Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad Hardcover – Aug 1 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this annotated retrospective, the prosecutor responsible for leading the investigation of Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and others involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing dissects the miscues between federal agencies that led to that event while laying bare the challenges facing the war on terror today. The pre-1993 comedy of errors begins with the CIA's decision to funnel arms and money to Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war and continues with inexplicable lapses of communication between the State Department and immigration officials (despite having been placed on a State Department terror watchlist, the sheikh travels freely to the United States). The most enduring oversight, however, at least from McCarthy's perspective, is the refusal among academics and political leaders to confront fundamentalist Islamic tenets, the 800-pound gorilla that is somehow always in the middle of the room when terror strikes. The jihadist philosophy that guided the Blind Sheikh is traced through generations of Islamic thinkers to the Prophet Mohammed himself. Though McCarthy's language is at times cumbersome, his firsthand account of jihad's rise and the sheikh's trial of the century is an important contribution (and in some instances, counterpoint) to existing literature on the attack that foreshadowed disaster to come. (Mar.)
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McCarthy, a talented writer, draws deep insights from his experience into the shortcomings of prosecuting terrorists as criminals. He ends with a thoughtful exposition of the disconnect between national security and criminal law. He is a voice of clarity, reason and experience in the dialogue now going in America on issues of law and national security.
What makes Andrew McCarthy's book a must read for everyone is that he is not a journalist telling someone else's story. He is the lead prosecutor in the case against the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and this is his first-hand account of that high-profile prosecution and the events leading to it.
After reading Willful Blindness the inescapable conclusion is that all of the societal structures that are supposed to serve us have broken down. The Intelligence Agencies failed to warn us; Law Enforcement failed to protect us; the Press failed to understand the implications and meaning of the events they reported on; the Courts, obsessed with legal abstractions, mis-judged the very real danger we faced; our political leaders were too timid, self-absorbed, and focussed partisan advantage to fulfill their first and most fundamental obligation: to defend the nation above all else. Only the Military, our last line of defense, has succeeded in raising the shield. Yet, even now their efforts to protect us are underminied by those same elements of society that so singularly failed in their past duties.
It is tempting to shrug and say, "Hindsight is always 20/20." A better cliche to adopt as our slogan is Santayana's famous dictum, "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." We closed our eyes and chose to forget what happened in 1993, only to see history repeat itself - with a vengeance - in 2001.
The cast of characters today is familiar to us all. Ramsay Yusef, who planned the first bombing and who was thwarted in his plan to simultaneously blow-up 11 airliners over the ocean - but only just. Kalid Sheik Mohammed - the Mastermind of the second bombing and ultimate destruction of the World Trade Center - who escaped civilian prosecution in 1993 but is presently held prisoner at the military base at Guantanamo Bay - to the consternation and frustration of the ACLU. Lynn Stewart, the radical lawyer convicted and disbarred for abusing the privilege accorded legal counsel to unmonitored access to an accused, who used her lawyer's priviledge to transmit operational orders from the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel-Rahman to his followers outside the US. Her presence on the streets of this nation today, as a free woman - the result of a Judge's decision not to imprison her for the crime for which she was convicted - is a reminder that the legal system fails us still.
Andrew McCarthy has rendered invaluable service to this country, first as a Justice Department Prosecutor, and now as the voice of warning. Will we listen to him, or will we remain wilfully blind?
In `Willful Blindness', Andrew McCarthy weaves the narrative of, not only his experience investigating and subsequently prosecuting Islamic jihad in the US, but a solid, albeit brief, history of the resurgence of jihad (as a means of terror rather than ideals) in Islam, itself. His rude introduction to the jihad came courtesy of the `The Blind Sheikh' - Omar Abdel Rahman:
Bungled bureaucracy, pathetically weak coordination of government agencies and enormously frustrating and embarrassing law enforcement failures allowed The Blind Sheikh to enter and flourish in America. This well known Egyptian rabble-rouser (well known I say to Egyptian, but also U.S. authorities), member of the U.S. `Terror Watch List', and brilliant Islamic scholar was nevertheless allowed to set up shop in NYC and New Jersey. From his new base, the Blind Sheikh preached hatred, incited violence and ultimately terrorism, culminating in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
Fortunately, for the United States we had a team led by Andrew McCarthy who assembled and successfully prosecuted The Blind Sheikh and his terrorist cabal. The story of the daring, and often hair-splitting, Egyptian informant embedded inside the Sheikh's inner ring is worth the price of this book alone! By educating themselves on the roots of Islamic terror and piecing together the connections of the Blind Sheikh's organization, McCarthy and his team were able to wrap up this terror outfit just before another, more ghastly strike, occurred in NYC. The reader is taken behind the scenes to the offices of Janet Reno, the US Attorney General, FBI & CIA headquarters and most important, inside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern (Sovereign) District of New York where the plots were investigated, debated, thwarted, and this stunning, fair and honorable prosecution was crafted.
`Willful Blindness' tells a gripping tale, while simultaneously making a strong case for why national security matters should be prosecuted outside the realm of the criminal justice system. McCarthy explains why we expose ourselves to terror groups worldwide in continuing to pursue jihadists and other terror fronts in the criminal court and presents the ideas behind a `national security court' or some mix of military tribunal and criminal proceeding. America has the best system of justice in the world, however, this fact has not been overlooked by those trying to destroy us from within. This is a gripping narrative which is thought provoking, smart and timely. I encourage anyone interested in the important matters of our time to invest in this book and read with great interest.
Mr. McCarthy's book delivers the goods on two levels: First, this is a gripping and highly entertaining story of sinister plots, dogged (though often ham-handed) police work, heroic informants and complex legal maneuvers, ending - the reader is happy to discover - in guilty verdicts and life sentences. Among other things, one gets to meet the quirky, the remarkable Emad Salem, a former Egyptian army officer and terrorist-hating Muslim (yes, there are such people) who puts his life on the line to infiltrate and destroy the Blind Sheikh's murderous operation. His story alone is worth the price of the book.
On a deeper level, McCarthy confronts the oft-expressed fallacy that America can deal with terrorists by prosecuting them in courts of law, giving them every presumption of innocence, every right of evidentiary discovery, every objection and every appeal. McCarthy is very clear about this: It won't work. As he says, "Terrorism prosecutions create the conditions for failure and thus for more terrorism....International terrorism is not the type of national challenge the criminal justice system is designed to address." The largest specific problem created by terror prosecutions is that they hand valuable intelligence to our enemies on a silver platter. As McCarthy puts it, "The criminal justice system arms international terrorist organizations with a trove of intelligence, including information that identifies intelligence methods and sources, thus further improving their capacity to harm Americans." This information includes the identities of deep-cover informants like the marvelous and irreplaceable Mr. Salem.
Mr. McCarthy's lucid explanations will enable the intelligent layman to see through the bogus arguments made by extreme civil libertarians. It is a must-read for people who want a more thorough understanding of the War On Terror.
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