Ten years ago, on Dec. 24, 1999, a group of Pakistani men hijacked an Indian airbus, Flight IC-814. After forcing the plane to land in Afghanistan, the hijackers negotiated the release of three terrorists virtually unknown in the United States: Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar.
And America slept.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright testified before Congress that she was "concerned about the fact that groups … involved in the recent hijacking of Indian Airlines 814 operate in Pakistan." She went on to explain that "we have been concerned about Pakistan's support for the Taliban, who are, in turn, closely linked to Osama bin Laden." Yet the Clinton administration did nothing, continuing to treat Islamic terrorism as a law enforcement problem.
It didn't work.
The Clinton administration didn't bother to keep real tabs on the hijackers or terrorists released by the Indian government. This was massively unwise. The hijackers had ties to both al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a terrorist facilitator. The Taliban ensured safe passage for the hijackers. And all three men released by the Indian government in the hostage standoff went on to directly harm the United States and its allies.
Azhar was the founder of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a murderous terrorist group responsible for the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. Jaish-e-Mohammed was allegedly connected to the massively coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, murdering at least 173 people and wounding at least 308. Members of Jaish-e-Mohammed were arrested in the U.S. in 2009, while plotting to bomb a New York City synagogue and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military airplanes.
Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was bin Laden's "special son," as well as a higher-up in the Afghanistan terrorist training camp program with special ISI connections. On Oct. 6, 2001, CNN reported that Sheikh wired $100,000 from the United Arab Emirates to a man based in the United States named Mohamed Atta. You may remember Atta: He hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001, crashing it into the World Trade Center. Sheikh's been busy since then. Like Azhar, he was linked to the Pearl slaying; in 2008, after the attacks on Mumbai, he called Pakistan's President Zardari pretending to be the Indian Foreign Minister and threatened Zardari with war. Zardari placed the Pakistani military on alert before realizing it was a hoax.
Zargar founded the Al Umar Mujahideen, a Pakistani terrorist group. Al Umar Mujahideen is a member of the umbrella terrorist group Lashkar-e-Omar, which was responsible for the Pearl murder as well as several terrorist attacks in Pakistan against Americans.
The last 10 years have taught us hard lessons. Lessons about what happens when airline security is so lax that Arab men enter airplanes with box cutters; what happens when immigration standards are so ridiculous that men with terrorist connections are left to wander around our country on expired visas; what happens when political correctness trumps obvious suspicions about radicalism.
Thousands of our dead attest to these lessons.
But President Obama has not learned these lessons. So even though we have faced the same threat for 10 years -- even though exactly 10 years after al-Qaida terrorists hijacked Indian Flight IC-814, an al-Qaida terrorist attempted to blow up an airliner headed to Detroit -- President Obama still wants to try the Clinton administration terror strategies. Strategies like civilian trials for terrorists. Strategies like shipping terrorists to American prisons. Strategies like reading terrorists their rights on the battlefield, outlawing harsh interrogation methods, blindly ignoring commonality of interest between terrorist groups and appeasing terrorists with the rhetoric of Western sacrifice.
Will it take another decade like the last decade to learn our lesson?