by Dick Morris
Last month, President Bush shut down three
U.S.-based "charities" accused of funneling money to Hamas, a terrorist
organization that last year alone was responsible for at least 20 bombings, two
shootings and a mortar attack that killed 77 people. These "charities" - The
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Global Relief Foundation
and the Benevolence International Foundation - raised $20 million last year
But the information on which Bush largely relied to
act against these charities was taped nine years ago, in 1993. FBI electronic
eavesdropping had 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 suicide bombers' families - pensions for
Why didn't Clinton act to shut these people down?
In 1995 and 1996, he was 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 groups, 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. George
Stephanopoulos, the ankle bracelet that kept Clinton on the liberal reservation,
explains in his 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.
So five years later - after millions have been
given to terrorist groups through U.S. fronts - the government is finally
blocking the flow of cash.
Political correctness also doomed a separate
recommendation to require that drivers' licenses and visas for noncitizens
expire simultaneously so that illegal aliens pulled over in traffic stops could
be identified and (if appropriate) deported. Stephanopoulos cited "potential
abuse and political harm to the president's Hispanic base," and said that he'd
killed the idea by raising "the practical grounds of prohibitive cost."
Had Clinton adopted this recommendation, 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
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 U.S. soil. Six people
were killed and 1,042 injured; 750 firefighters worked for one month to contain
the damage. But Clinton never visited the site. Several days after the
explosion, speaking in New Jersey, he actually "discouraged Americans from
overacting" to the Trade Center bombing.
Why this de-emphasis of the threat? In Sunday's New
York Times, Stephanopoulis explains that the 1993 attack "wasn't a successful
bombing. . . . 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?"
In sharp contrast, U.S. District Court Judge Kevin
Duffy, who presided over the WTC-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 terrorism in 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
Everything was more important than fighting
terrorism. Political correctness, civil liberties concerns, fear of offending
the administration's supporters, Janet Reno's objections, considerations of
cost, worries about racial profiling and, in the second term, surviving
impeachment, all came before fighting terrorism.