Homeland Security

Proposed McKeon and McCain legislation won't make us safer

If there is one thing the operation against Osama bin Laden has shown, it is that the Obama administration does not feel it needs more authority to capture, detain or even kill certain terrorism suspects. Yet, while members of Congress applaud President Obama’s action, legislative proposals greatly expanding this authority are quietly making their way through Congress. 

One bill, introduced by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), is set to be considered this week by the House Armed Services Committee during mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act. Another, introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is set to be marked up in the Senate in June. Both bills would expand who the U.S. says it is at war with and mandate military detention for broadly defined terrorist suspects based on scant evidence. 

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The mission that killed bin Laden

I think most Americans are proud that the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and then reveled in the horror of that day is dead.

Today we recognize the dedicated work of the many intelligence professionals, law enforcement officials, and the many men and women in our armed services who brought us to this day.

The pursuit of Osama bin Laden spanned more than a decade.

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Obama: 'Justice has been done'

President Barack Obama made the following address to the nation about the death of Osama bin Laden.

Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
 
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
 
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

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MEADS miss the target: Time to decisively move on

In spite of building the best educated acquisition corps ever thanks to the Defense Acquisition University and service certification processes now in full swing, the Pentagon struggles mightily with hitting the acquisition target. Just last week a Pentagon report of the top 95 acquisition programs highlighted  $64 billion in cost overruns and a number of significant program deficiencies or breaches.

Concerns over Pentagon acquisition performance are nothing new and evaluating how well the Pentagon performs is as complicated as any assessment. Or is it? Consider a single question for a program that we can affect today: 

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Looking back on nuclear progress

One year ago this week a quarter of the world’s heads of state convened in Washington to address one of the most important issues of our time – the threat posed by nuclear weapons and unsecured nuclear material. These nations left the first ever Nuclear Security Summit having agreed to measurable steps to secure these materials and prevent them from being exploited by terrorists and state proliferators. 

Twelve months later early results from the summit are in and American leadership is producing significant progress in the global battle against the spread of nuclear materials.

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The consequence of a dirty bomb attack

This past week New York conducted a major emergency preparedness exercise to practice its emergency ability to detect and response to a radiological dispersion device (or “dirty bomb”). We cannot know the likelihood that Al Qaeda or related groups might acquire such a weapon, but the evidence that they possess both the desire and the capacity is compelling enough that authorities have chosen to invest scarce resources to prepare. 

We can only speculate about the consequences of a radiological attack, but the ongoing Japanese reactor crisis in Fukushima offers some insights into how an incident might unfold. After all, a “dirty bomb” is designed to release damaging radioactive materials—precisely what has happenedis feared at Fukushima. 

The first lesson we might draw is that when radiation is involved, uncertainty reigns. Expert assessments of the risks from the reactors and spent fuel ponds at Fukushima vary widely, but the fact is that it is extraordinarily difficult to pinpoint the short-term and long-term consequences. Twenty five years after Chernobyl, the effects of that disaster remain hotly contested.

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Stewards of democracy’s arsenal

On March 21, the United States entered its third “unexpected” war in less than a decade. President Obama announced that, while the U.S. would initially take the lead role in the Libyan operation, we would quickly turn over operations to other powers.

Still, the White House acknowledged that the operation could not have gotten off the ground without American military might. Only our armed forces could do the heavy lifting—grounding Gaddafi’s air force and turning back land assaults on the rebels. This hard fact should serve as a reality check for any impulse to gut the Pentagon budget, regardless of where you stand on the appropriateness of this particular mission.

Recently my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation undertook an important exercise. The Heritage team identified, one after another, all the vital national security interests of the United States. These are the military missions where failure is not an option and “soft power” (diplomacy or what have you) can’t substitute military force in controlling ground, air, sea, cyberspace, and outer space. They considered five different regions: Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the American homeland, and space. Then they identified the military assets required to support our vital interests in each domain—and the assets on hand.

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Why we can’t cut corners with nuclear security

Nuclear terrorism remains one of the most severe threats to American safety today. Poorly stored nuclear material is inadequately warehoused across the globe, and continues to accumulate. And we in the security community take extremists like Osama Bin Laden seriously when they say that they consider it a religious duty to obtain nuclear weapons and use them on the United States and our allies.

This is why it is so disturbing that, in their budget for 2011, House Republicans have proposed cutting funding for critical anti-terror nonproliferation programs by more than $600 million. Fortunately, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) can play an important role in reversing these reckless cuts.

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Ending student visa program abuse

Many foreign students come to the United States with noble intentions of receiving a world-class education. Unfortunately, terrorists have taken to exploiting our nation’s well-intentioned student visa process to gain access into our country.

This is why I have introduced the Student Visa Security Improvement Act (HR 1211), which will improve the background checks conducted on student visa applicants from high-risk areas and enhance America’s ability to ensure that foreign students are abiding by the terms of their visas once in the United States.

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Preventing terrorism starts at home

Before the July 2005 London bombings, a perception existed in the U.K. that Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists were an external evil: people with whom we had no connection. That perception was shattered when we learned that the London bombers were born – and had lived their lives – in Britain. Sadly, this is an experience which our countries now share.

The London bombings demonstrated that governments cannot solely rely on their intelligence agencies and the police to identify and disrupt attacks. They brought home the need for Prevent – the U.K.’s strategy to stop people becoming terrorists in the first place. 

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