For one big reason San Francisco stands out among the 500 cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries for illegal aliens. Others content themselves by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agencies. About a month ago San Francisco took a big step farther by withdrawing its police from cooperation with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
The city’s decision was apparently the result of pressure from civil rights groups and Muslim activists. One newspaper quoted John Crew, formerly a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who was consulted by the city and the FBI on the issue. Mr. Crew condemned the cities that have joined the JTTF because ” local civil rights and racial profiling policies are going to be reevaluated in the era of the Trump administration,” whatever that means.
San Francisco’s action leads inexorably to two conclusions. First, that liberals’ political hysteria over President Trump’s election causes them to act even where, as in this case, there is no evidence to support their assumption that Mr. Trump’s goal is to tear up the Bill of Rights. Second, that liberal city governments (and San Francisco may be the most liberal of all) believe it is more important to wave the middle-finger gesture at Mr. Trump than it is to protect the lives and property of their citizens.
According to the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces operate in 104 cities nationwide and are comprised of about four thousand FBI agents whose job is to investigate threats of terrorism. They work with local law enforcement agencies to “connect the dots” which they were precluded from doing before the Sept. 11 attacks. Remember Jamie Gorelick’s “wall”?
Ms. Gorelick, President Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, issued her infamous “wall” directive in 1995. It ordered U.S. attorneys to create a barrier between law enforcement and intelligence operations — including counterterrorism — beyond what was required by law and over the objections of the U.S. attorney for New York City.
The memo is an exercise in illogic. It recognizes that considerable counterterrorism information — intelligence on terrorist operations in the United States — had already been gathered and in some cases pursued as criminal prosecutions. It then proceeds to mandate that, regardless of those facts, “All counterintelligence information (including all foreign counterintelligence information related to future terrorist activities) will be in classified reports which will be provided to [the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review] but will not be provided either to the [FBI‘s] criminal agents, the [U.S. attorney’s office], or the Criminal Division without Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters and OIPR concurrence.” (Emphasis added.)
Ms. Gorelick’s order prevented FBI agents pursuing criminal cases from sharing information with the FBI agents’ counterterrorism operations (using tools such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and vice-versa. It prevented both from “connecting the dots” despite the fact that they obviously were gathering information of mutual value and possibly great significance.
We will never know how much easier Ms. Gorelick’s wall made it for the Sept. 11 attackers to succeed. Those attacks made it all too clear that her wall had to be torn down and it was. Why are some cities trying to rebuild it?
Three years ago, New York’s hyperliberal mayor, Bill de Blasio, disbanded NYPD’s “Demographic Unit,” an intelligence organization that surveilled places Muslims gather including mosques. It functioned on the rather unremarkable theory that, because the vast majority of terrorists are Muslim men, you seek intelligence in the places such people frequent. San Francisco’s exit from the Joint Terrorism Task Force is another version of what Mayor de Blasio did and it’s at least as unwise.
Though the Joint Terrorism Task Force will still operate in San Francisco, it has lost the benefit of the eyes and ears of the city’s police. SFPD’s confidential informants will be more confidential because the information they come up with won’t be passed on to the FBI. Quite literally, San Francisco is cutting the strings by which the “dots” can be connected in time to stop a terrorist attack.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force has been successful in both gathering counterterrorist intelligence and breaking up terrorist cells in the United States such as the “Lackawanna Six” — men who had trained for terrorist acts and reportedly met with Osama bin Laden — and the “Portland Seven” who were attempting to join al Qaeda to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Its efforts led to the quick capture of the Ahmad Rahimi, the Chelsea bomber, who injured 31 people in his attempt to kill police officers last year. It produces results that protect Americans.
At the risk of stating the obvious, intelligence information — gathered by local police, the FBI and agencies such as the CIA and NSA — is the most important tool in stopping terrorist attacks. Unless such information is shared — regularly, as a matter of course — between police, the FBI and our intelligence agencies, the odds of preventing such attacks is greatly reduced.
What Mayor de Blasio did three years ago and San Francisco did a month ago comprise a model that activist groups are attempting to sell to other cities and states around the country. The greater the number that buy into this foolishness, the greater the danger Americans will face.
• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”
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