Dereliction of Duty

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The new anti-terrorism act includes a laundry list of new powers for the federal government. But the issue, as is often the case, is ‘not so much that the government did not have the powers to fight terrorism but that the powers it already had were not being adequately used. In the incidents of Sept. II, we find gaping holes in U.S. security enforcement. First: Mohammed Atta, the apparent ring-leader of the hijackers, was on the Customs Service watchlist, yet he was able to obtain a U.S. visa and come and go several times. Another hijacker was put on the CIA watchlist after it was determined he had a role in the bombing of the USS Cole. Second, at least one”suspicious financial activity” report was filed on Atta by a Florida bank, after he received numerous wires from overseas. As is usual with these reports, nothing happened. They were simply buried along with the millions of others. Thirdly, the World Trade Center roofs were locked, in violation of fire codes. However, the Port Authority, as a government entity, is exempt from fire codes. We could go on and on. We are not here arguing whether the powers the government had prior to Sept. 11 were appropriate. But we are saying that, as usual, the government has failed to use the tools it has, and does not need any more powers.

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