fighting terrorism. Political correctness, civil liberties concerns, fear of offending the Administrations' supporters, Janet Reno's objections, considerations of cost, worries about racial profiling and, in the second term, surviving impeachment, all came before fighting terrorism.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, The New Prince. Comment by clicking here.


12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris