FBI: Secret NSA Program could have stopped 9/11 attacks
New details in Al-Qaeda's San Diego connection
by Janet Kwak
The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is using San Diego's connection to the 9/11 hijackers in his defense of the controversial NSA phone-tracking program.
Before Congress, FBI Director Robert Mueller said he believed the attacks could have been stopped if the program had existed then.
"The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan," said Mueller. "In any case an opportunity was not there. If we had this program, that opportunity would have been there."
Khalid Al-Mihdhar was one of 5 Al Qaeda hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 that flew into the Pentagon. He and his accomplice Naway Al-Hazmi lived at a Clairemont Mesa apartment complex in 2001, and even took flying lessons at Montgomery field. Mueller said Al-Mihdhar phoned an Al Qaeda safehouse in Yemen, information that intelligence officials found out too late.
"If we had the telephone number from Yemen, we would have matched it up to the telephone number in San Diego, got further legal process, identified Al Mihdhar."
"A lot of these tools used against terrorists can not be made public," commented Darryl Thibault, who retired from the CIA Clandestine Services. Thibault spend more than 20 years breaking up terrorist organizations overseas.
"Having [the NSA program] revealed is unfortunate," Thibault added. "This particular program is not over the top, it's hugely valuable, and I would hate to see it lost."
Thibault told 10News revealing details of the program puts Americans at risk, depriving counter-terrorism investigators of the tools they need. He admits security comes with the price of giving up some privacy, but that there are limits to it.
"Our elected officials...our courts will hopefully ensure nothing unconstitutional is taking place," said Thibault. "We have to have accountability, and transparency... but this is powerful computer weaponry we can use. Not to use it would be a shame."
Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office moves forward with community policing initiative
Sheboygan County Sheriff Todd Priebe's campaign vision when he was elected in November 2010 was centered around changing the way the department does business, using his philosophy of community policing and building relationships.
It was a vision Priebe developed while serving with the Sheboygan Police Department for 18 years before taking over as sheriff in January 2011.
“You're focusing on building partnerships with the citizens, businesses, community stakeholders,” Priebe said. “It goes hand in hand with problem solving. So when an issue is brought forward by the community or brought forward by law enforcement as an area of concern, the idea is that you get the stakeholders together, the partnerships forming, to work together collaboratively to address those concerns.”
He said the vision began with former Sheriff Loni Koenig in the late 1990s and the department is “continuing to build on that.”
Priebe said successful community policing is started by identifying a geographical area that has a “common denominator” and bringing citizens in that community together with common concerns and forming a partnership in resolving issues together.
Capt. Cory Roeseler said the concept of community policing in the county is different than in the city of Sheboygan.
“Our neighborhood is not two blocks by two blocks, our neighborhood is a township or a whole community,” Roeseler said. “In the city, you have the ability to quickly move from neighborhood to neighborhood or send somebody that's assigned to a neighborhood that's not working that neighborhood there.
“But when I want to go from Howards Grove to Random Lake, you're talking about taking up time of a resource and a lot of down time on travel. So that is one of our challenges that we have,” he said.
Roeseler said the Sheriff's Office splits deputies and officers into different regions of the county and has them policing those specific areas to get a grasp of what issues those specific communities are facing.
One of the key areas that goes along with successful community policing is the ability to solve problems. And it's not just the officer's duty.
“We have to be realistic in what we want to accomplish with a particular problem and a lot of the time it's reducing the harm or the frequency,” Priebe said. “It's getting the officers right off the get-go to understand ‘Not only are you going to respond to all these calls for service, the 911 calls and things of that nature, at the same time we're going to require you to identify community concerns and then form partnerships to resolve those problems.'”
Roeseler said a lot of the problems can be solved between neighbors without having to get law enforcement involved or having neighbors inform officers of problems occurring in their neighborhood.
“If we can nip it in the bud before it becomes something where we have to take action, it is that much better,” Roeseler said. “Sometimes the obvious is standing right in front of you and you don't see it and it takes that outside mediator to say ‘Hey, how about we fix it this way.'”
Priebe referenced recent issues in the Town of Wilson where a “competition” was taking place to uproot mailboxes and problems with Dassow Park in the Town of Sheboygan Falls that almost forced the park to close.
The park was riddled with litter, vandalism and other violations, but with the help of Sgt. Bradley Jorsch, the park was able to stay open.
“The issues were becoming quite a regular thing and it was also an expense to the Town of (Sheboygan) Falls because they're having to retrieve this stuff from the river and dispose this garbage and dumping that was left behind,” Priebe said. “So we worked together with the town and came up with some strategies to limit the harm being done to the park.”
Jorsch outlined several ideas for what the town could do to remedy the situation including posting hours of closure and have the town constables issue citations based on reports and investigations, providing lighting in the park, contacting the airport and highway department and asking for help in contacting the sheriff's department, among others.
Town of Sheboygan Falls Chairman Steve Bauer said the department was on the right track with the tips it provided. He has seen improvement in the park since the Sheriff's Department started helping out.
“We definitely have seen an increased presence in the town and near the park recently,” Bauer said. “I think the personal contact with the assigned officers we've had has also been helpful.”
Priebe said the process of community policing and problem solving is ongoing and beginning to identify community issues is something that takes place during the first few weeks on the job.
He said the ultimate goal of the program is to continue to build partnerships with communities and townships to establish a level of trust between the department and citizens.
“We want to keep Sheboygan County a great place to live, raise a family and to work. Being in a reactionary mode is not going to give us the advantage of being able to maintain what we're accustomed to,” Priebe said. “That's why the partnerships are so valuable because we are normally a reactionary response to community concerns. Now the city and the county collectively understand we need to take a proactive approach.”
Priebe said a few years down the road, when some of the department's senior deputies are getting ready to retire, a philosophy of community policing will be engrained in the minds of everyone in the department because they never knew any different.
“Normally problems are brought to our attention and during our era, it was always going back to the same place over and over again,” Priebe said. “We're going to see local law enforcement that's much quicker in identifying problems and then resolving them with the partnerships without necessarily relying on law enforcement.”
Roeseler added that he has seen town chairman of surrounding communities becoming more interested in what the department is doing and trying to help out any way they can. He acknowledged that the county doesn't have some of the same problems the city does in terms of violent crime, which makes it easier to tweak smaller issues throughout the area.
“When you don't have that baseline of a problem, we're looking to improve on really good places already that are just looking at tweaking some of the problems,” Roeseler said.
Calls for action mark 6 months since Newtown
The Associated Press
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Six months after the Newtown school shooting, the tragedy will be marked with a moment of silence, the reading of thousands of names of gun violence victims and calls around the country to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases.
Family members, elected officials and other leaders will gather in Newtown on Friday for a day of remembrance and a call to action. The reading of names is expected to take 12 hours.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns will launch a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for background checks legislation. Legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers failed in the Senate in April.
The mayors group is also holding events in 10 states calling for lawmakers to expand background checks and urging senators who opposed the bill to reconsider. Those events, which include gun violence survivors and gun owners, will be held in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The gunman in Newtown killed his mother and then 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 before committing suicide as police arrived.
Some of the victims' families are in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers for action.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-founded the mayor's group, this week sent a letter asking donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed the bill to expand background checks.
On the other side of the debate, the National Rifle Association is focusing on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who co-sponsored the bill to expand background checks, with a TV ad urging viewers to phone Manchin's office and tell him "to honor his commitment to the 2nd Amendment." The NRA plans to spend $100,000 airing the ad in West Virginia markets over the next two weeks.