Finally, the New York Times has an article about the catastrophic effect of the Libyan attack on U.S. intelligence gathering activities in the Middle East. As a result of the attacks a number of CIA operators and contractors had to bug out, leaving the U.S. as if it had its “eyes poked out.” The large CIA presence in Benghazi puts the inadequate security arrangements in sharper focus, and heightens concerns that the names of confidential informants and sources, tentative conclusions reached by our agents, and other significant intelligence information may have been acquired by al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. If Benghazi was a major intelligence-gathering center, shouldn’t the security arrangements for the U.S. operations have been far more robust?
The State Department has created a “review board” to examine the attacks, and the FBI is apparently investigating. That’s all fine, but Congress needs to get involved and begin prompt hearings into the incidents in Libya and Egypt — and, particularly, the many apparent failures in U.S. operations there. We need to determine whether advance warnings were ignored, why our security arrangements were so woefully inadequate, why we were unable to secure the area for days after the attack, and what we need to do to ensure that such planned attacks on U.S. installations cannot happen again.
The Muslim world has been giving the United States a lot of advice and information lately. No doubt we’ll hear more thoughtful recommendations and guidance in the next few days, as Muslim leaders come to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. America needs to decide how to respond.
It’s heartening to hear from the enlightened leaders of a region that is widely recognized for reasoned discourse and thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints. But I’d like to see whoever speaks for America at the U.N. General Assembly share some of our views with the assembled Islamic leaders — and do so in pointed terms. We should say that we relish our First Amendment, and we’re not going to change it no matter how often Muslims go on murderous rampages at some perceived slight. We should say that will fight any effort to criminalize speech and will veto any ill-advised U.N. resolution that attempts to do so. We should emphasize that we think that the world needs more freedom, not less, and that we stand with the forces of liberty. We should tell the Muslim leaders that their real problems are not with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but with tribal-based, anti-female societies that crush individual initiative, medieval economies that leave huge swathes of the population unemployed and ready to riot at any moment, and corrupt leaders who are more interested in amassing their own fortunes than helping their people realize a better way of life. Oh, and we should make clear that we won’t do business with government where ministers are offering bounties on the heads of filmmakers.
I’m tired of our simpering, whimpering approach to defending our fundamental freedoms. It’s high time that we stood up for what we believe in and told the Islamic world that they can riot all they want: we aren’t going to back away from our liberties.
The ad apparently is intended to quell the ongoing rioting in the Muslim world. It begins with footage of President Obama describing America’s tradition of religious tolerance, followed by a statement by Secretary Clinton emphasizing that the United States government had nothing to do with producing the video. Secretary Clinton adds that the U.S. government rejects the video’s “content and message.”
Some Republicans and conservatives have called the commercial an “apology ad.” I’m not sure I’d call it that, but I still don’t understand the decision to air the commercial. We don’t need to explain our system to Muslim fanatics, and it is nonsense to try to respond every time the Muslim world expresses outrage — particularly when it costs us $70,000 to do so. Pakistan, after all, is only one of 20 nations where rioting has occurred. Do we really think looting and rioting Muslims are going to change their behavior because President Obama and Secretary Clinton express our belief in religious tolerance and deny that the U.S. produced a cheap, homemade video?
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man who allegedly was involved in making The Innocence of Muslims — the video that the Obama Administration says sparked riots in in the Middle East — has been picked up by police in California.
The stated reason for the pick-up is that Nakoula, who has served time in prison on fraud and identity theft charges, may have violated the terms of his probation. Those conditions barred him from owning or using devices with access to the Web without prior approval. Although Nakoula apparently is not under arrest, as he left his home he was accompanied by a large number of uniformed deputies. In pictures taken of the event, he is wearing a floppy hat and has his face wrapped in a towel; he says he fears for his safety and that of his family.
I’m not defending a convicted fraudster who may have violated the terms of his probation, but I am concerned about the First Amendment. Consider the message sent by this incident: An inflammatory video is posted on the internet; Muslims in Egypt and Libya storm our diplomatic outposts and, in Benghazi, kill the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; members of the Obama Administration repeatedly express their disgust about the video; the Egyptian government says the creator of the video should be charged with a crime . . . and then the man is picked up for questioning about a potential parole violation. Is that sequence of events really conveying the message we want to send to radical Muslims who, before The Innocence of Muslims was created, found many other reasons to engage in angry anti-American protests?
There’s a reason why the First Amendment is the first amendment. Freedom of speech is the core freedom we enjoy, from the newspaper reporter to the internet blogger to the person who may harshly criticize our government without fear. I don’t think we should be suggesting, by our actions, that we will cooperate with foreign governments in cracking down on whatever speech Muslims might conceivably find offensive. Instead, I’d like to see the Obama Administration engage in a vigorous, public defense of our free speech rights. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the other governments in the Middle East, need to understand that we stand by our First Amendment rights and aren’t going to meekly submit to intimidation or demands that those rights be restricted.