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Terror in the Skies

Andy McCarthy has a fantastic piece in NR (subscription required). A snippet:

A breathtaking jihadist plot to blow as many as ten U.S. airliners out of the trans-Atlantic sky after take-off from London’s Heathrow Airport could well have reprised the horror of 9/11. Still, however thankful all of us must be about the two dozen arrests that have taken place in England and Pakistan since August 10, the preemption of this scheme will prove very discomfiting for liberals and civil-libertarian extremists who have barnstormed for five years against all sensible counterterrorism measures.

First and foremost, the successful thwarting of this plot demonstrates again that there is no substitute for spies. While the investigation was a model of international cooperation and brought to bear several sophisticated surveillance techniques, it appears to have been triggered by an informant’s tip — after which authorities managed to infiltrate the terror plot with an undercover agent. While perhaps not privy to the highest echelon of the vast conspiracy — which may have involved more than four dozen operatives — the agent gave investigators access to key details over many months....

Despite the obvious importance of such measures, the capacity of the U.S. intelligence community to plant moles in the terror networks most threatening to Americans was drastically degraded after the Cold War, particularly during the Clinton years. Thus, real public attention to this topic would severely damage the credentials of many a grandstanding critic of “intelligence failure.” Dots, after all, must be collected before they can be connected. As such critics, naturally, are celebrated allies of privacy activists, spying is a topic better left unexplored.

Even more inconvenient for Bush-bashers is the role of coercive interrogation tactics. It now seems clear that the audacious British plan was stopped in the very late stages — and suspects were abruptly rounded up before they could either start the bombing or flee — because Pakistani authorities arrested top suspect Rashid Rauf and subjected him to questioning that, to put it mildly, did not involve Miranda warnings or other enlightened Western practices...