Hillary Clinton was a “team player” in Team Obama’s attempt to maintain the fiction that the threat posed by al Qaeda, and by global terrorists generally, has receded significantly. As a result, her image is taking a hit and her bid for the presidency (if she makes one) may suffer.
James Comey, the new head of the FBI, does not intend to take any hit to his image (which he also zealously protected during the Bush years). Comey has made it clear, via the New York Times, that he doesn’t buy President Obama’s line, delivered last year in a speech to the National Defense University, that “the scale of the threat resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”
Before he had access to the relevant intelligence, Comey accepted Obama’s line. Times reporter Michael Schmidt writes: “By Mr. Comey’s own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished.” The news media reports, of course, simply regurgitated the White House’s spin.
The intel Comey saw once he came to the FBI produced a quick about-face:
I didn’t have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates [of al Qaeda in Africa and the Middle East] had become. There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated.
If Comey read Power Line, he wouldn’t have been caught short.
Disabused of Obama’s most dangerous lie, Comey is now persuaded that terrorism should remain the main focus of the FBI. According to Schmidt, the agency he inherited had roughly half its 16,000 agents and analysts working on national security issues. Comey “made it clear that he would not be changing those priorities.”
Actually, Comey needs to increase the agency’s focus on terrorism. For example, as Schmidt reminds us, in the case of the Boston marathon bombing, Russian officials told the FBI that the lead bomber had become radicalized and planned to travel to Russia to join underground groups. Yet, the agent who investigated that lead never questioned the bomber or his family about his travels, and did not reopen its investigation of him after he returned to the United States.
Complacency is a natural human tendency. It is all the more difficult to overcome when complacency is the announced posture of the President of the United States.
Comey and his agency have their work cut out for them. But at least Comey will not be operating as if Obama’s most dangerous lie were true.