Published October 28, 2010
Tuesday’s elections will hold the Obama administration accountable. They will shape the direction of the economy, the creation of private sector jobs, and how we enhance our national security.
When it comes to national security, it is clear that the policies of the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress have not reduced the terror threat facing America.
On Wednesday, Virginia resident Farooque Ahmed was arrested for allegedly attempting to assist individuals who he believed to be members of Al Qaeda in plotting an attack on the D.C. Metro similar to the 2005 London subway bombings which killed 52 civilians.
Nearly five months ago, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, attempted to detonate a car bomb in the middle of Times Square. His attempt was unsuccessful thanks to alert bystanders who notified the police when they saw smoke coming from the vehicle. During his sentencing earlier this month, Shahzad claimed to be a “Muslim soldier” fighting a “war” against Americans. He was recently sentenced to life in prison.
On Christmas Day of 2009, A Nigerian native with a visa to the U.S. boarded a flight en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear as the plane neared Detroit. His attempt was thwarted by a poorly made bomb and passengers who jumped into action when they noticed flames on Abdulmutallab’s pant leg. When taken into custody, Abdulmutallab claimed to have been directed by Al Qaeda.
And nearly one year ago, Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas killing 13 innocent Americans and wounding 30 others. Hasan is reported to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) before the shooting rampage began.
On his second day in office, President Obama announced his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo) and release or transfer more than 200 of the “worst of the worst” terrorist suspects. The Administration claimed that the existence of Gitmo helped ferment the terror threat.
But Gitmo didn’t even exist on September 11, 2001, and yet something motivated 19 men to hijack planes filled with innocent civilians and fly them into buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and into the ground in Pennsylvania. That kind of hatred can’t be untaught by simply closing a detention center.
We know that former Gitmo detainees often return to terrorism. The Pentagon has reported that at least 20% of released Gitmo terrorists have returned to plotting attacks against Americans. The administration’s plan to transfer terrorists to a detention facility inside the U.S. (Gitmo North) only brings the terror threat closer to home. Al Qaeda will not suddenly put down their weapons if their comrades in battle are detained in Illinois rather than in Cuba.
The president’s decision to try Gitmo terrorists in civilian courts has no legal precedent. Once in the U.S., terrorists can argue for additional constitutional rights, making it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions.
Treating terrorists like common criminals makes Americans less safe. Giving terrorists the “right to remain silent” limits our ability to interrogate them and obtain intelligence that could prevent attacks and save lives. They are enemy combatants and they should be tried in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.
Besides the president’s failed policies on Guantanamo Bay, his administration refuses to acknowledge the link between border security and national security. Strong enforcement of our immigration laws is not only important for the American economy, but also helps keep dangerous terrorists out of the U.S.
Abdulmutallab was able to board a flight en route to Detroit because he had a U.S. visa. But when his own father alerted American authorities that his son may have become radicalized, Abdulmutallab’s visa was not revoked. That’s a failure in our immigration system. We need effective background checks on visa applicants coming from “high risk” countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.
Securing the border is critical to keeping terrorists out of the U.S. So far this year, 447,731 immigrants have been apprehended trying to cross the Southwest border illegally. Of those, 50,912 are from countries other than Mexico – including terrorist-sponsoring countries like Syria, Pakistan and Yemen.
If we want to prevent another terrorist attack, we must prevent terrorists from getting to the U.S. in the first place. That means finishing the border fence and giving Border Patrol all the necessary resources to keep our borders safe.
Our national security policy should consist of more than relying on dumb bombers and smart citizens. Sooner or later, a terrorist is going to build a bomb that works.
I hope that on Tuesday voters will not forget the lessons learned on 9/11. We must remain vigilant. We must secure our borders to keep terrorists from entering illegally. And we should treat terrorists like enemy combatants, not U.S. citizens.
Republican Rep. Lamar Smith is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He represents the people of the 21st Congressional District in Texas.