On June 21, 2007, Mitt Romney delivered a speech at the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute in Beaver Creek, Colorado. To coincide with the address, his campaign released a statement explaining the candidate’s vision for fighting the war on terrorism.
In the stash of hard drives, thumb drives, and personal papers discovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound, one especially revealing find was his personal diary. According to an analyst privy to the frequent updates of translated material being posted to the intelligence community’s classified internet, the late Al Qaeda leader periodically recorded his amusement that U.S. drones were searching for him in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan while he was living comfortably less than a quarter of a mile from a Pakistani military academy.
In 2007, a Russian businessman named Oleg Derapaska applied for a multiple-entry visa to enter the United States. Derapaska certainly had some impressive credentials—he is one of the richest men in Russia, with a fortune of $10.7 billion as of 2010, which he made initially by cornering Russia’s aluminum market. He is well traveled, and is the owner of a £25 million home in the Belgravia neighborhood of London. The State Department nevertheless turned him down (though it did grant him a one-time entry visa in 2009).
Most Americans only ever hear about the director of national intelligence (DNI) when the person who holds the job happens to stick his foot in his mouth. Take Dennis Blair, President Obama’s first pick for the position, who landed in hot water when he proposed Chas Freeman—a former adviser to a Chinese national oil company who asserted that U.S. interests were being subverted by Israel’s Likud Party—to chair the National Intelligence Council.
The current wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East is a welcome development. But it will almost certainly empower long-suppressed political parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. That movement—whose slogan reads, in part, “Koran is our law; Jihad is our way”—presents several urgent challenges for American policymakers: How can political parties that seek Islamic law through holy struggle be cajoled and pressured to respect the rules of democratic politics? Is political Islam even compatible with open, civil societies?
Everyone now understands that President Obama faces a set of difficult choices in Egypt. Cut Mubarak loose, and risk a revolt from the other American clients in the region while potentially empowering the Muslim Brotherhood. Support Mubarak, and earn the enmity of Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East who correctly see the United States working in tandem with the autocrats who repress them. What has largely gone undiscussed, however, is that the United States faced a very similar dilemma in Egypt once before.
In December 2005, a Purdue graduate student named Vikram Buddhi began posting a series of ugly notes—“Kill GW Bush,” “Rape And Kill Laura Bush,” “Kill Donald Rumsfeld The Old Geezer Crook”—on a message board devoted to technology. A few months later, Buddhi, an Indian citizen who was in the United States to study math, was arrested and charged with threatening the life of the president—a federal crime.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like to blame the uprising in Iran on outside influences. They particularly like to point their fingers at the British and the Americans, along with a requisite nod in the direction of the Zionists--a time-honored pretext for avoiding blame for discontent in their country.
About ten days after the start of Iran's insurrection, I asked a senior administration official what, if anything, the White House knew about the people behind the demonstrations. His reply: "I think it is fair to say senior administration officials are busily trying to understand how the opposition is generated and where it came from." In other words, there's a lot about the protesters we still don't know. True, Mir Hossein Mousavi and the people directly surrounding him are known quantities in the U.S. intelligence community.