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FBI very good at woke politics, not so good at catching killers

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If you watch TV crime shows, you would think the Federal Bureau of Investigation works tirelessly to protect us from terrorists and criminals. But the real FBI is a much less impressive organization.

After the horrendous Colorado shooting last week, we learned that the alleged shooter, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, had a record of violence and arrests. His brother described him as mentally ill, paranoid and “very anti-social.” He was also on the FBI’s radar because of someone with whom he associated.

In this, Alissa joins a long list of “known-wolf” killers, including Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; the Tsarnaev brothers, who conducted the Boston Marathon bombing; Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter in Florida; and some of the 9/11 hijackers.

The FBI’s failure to catch that last set of perpetrators is especially enraging — and shows the agency has been atrophying for a long time. “For two and a half weeks before the attacks,” as Slate noted, “the US government knew the names of two hijackers. It knew they were al-Qaeda killers and that they were already in the United States.”

The two, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, lived under their real names, loud and proud. Per Slate: “They used those names for financial transactions, flight school, to earn frequent flier miles and to procure a California identity card.” Nevertheless, the FBI failed to nab the pair until, on Sept. 11, 2001, they slammed an airliner into the Pentagon.

The bureau’s performance disappointed FBI agents themselves. Agents trying to get a warrant to search the laptop of 9/11’s “20th hijacker,” Zacarias Moussaoui, joked that Osama bin Laden must have had a “mole” in the FBI’s DC headquarters because they were meeting with so much interference.

And as the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr reminds us: “Remember serial killer Gary Sampson? Before he murdered three innocent men in 2001, he called the FBI office in Boston from a pay phone in Abington and offered to turn himself in on some unsolved bank robberies.” But the FBI apparently keeps banker’s hours, and the call came on a Friday afternoon; the bureau ignored the call. “The following day, Sampson started his two-state carjacking murder spree.”

So what’s the FBI good for? The answer is, the kinds of things that wouldn’t make for flattering TV.

Some of it is humorous, as when the bureau sent no fewer than 15 agents to investigate a “noose” in race driver Bubba Wallace’s garage that turned out to be an innocent pull cord. 

Most of it isn’t so funny.

Agents in the FBI’s Boston office, for example, protected notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger from law enforcement, while simultaneously accepting gifts from him. They may even have helped him in his efforts. Carr also notes that the bureau’s Boston office was guilty of “railroading four Boston men onto death row for a 1965 murder they did not commit, allowing them to rot in prison for 35 years while corrupt FBI agents protected the real murderers from justice.”

The FBI also failed to catch a Russian mole in its own ranks — Robert Philip Hanssen — for more than 20 years.

The FBI’s Crime Lab, presented as the gold standard for “CSI”-style forensic science, turns out to be unreliable. As The Washington Post reported in 2015, “nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.” Many of those defendants were sentenced to death.

“CSI” is a TV show. The FBI is, unfortunately, real.

Then there is the mountain of political misbehavior of the last several years. The bogus Operation Crossfire Hurricane, investigating nonexistent Russian “collusion” with the Trump campaign. Wiretaps of journalists. The absurd “interview” of President Donald Trump’s first national-security adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn, that led to him being prosecuted for lying to agents (the agents themselves didn’t think he had lied). The texts between adulterous lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, who also happened to be FBI agents working together on a politicized investigation (many of which texts mysteriously disappeared).

Looking at the FBI’s record, it’s hard not to conclude that it is far better at pursuing press and political opponents than at actually keeping us safe. It’s enough to make you wish those TV shows were fact and the FBI we actually have fiction.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.

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Opinion

Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

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Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

Nearly two decades, $2 trillion and more than 2,300 US casualties later, President Joe Biden has announced that it is time to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan.

Biden is absolutely right. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing, we need to accept the fact that we accomplished our only real objective in the region long ago: eliminating the terrorist mastermind responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans.

There was never any other reason to be there. Killing Osama bin Laden was an appropriate response to heinous attacks on American soil, and it is unfortunate that it took us a decade to find him hiding out in neighboring Pakistan. But a decades-long attempt to bring democracy to a country that has never known anything but brief intervals of peace amid thousands of years without a centralized government? This was mad folly, and no one should be surprised that the authorities in Kabul have accepted the reality of sharing power with the Taliban.

We should, too.

The saddest thing about our “forever war,” to use a phrase Biden has appropriated from his predecessor, is that its futility was totally predictable. I hate to be one of those young fogies who laments the decline of reading, but sometimes I wish people in charge would just open an encyclopedia for once. Here is what it says in my dusty old set of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911:

“The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death and audacious in attack but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases.”

Does this sound like the start of a modern fairy tale about the triumph of liberal democracy and brotherly love in a despotic wasteland? Did anyone really think that democracy hadn’t arrived in Afghanistan before 2001 because no one had ever thought of trying it before and that its people would abandon centuries of habits to play along with our pet project? Let’s keep reading:

“Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveller conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey.”

These are hard words, ones that would never appear in a modern reference book. But they are full of genuine wisdom, the fruit of decades of British experience in Afghanistan, which even the Empire upon which the sun never set could not subdue. The Russians couldn’t do it, either, which was why the United States was happy to watch the crumbling Soviet Union waste what was left of its military might there in the 1980s. Why did we think we would fare any better?

I am old enough to remember when what Biden is attempting now was unserious at best and at worst criminal, a return to the wickedness of Charles Lindbergh and the anti-World War II “America First” movement. But lots of things (elite belief in the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, for example) have changed since the last administration. Maybe if former President Donald Trump had campaigned on staying in Afghanistan for all eternity, he would have been impeached for not getting every last American home by Thanksgiving 2017.

The truth is, though, that even Biden isn’t going to have an easy time getting us out of Afghanistan. Like both of his predecessors, he is about to discover that the Pentagon is used to getting whatever it wants and that the US foreign-policy establishment has decades worth of spurious justifications for keeping American troops in the region indefinitely. While it would be nice to think that the president has enough of a mandate to push through a withdrawal, there are good reasons to remain dubious.

In his speech announcing the move on Wednesday, Biden said that all 2,500 US troops will be home by Sept. 11. This is a fitting date.

But I will believe it when I see it.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine.

Twitter: @MatthewWalther

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Opinion

NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

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NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

“As you look down the road, as far as crime-reduction in New York City, it’s a very bleak picture,” ex-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently told radio host John Catsimatidis. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, as far as I can see.”

That was one bleak assessment by the city’s former top cop. Kelly lamented that none of the leading mayoral candidates has shown an interest in cracking down on crime.

Case in point: Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang was heckled and called “pro-cop” by demonstrators during a bike ride protesting the police-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright on Tuesday night.

Apparently, the anti-cop protesters took offense at Yang’s mild call for more funding for the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force amid a spate of violent attacks. But Yang’s remarks are in-sync with most New Yorkers, who want police follow-up to both solve crimes and prevent future ones — with the perps arrested, tried and imprisoned.

But speaking common sense out loud will get candidates heckled, shamed and run out of events, as the radicals did to Yang.

The bullies have most of the Democratic mayoral wannabes embracing the “Defund the police” nonsense. Progressive favorite Maya Wiley would cut the headcount at 1 Police Plaza and city jails and use the savings to fund one-stop community centers and so on.

Establishment Democrat Scott Stringer strives to appease the radicals by taking various responsibilities (and funding) from the NYPD and giving the Civilian Complaint Review Board final say over cop discipline — kneecapping the department’s commissioner.

Eric Adams, a retired police captain, vows to . . . name the first woman police commissioner. He’s anti-“defund” but promises to find $1 billion in “savings” in the NYPD budget. Another dodge: Rather than disbanding the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, he says he’d have turned it into an anti-gun unit — which is what it actually was anyway. But Adams would much rather talk about his big plans for . . . wind power.

Yang and Ray McGuire talk about naming a deputy mayor just to bird-dog the department. Yang also wants a civilian, not a career cop, to head the department, while McGuire also vows to find “savings” in the NYPD budget.

Absent is any loud vow to get New York off the path to being an open city for criminals and violent street crazies, any clear recognition that subways, buses and other public spaces won’t become safer on their own.

City Hall needs straight-talking leadership with a laser focus on reducing crime and disorder — someone who’ll face down the radicals who demand police scalps and stand with a public that desperately wants the “good old days” of ever-increasing public safety to return.

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Opinion

The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

Just two days after the feds announced the pause on the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, vowing it’d only be “a matter of days” as they looked into six cases of blood clots in the 7 million Americans who’ve gotten the jab, they’ve found just two more — and now say it’ll be at least a week to 10 days before they un-pause. This “abundance of caution” has nothing to do with science, only bureaucratic indecision. And it’s downright dangerous as it puts vax programs on hold and feeds anti-vax hysteria.

The issue is a rare blood clot, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, which occurs in about 5 to 15.7 people per million each year. The J&J shot has an even-lower case rate — if it’s actually linked to them. (The first six cases involved women of childbearing age, and birth control heightens the risk of blood clots; one of the two new cases is a man. All eight also suffered low levels of blood platelets, making the clots tough to treat.)

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a three-hour emergency meeting Wednesday to assess whether this handful of cases should keep a halt on the vax.

Three bureaucrats — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky and President Joe Biden’s vaccine czar, David Kessler — testified to Congress Thursday that all three federally authorized vaccines, including J&J’s, are safe and effective. And they urged Americans to get one of them as COVID cases continue to rise.

But the decision to halt the only vaccine that’s given in one dose rather than two and doesn’t need freezer storage is making mass vaccination more difficult. It’s put a hold on New York City’s home-vaccination program for the elderly and disabled, and likely many others across the nation.

And it’s tanking public confidence in the safety of J&J’s vaccine, from 57 percent before the halt to 32 percent after, per a YouGov/Economist survey. And anti-vaxxers are pointing to the pause to fuel their conspiracy theories about all brands of the lifesaving shot.

You’re far likelier to die in a plane accident than get a blood clot from J&J’s jab, yet we still allow air travel. And getting as many people immunized ASAP is vital to beating COVID and saving far more lives. People can make up their own minds about the minuscule J&J risk, and there’s nothing scientific about bureaucrats taking the decision out of their hands — or about politicians letting them do it.

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