Over in the alternative universe of the 9/11 commission hearings watched only by me, Richard Ben-Veniste recently proposed an amazing new standard for investigating Arabs in this country. In the middle of haranguing Condoleezza Rice, Ben-Veniste demanded to know why the suspected 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, had not been more aggressively investigated, despite the fact that -- I quote -- he had "no explanation for the funds in his bank account, and no explanation for why he was in the United States."
So let me get this straight: Airport security can't acknowledge that a person is an Arab, but they should be allowed to audit his bank records? (Come to think of it, "Can't Explain His Bank Account or Why He's Here" is also a pretty good description of John Kerry.)
Can we use that as a standard going forward? The government prohibits airlines from searching more than two Arabs per flight, so it would be terrific if liberals would let us examine their bank accounts. If Democratic Party shills like Ben-Veniste -- who himself looks like someone who ought to be searched at airports -- are going to make ludicrous, macho statements like that in order to win applause from weeping widows in the peanut gallery, can't we hold them to that policy when it matters?
Ben-Veniste thinks the key to stopping the 9/11 attack was for the FBI to have drawn the obvious conclusions from an Arab in flight school. If only the FBI had searched Moussaoui's computer, they would have found a flight-simulator computer program, information about the Boeing 747, and extensive files on crop dusters. From this, apparently, Ben-Veniste imagines the FBI would have drawn the obvious conclusion that on Sept. 11, 19 Muslims were going to hijack airplanes out of Logan, Newark and Dulles airports and fly them into buildings.
A somewhat more direct chain of causation traces its way back to the aviation-security commission chaired by Vice President Al Gore in 1997. If that commission had done its job, you wouldn't have to wait for one of my columns to find out that there was a commission on airline safety years before the 9/11 attacks. Isn't it curious that Democrats aren't bragging about Gore inventing air safety? The reason Al Gore hasn't added "anti-terrorism" to the list of things he invented is that Gore's commission concluded that passenger profiling must ignore ethnicity and nationality. Or as Gore himself might have put it, "I took the initiative in making it easier for Muslims to use airplanes to slaughter innocent American citizens."
The Gore commission on air safety decided that profiling should be based on "reasonable predictors of risk, not stereotypes or generalizations." Amazingly, all those "reasonable predictors of risk" failed to stop a single Muslim terrorist on 9/11. One wonders whether a profiling system that included ethnicity and nationality would have been more helpful in stopping 19 Muslim men, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia, all speaking Arabic to one another, from boarding planes on Sept. 11.
Recently -- i.e., about the time Ben-Veniste was shocked that the FBI hadn't uncovered the 9/11 plot based on the fact that Moussaoui had overstayed his visa -- Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer were clamoring for the release of Ansar Mahmood, a 26-year-old Pakistani immigrant detained in October 2001 after he was observed taking photographs at a water treatment plant in upstate New York. Mahmood later pleaded guilty to committing a felony by giving financial aid to illegal immigrants from Pakistan. Schumer says Mahmood should be permitted to stay in the U.S. because he "was cleared of terrorist links," and he has already served his time for "a non-violent felony." Hillary simply calls Mahmood's detention "disturbing."
Where is Ben-Veniste when we need him? What happened to the "We Don't Know Why He's Here or His Sources of Money" standard for harassing Muslim immigrants? In contrast to Mahmood, Zacarias Moussaoui had committed no felonies; his only apparent offense was to have overstayed his visa. But Ben-Veniste is appalled that the FBI didn't beat Moussaoui for information. The French had linked Moussaoui to al-Qaida -- based largely on the information that he took frequent trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mahmood's home country. When FBI agents in Minneapolis requested a warrant to search Moussaoui's computer, FBI headquarters wrote back, "We don't know he's a terrorist" -- i.e., the argument Schumer is making for Mahmood's release right now.
Liberals always claim to know exactly what to do as soon as it's too late. After Muslims attack with airplanes, they want to investigate flight schools. After Muslims attack with shoe-bombs, they want to investigate shoes. After a Muslim introduces E. coli into New York's water supply, liberals will be enraged that Muslim immigrants taking pictures of New York water treatment plants weren't investigated more aggressively -- as soon as they are done blaming Bush for not stopping the attack amid their caterwauling about the detention of Muslim immigrants. Liberals are the only known species whose powers of reasoning are not improved by the benefit of hindsight. Not only are they always fighting the last war, in most cases they're surrendering.