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by Dick Morris Why Clinton Slept e-mail this column to a friend E-mail this column to a friend!

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 alone.

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 terrorists.

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 Center .

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 Security Council.

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.


 
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