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Opinion

Jed Babbin: What must be done to prevent future Bostons

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Jed Babbin,Homeland Security,Massachusetts

Since 9/11, we have turned ourselves inside out to prevent terror attacks.

We went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We created the Department of Homeland Security and all its trappings, including the Transportation Security Administration, and told U.S. intelligence agencies to share information among themselves and with the cops.

But it wasn't our huge security apparatus that prevented Richard Reid from blowing his shoe bomb, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from stuffing explosives in his underwear and so many others, like the would-be Times Square bomber, from killing people by the hundreds.

It was just luck, and the bravery of private citizens on the spot, that blocked those attacks. We weren't lucky when Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people at Fort Hood while shouting "Allah akbar."

And now, with the Boston Marathon bombing, it appears our luck has run out. So what do we do now?

There is a lot we can do, but none of it will be done while President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are in charge.

First and most obviously, people such as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving alleged Boston bomber, should be declared enemy combatants and sent to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation, trial and punishment.

It is constitutional and legal to do so, even in the case of American citizens, as the Supreme Court said in 1942 (in Ex Parte Quirin) and again in 2002 (in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld). The White House's refusal to do that is purely political, and it is wrong.

It's wrong because these terrorists aren't just guilty of criminal acts. They usually know information that can be used to stop other attacks and that can't be garnered in civilian custody.

They adhere to an Islamist ideology, which is the equivalent of a foreign nation. It requires war with us and deserves to be fought as much as those who adhere to it. To fight that ideology effectively requires us to judge them under the law of war, a different standard from that to which we hold civilians.

And their ideology requires them to be separated from civilian criminals who may be infected with it by their presence. It also requires that our national leaders speak out against the moral repugnance of that ideology.

The most important thing we can do is to improve the methods and means we use to identify terrorists before they strike. Whether it's politically acceptable or not, that requires us to gather intelligence on people, and the places that those such as the Tsarnaev brothers evolve from peaceful Muslims into terrorists.

As terrorism expert Clare Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, emphasized to me following the Boston bombing, the FBI and local police need to be more aggressive in gathering intelligence in places that people like the Tsarnaevs gather, including mosques.

The New York police were doing a great job in this regard until Muslim special-interest pressure groups got them to back down. Lopez contends that the FBI is now trained to avoid that sort of operation. That must be reversed.

We know now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had at least two virulent anti-American outbursts in a Cambridge mosque. Coupled with the Russian warning about his radicalism, those outbursts should have triggered close surveillance of him that could have prevented the bombings.

Let's get over the supposed religious discrimination of this. You try to gather intelligence where you're most likely to find it.

It's as unnecessary as it would be wrong to surrender our constitutional rights to accomplish these things. All we need to do it to be smarter, more diligent and less politically correct.

But because they refuse, it will wait, despite what terrorist attacks may come, until Messrs. Obama and Holder leave office.

Jed Babbin was appointed deputy undersecretary of defense by President George H.W. Bush. He is the author of such best-selling books as "Inside the Asylum" and "In the Words of Our Enemies."

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