Sunday, January 23, 2005

Nixon-Era Antiterrorism Panel Documents

From the “The More Things Change….” Dept: CNN has picked up a story from AP about the recently declassified documents of a Nixon and Ford-era Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism. The Committee, which included Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers, and included the input of Rudolf Giuliani, who was at the time an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department. According to CNN and the AP, the Committee was concerned about threats that included dirty bombs ("'This is a real threat, not science fiction,’ National Security Council staffer Richard T. Kennedy wrote his boss, Kissinger, in November 1972.") and threats to U.S. airliners.

Giuliani’s testimony, as well as that of others, concerned the need to relax legal and bureaucratic restrictions on intelligence gathering. Concerning airline security, one White House memo noted that the Committee was generating good ideas but if the airlines were asked to absorb the cost, they would scream “bloody murder.” A subsequent memo from the International Air Transport Association stated that protection from terrorism was the responsibility of the “host government” not the individual airlines.

On the international front, Secretary of State Kissinger told President Ford in early 1975 that the mood in the UN General Assembly was such that there could be no useful initiatives on terrorism. It is interesting to note that since that time the majority of the “Terrorism Conventions” were ratified, providing the “prosecute-or-extradite" regime which is the legal backbone for international antiterrorist efforts on acts ranging from hijacking and piracy to (most recently) the financing of terrorist activities and organization. So perhaps things do change, after all.