The Corner

Whatever Happened to Connecting the Dots?

I was so p.o.’d by the newspapers this morning, I turned what was going to be a Corner post into a whole bonus column. Excerpt:

Does anyone remember the days when “connecting the dots” was considered vital to national security?

After the September 11 attacks, we had the 9/11 Commission and countless knock-off studies, committees, investigations, hearings, journalistic exposés, and outings of fact-finders. The lesson from all of them was that in order to make sure “this never happens again,” we must get better at connecting the dots.

No more Johnell Bryants!

You don’t remember poor her?

She was the hapless Department of Agriculture official who interviewed a loan applicant by the name of Mohamed Atta (the leader of the 9/11 hijackers). At the time of their meeting, he wanted a $650,000 loan to buy a crop duster with an abnormally large tank. Guess why?

When Bryant told Atta he couldn’t have the loan, Atta responded by asking, in the words of the New York Times, “what was to keep him from slitting her throat and stealing money from the safe behind the desk in her Florida office.”

Bryant didn’t think much of the comment and continued to chat with the eager loan applicant, perhaps in part to assure him that he wasn’t being discriminated against as he claimed.

Again the Times: “Later in their meeting . . . [Atta] told her he wanted to buy an aerial picture of Washington that hung in her office. He pulled out a wad of cash and threw money on her desk, even after she said she would not sell it. He asked about the White House and Pentagon, and she pointed them out.”

Atta then went on to praise “the world’s greatest leader,” Osama bin Laden, and peppered her with questions about the security at various D.C. landmarks.

“Should I have picked up the telephone and called someone?” Bryant mused to the Times. “I don’t know how I could possibly expect myself to have recognized what the man was. And yet sometimes I haven’t forgiven myself.”

But Bryant gets a pass. This all happened before 9/11. Before everything changed.

Flash forward to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the man who last week shot over 40 people at Fort Hood, killing 13, while shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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