Homeland Security

The Big Question: What can Obama say to restore confidence?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

After releasing today's report on the failure of U.S. intelligence to prevent the Christmas Day bombing attempt, what could President Barack Obama say to the American people to bolster confidence in the country's anti-terrorism efforts?

Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

He might use the phrase 12/25 to specifically and continually reference the attack, much as we refer to the tragic events of 9/11. This would mark the day as a change; a turning point; a day America went resolute against terrorism. 12/25 is significant as well because we were not taken helplessly down by murderers as we were on 9/11, but thwarted the attack this time by heroic individual initiative. Americans are ready to defend. Obama should mark it and lead it with a positive charge from 12/25. These events are compared to Pearl Harbor in symbolic or psychological framework. But Roosevelt had reason to expect the Pearl Harbor attack and was ready to respond in message and in action. We were thoroughly taken by surprise by 9/11. Now we are ready.

Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

I don't know of anything in Obama's history, education, or experience that indicates that he knows anything at all about either national security or intelligence. So there is nothing he could say to the American people that would be credible. If he could find someone in his kingdom who does know something, that might be reassuring, but it is a telling fact that I can't think of such a person.

Jim Harper, director of Information Policy Studies for The Cato Institute, said:

When we overreact to terrorism, we hurt ourselves. Using the bully pulpit, President Obama should guide the country away from overreaction and back toward our natural sense of indomitability.

This is largely a communications problem, but specific assurances about the quality of our country's anti-terrorism efforts probably won't create needed confidence. Instead, confidence will come from reminding people that our country and people are strong and resilient; that the government's anti-terrorism skills improve with every attempt; and that the United States will not be knocked off course by small, weak bands of radicals who, by all authoritative accounts, are on the run and unpopular even in the countries they infest.

The shrill political rhetoric around terrorism keeps Americans agitated and prone to overreaction. Worse, it encourages would-be terrorists by signaling that attacking the United States can knock us off our game. It's embarrassing to observe the glee with which some advocates have used the recent attempt to seek political advantage for the party out of power; to renew the call for an undefined "war" on terror; and even to argue for changing our legal regime. Stoking fear is a strategic mistake, harmful to the country, and unnecessary.

Overreaction helps terrorism do its work. "No Drama" Obama should do his.

 John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

The president could say that those responsible for the failure have been fired and that there will be no further tolerance of additional failures to act on already acquired information. He could then indicate that the politically correct nonsense that refuses to place extra attention on some persons has been abandoned. And, while he's at it, he could announce the start of significant moves to wind down military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that are viewed by many in those and neighboring nations as unwanted occupations designed to impose America's will. Because the way to prevent terrorist attacks is to squelch them before they are carried out, it would also be most welcome if he told Americans that he will urge Congress to reinstitute the former House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Senate Subcommittee on International Subversion.     

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said:

This is the responsiblity of the press, to inform the public that we now have a White House that's serious about supporting anti-terrorism efforts, not just going through the motions. The people on the front lines need the real support of the White House, and now they have it.

Peter Navarro, professor of Economics and Public Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:

Obama has two communication problems that make this problematic: He has lost credibility on several other issues, particularly the economy, that he is no longer believable. He is way over-exposed in the media so any new appearance has less communicative value. End result: America is turned off and tuning him out.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

White House national security adviser James Jones says: "We know what happened, we know what didn't happen, and we know how to fix it." Hearing this, most Americans will roll their eyes heaven-ward, and exclaim: "Yeah, suuuuure you do!" They'll hear Dianne Feinstein proclaim that the "no fly" list ought to include anybody about whom there is a "reasonable doubt," and vow not to fly unless they absolutely positively HAVE to, thus dealing another blow to an airline industry already crippled by the recession and fear of flying.

In short, there isn't anything President Obama can say to reassure the American people, because the horse is already out of the barn. There is, in reality, nothing he can say, or do, that will restore the confidence of the American people in their government, because when push came to shove it was the passengers who saved themselves from the panty-bomber — not the CIA, not the National  Security Council, not any one of the five or six "intelligence" bureaucracies that suck up our tax dollars and do little to earn their keep.

George W. Bush's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was to declare war on virtually the entire Middle East. Obama is continuing that policy, and even expanding it. The ranks of the terrorists are swelling on account of this crazy policy, at almost the same rate that the Treasury is being drained because of it. The problem isn't security — because there is no security for an imperial power that claims the "right" to rampage throughout the world. As long as we insist on occupying Afghanistan, Iraq, parts of Pakistan, Yemen, and wherever else we imagine our "national interests" are threatened, we will face the wrath of the occupied. It's as simple as that.


Protecting our nation requires more than luck (Rep. Candice Miller and Rep. Pete Hoekstra)

How does an individual like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab get on a plane with an explosive device with the intent to cause catastrophic harm? Clearly, the security measures we put in place did not work. The key question now is what lessons the Obama administration will draw from this incident to improve security procedures.

There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered. One thing is clear: we got lucky in this case. Although European officials reportedly provided advanced passenger data before the flight left Amsterdam; U.S. officials did not take the appropriate action. If it had not been for the bravery of the passengers and a device that malfunctioned we would be talking about many dead. This was a spectacular failure of our air travel security system and that needs to be rectified immediately.

Congress must assert its constitutionally provided powers and the administration must work cooperatively with Congress to boost our nation's programs to counter the terrorist threat. National security should not be a partisan issue, but it will continue to be if the executive branch continues to ignore our common interests in security. We stand ready to work with President Obama, but we will criticize him where we differ on policy if we must.

The Christmas Day terrorist attack is a wake-up call that we are still at war with radical Jihadist groups like al Qaeda that are conducting an unconventional war against our nation. For this reason it is essential that Abdulmutallab be treated as an enemy combatant.

The Obama Administration's record to date in cooperating with Congress and keeping it fully and currently informed about national security threats has been abysmal. The administration has stonewalled Congress about the Fort Hood shooting and the D.C. Five, the Washington area men arrested in Pakistan who allegedly were seeking terrorist training from al Qaeda. Obama officials won't brief Congress or local officials on the threat posed by al Qaeda inmates it proposes to transfer from Guantanamo Bay to Illinois. This lack of transparency is undermining the trust and confidence the American people put in President Obama's national security leadership.

The first and foremost responsibility of elected officials is to defend the American people. As members of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, we want to work with the Obama Administration to review why Abdulmutallab was not placed on the "no-fly" list; why his name was not flagged and subjected to secondary screening before he was able to board the plane; and what we need to do to ensure tighter security measures are in place and followed, especially from flights that originate from outside the U.S. Not only can we not count on being lucky again, we must assume al Qaeda will learn from this incident in planning another deadly terrorist attack.

As members of Congress and fellow citizens of this nation, we are dedicated to working with this Administration in a bipartisan manner to make certain there are no more communication failures between U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies and work hand-in-hand with other nations to ensure that their security standards meet, or exceed, U.S. security requirements for screening airline passengers.

This leads us to our final point -- the Obama Administration must completely rethink its position on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There are several reports that former Guantanamo inmates who went through Saudi "re-education" programs are heading an al Qaeda organization in Yemen that instructed Abdulmutallab on how to carry out the Christmas Day terrorist attack and provide him with the PETN explosive he attempted to detonate. If true, this is yet another compelling reason to stop the rush to close Guantanamo and release its dangerous terrorist suspects or move them to the United States.

Congressional Republicans stand ready to work with President Obama to get to the bottom of the Christmas Day terrorist attack. We ask Mr. Obama to be forthcoming with us on this and other crucial national security matters so we can work with him to protect the security of the American people.

First appeared in the Detroit News


The systemic failure of the Obama administration (Rep. Connie Mack)

On Christmas Day, terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slipped through the cracks of our nation’s security and attempted to bomb Northwest Flight 253 on its way to Detroit.  Because of the bravery and quick actions of the passengers on the Northwest flight, a major tragedy was averted. 

President Obama and his administration were slow to react.  Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in the first few hours after the attempted bombing, claimed “the system worked.”  This sounded a lot like former President Bush in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck and destroyed much of New Orleans when he said, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”  No one believed President Bush then much as no one believes Secretary Napolitano now.  

And while President Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and didn’t have a lot to say in the first few days after the event, he recently called the lapses and breakdowns of the federal government and intelligence agencies a “systemic failure.”  But as we look back on the first year of the Obama administration, much of what President Obama has attempted and achieved has been a “systemic failure.”

From national security, to the handling of our economy, and to several foreign policy missteps, we have witnessed this administration and the Democrats in Congress fail to protect our national interests and instead usher in a new era of more taxes, more spending, more government and less freedom.

President Obama and his administration’s actions have threatened our national security and diminished our standing in the world as a beacon of freedom. Just look at how he has approached U.S. foreign policy during his first year in office: the botched announcement of the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison last January (and, one year later, he still has no plan in place to deal with the displaced terrorists); hugging and chumming it up with Latin American thugocrats like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez; failing to support the rule of law in Honduras after a Chavez-backed leader was removed from power; failing to speak out against the atrocities of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he won the Iranian presidential “election”; and dithering on the decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

The list of President Obama’s “systemic failures” is long on Big Government blunders and short on free-market solutions. Take, for example, the President’s handling of our economy, which is in the midst of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. We have borrowed too much money and now it’s time to pay for the overborrowing and overspending. 

Republicans in Congress and the American people were ready to work with the President to pass a strong investment package that would allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to restart the economic engine of America.  But instead, President Obama allowed Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid to pander to special interests and hand out Big Government giveaways that enriched a few at the expense of the nation’s taxpayers. 

President Obama claimed that we had to pass the so-called economic “stimulus” immediately so that we could stave off unemployment passing eight percent.  But here we are, nearly a year after Congress passed the stimulus bill, and unemployment has skyrocketed to 10 percent; factor in underemployment figures, and the national unemployment rates actually rises to 17 percent. 

In addition to throwing money at our economic problems, the Obama Administration has vastly expanded the federal government’s reach into the private sector.  They have bailed out the auto companies with not one but two bailouts (does anyone honestly think that the “Cash for Clunkers” program revitalized the American auto industry?); taken over our nation’s financial sector; raised the debt limit to pay for their spending sprees; and decided how much executives can receive in compensation at financial companies.

And, to top it all off, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want to dictate what kind of health care you will receive.  On Christmas Eve, they crammed through a package of billions of dollars in gifts to health insurance companies and other sweetheart deals to secure the votes of wavering Senators.  They have passed bills that will put bureaucrats and politicians -- not doctors and patients -- in charge of your health care.  And they are leaving our children and grandchildren to foot the bill.

One thing is for sure: the Nanny State was alive and well in 2009, and with the Democrats running Washington, it won’t be going away anytime soon in 2010.  One thing President Obama hasn’t failed at is thinking up Big Government solutions to our nation’s problems. 

Perhaps President Obama’s first New Year’s resolution should be to turn that list of systemic failures into a list of free-market accomplishments that preserve our freedoms, limit the size and scope of government, and allow the free market to flourish.  That’s the kind of change we need in 2010.

Cross-posted from Human Events


President Obama should press on with Guantánamo closure and repatriate innocent men cleared for release

After the Flight 253 attack, does it still make sense to close Guantanamo?

It is crucial to remember that the vast majority of the men at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place, and that over 550 have been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Most of the nearly 800 men who were brought to Guantánamo were not captured by the American military on any battlefield, but seized in broad sweeps during the chaos of the Afghan war or in other locations around the world and sold to the U.S. in exchange for substantial bounties. We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantánamo have no link to terrorism.


The Big Question: Has Obama made us safer?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Has the Obama administration made the United States safer? Explain.

(Read today's responses after the jump.)


The Big Question: Should a failed attack alter Gitmo's closing?

Brad Delong says: "We badly need people like Alhaji Umaru Mutallab on our side. Keeping Guantanamo open," drives them away ...

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's Question:

Should last week's failed airline bombing affect President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center?

(Read today's responses after the jump.)


The Big Question: Is profiling the answer?

Brent White: What exactly does a Muslim look like by the way? Muslims belong to a religion, not a race, gender or age group.

Today's question:

Would "profiling" be a useful or appropriate tool to stop terrorist attacks?

(Read the responses to today's question after the jump.)


The Big Question: Did 'the system work' ?

Professor Ronald Walters: "Obviously the system did not work, which puts a glaring focus on what constitutes the system. " ...

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Did "the system work" to stop the Christmas terror attack, as Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano initially claimed?

(Read today's responses after the jump)


Illinois deserves better than this (Rep. Peter Roskam)

President Obama's decision to relocate Guantanamo Bay's inmates to my home state of Illinois is a misguided decision that will ultimately be regretted. Proponents of the decision have failed to prove how this move will make America safer. Let's be clear: the Administration is not closing Guantanamo, they are simply moving Guantanamo to Illinois.

The multi-million dollar Guantanamo facility will be left dormant while U.S. courts extend an invitation to expand their reach into national security affairs. The move from a military tribunal to U.S. civilian courts will treat individuals who committed an act of war against the United States as common criminals. It flies in the face of logic, long precedence, and assumes the military is not capable of fairly administering justice.

Illinois deserves a better Christmas present than hardened terrorists.


Comprehensive immigration reform, A.S.A.P. (Rep. Luis Gutierrez)

Tomorrow, December 15, I will join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and my colleagues in the House of Representatives in introducing a progressive, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Every single day in America, families are being divided. Over the past year, I've traveled across the country with my colleagues conducting something called the United Families ("Familias Unidas") tour. In twenty-four cities across the country, we heard from families who were being ripped apart by the current system. We've heard stories from a father dying from cancer whose wife faced deportation. We've heard from American citizen children who are faced with choosing between their parents and a college education.

This is a crisis. It's a crisis of human and civil rights, it's a crisis of our economy and our workforce, and it's a crisis of national security. This is why we cannot wait any longer. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 is a solution that we, as a nation of immigrants, can be proud of.