A year ago, the President made a promise on his first day in office – to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Like many of the President’s promises, this is another one he has failed to keep – though, in this case, I am thankful for the lack of follow through.
There is no question in my mind that there are terrorists around the world that wish to do America and her citizens harm. We have seen this both here at home and abroad, most recently with the attempted attacks on Christmas Day over Detroit. However, the President and his Administration seem to be lacking a fundamental understanding of the gravity of these threats – hence, their proclamation to close GITMO with no concrete plan in place or their decision to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to New York City for trial.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama's executive order to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within his first year in office. We are fortunate that the President did not meet that goal, but he has repeatedly stated that his Administration remains committed to importing the remaining terrorists held at Gitmo to the United States for trial or detention - including to the suburbs of Chicago, downtown New York City, and potentially even the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
Over the last few months, the Administration has signaled that it will not only bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators to New York City for trial in civilian federal court - rather than continuing their military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay - but it is also proposing to house Guantanamo terrorists at a prison in Illinois. The American people are adamantly opposed to this plan, and rightly so. Are Democrats listening?
Instead of addressing the concerns of the American people, the Administration has engaged in ad-hoc attacks that belittle the seriousness of the threat we face. When I said that the President's decision to set up a "Gitmo North" at the Thomson Correctional Center outside Chicago was emblematic of a "pre 9/11 mentality," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came unhinged, calling my comments "crazy" - even though an overwhelming majority of the American people disagree with the President's decision to bring these terrorists to U.S. soil.
As Washington struggles to understand the intelligence and airport
security failures behind the Christmas Day terrorist attack that almost
destroyed a civilian airliner over Detroit, there is an issue that no
one is talking about: the failure of the Obama administration to
respond aggressively after the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting.
striking link between the two attacks is that Army Major Nidal Hassan,
the Fort Hood shooter, and Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab both had contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic
cleric. It appears that both of them reached out to Awlaki or his
associates. Awlaki has talked publicly about his communications with
Hasan. Abdulmutallab was in direct contact with jihadis and may have
been in contact with Awlaki personally.
U.S. intelligence and
law enforcement agencies have long been aware of Awalaki’s efforts to
radicalize Muslims worldwide. Awlaki, a Yemeni-American citizen who
has lived in Yemen since 2004, has ties to al-Qaeda and is an “e-imam”
who uses the Internet, Facebook, CDs and videos to spread his call for
Muslims to commit violent jihad against the United States. Two of the
9/11 hijackers attended his mosque in Virginia. Awlaki also influenced
the men who planned to attack Fort Dix in 2007 and the Toronto-18 group
that was arrested in 2006 for planning to attack the Canadian
parliament and assassinate Canada’s prime minister.
I am not surprised or reassured by
the President’s comments. They are what I expected. I do applaud the hard work
of our country’s national security personnel who in spite of our nation’s
foreign policy have been able thwart a number of terrorist plots. I was in New
York on September 11, 2001, so I am familiar with the fear and horror of that
day. There were many days when I passed under the World Trade Center to go
to work, so I or someone I care about could have been killed. I know terrorism
is a real threat.
However, no number of homeland counter terrorism measures can stop the creation
of operatives ready to carry out acts of terror. That can only be done by
asking ourselves as a nation some hard questions and having the guts to answer
them honestly. If we take a close and honest look at our foreign policy we will
see that some of our past actions have driven many to distrust us and allowed
those who believe violence is a means to create change and or assume power to
gain a following and create al Qaeda. Today the occupation in Iraq and
Afghanistan push more and more people into the arms of al Qaeda. This is our
greatest national security failure. These wars that kill, maim and demoralize
innocent people plant seeds of hate for America and al Qaeda is willing and
ready to act as a means to carry out strike us. A prime example is the 10
civilians reported killed last Saturday during a raid. The details are not
clear, but it appears that 8 of those killed are children. Some reports
claim the children were pulled from their beds and executed.
We all know that a large part of politics is perception. So whether or not the
specifics of Saturdays event are true or not, many Afghans are angry and
protesting the killing. The Unite Kingdom internet news outlet, Times Online
reports, “In Jalalabad, protesters set alight a US flag and an effigy of
President Obama after chanting ‘Death to Obama’ and ‘Death to foreign forces’.
In Kabul, protesters held up banners showing photographs of dead children
alongside placards demanding ‘Foreign troops leave Afghanistan’ and ‘Stop
It is clear that Saturday's killings have done more to undermine U.S. national
security than any steps the President or his advisors can take to strengthen
it. To be safe and secure, we must stop terrorist plots and killing innocent
people who have no quarrels with the US. Our wars of occupation are creating more
enemies across the globe than we have the ability to track. Eventually someone
will get through and then what. I hope we do not find out. Let’s change before
I think that the President's
assumption of responsibility was the only course for him and his follow-up with
reasonable correctives should give the American people confidence that this
matter is being handled effectively. But in a little noticed aspect of the
speech, ee also repositioned the country not to fight a "war on
terror" as a general proposition that has connotations of fighting against
certain peoples in the Middle East, but against specific political target -- Al
Qaeda. This is an important difference, one that allows him to continue
to attempt to construct a positive relationship with Islamic peoples and their
countries and isolate those who pose a danger to the United States.
Christopher Preble, director of Foreign Policy
Studies at The Cato Institute, said:
The president hit the right notes
in his speech. The failed attack shined a light on particular vulnerabilities,
and the president was right to outline some concrete measures intended to
prevent a repeat of that incident. Equally important, he stressed the
importance of resilience, and of not allowing terrorists to terrorize.
Effective counterterrorism depends on precisely this type of timely and direct
communications to terrorism’s intended victims.
The final piece of the puzzle, one barely alluded to in yesterday’s speech, is
greater scrutiny of our various counterterrorism efforts. The Christmas Day plot
was foiled by the would-be attacker's own incompetence, and the alert actions
of several passengers -- the same factors that halted shoe bomber Richard Reid
in December 2001, and al Qaeda's plan to crash United Flight 93 into a
Washington, DC, landmark on 9/11. In other words, much of the hundreds of
billions of dollars spent on counterterrorism since 9/11 appear to have been
largely irrelevant in stopping this particular attack. The White House and
Congress must investigate and explain what systems work and what systems don't.
To be sure, some of this spending has enabled the country to score important
successes against al Qaeda over the past eight years, successes that the near
miss on Christmas Day should not erase. A strategic approach to fighting terrorism
involves more than simply stopping particular terrorist attacks. It includes
disrupting a terrorist group's ability to organize future attacks, and to
recruit and train new members. And it must be based on an assessment of costs
and benefits. The incident provides an opportunity to revisit all that we are
doing, not simply an excuse to do more of the same.
PeterNavarro, professor of Economics and Public
Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:
The biggest intelligence failure is
that of the president to see that the “rule of law” won’t beat Al Queda.
We need to play more by their rules like the Israelis do with their terrorists.
In his remarks, President Obama
paraphrased Harry’s Truman’s famous phrase, “The buck stops here.” This is less
than reassuring to many of us, although partisans probably like it. He is “less
interested in passing out blame ...” and he himself is taking full
responsibility, he says. This shows a less-than-resolute approach. And the “I
take full responsibility,” posture is hackneyed. This once suggested an aura of
nobility and character, but was last used in that way in 1996 when Japanese
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hasimoto said, “I take full responsibility. I resign.”
We have generally left off that last part since the Clinton administration,
which used this all the time to shift blame. What this expression means now is
that Obama will take responsibility (but will not resign) and so the
incompetent party patronage which was in fact responsible — Janet Napolitano,
and the others — will be getting off the hook. The Obama anti-terror efforts
dearly need a new face in the front office: Colin Powell’s, perhaps. Or Wesley Clark’s.
AlanAbramowitz, professor of Political Science at
I thought that it was a very strong
statement and I expect that the reaction of the American people will be
overwhelmingly positive. The president made it clear that it is his
responsibility to make sure that the problems made evident by the Christmas Day
bombing attempt are corrected. I thought that his statement that "we are
at war" was a very sharp rebuke to those who have tried to criticize his
handling of this issue and the overall war on terror. But the proof of the
pudding will be in the results. Another such failure, especially if it results
in a loss of American lives, could be much more damaging to the president's
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said:
It's good to have a White House that
seriously pursues terrorists, instead of fighting wars which divert resources
from fighting terrorists.
Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa
Sounds like every other
Monday-morning quarterback I've ever heard, including the fact that he has
learned very little about the subject. Amateurs always complain that
intelligence is not shared widely enough, because they have no experience that
drives home to them that wide intelligence-sharing means sharing with the enemy.
Some intelligence is so fragile that it should not be shared. We protected the
signal intelligence that helped us survive World War II precisely by sharing it
with very few people.
I was also reminded by Obama's speech that I have chaired many committees on a
variety of subjects, and often began by telling the committee members that all
recommendations are welcome, with one exception. A recommendation, after the
fact, that the people working every day on the subject at hand be somehow
smarter than they really are, is not welcome, and is useless. That was the
theme of The Caine Mutiny, and Herman Wouk had it dead right.
Justin Raimondo, editorial director of AntiWar.com, said
President Obama’s statement underscores
the tragedy of our endless “war on terrorism,” both the impossibility of
victory and the price we pay in pursuing such an insubstantial goal.
The first part, wherein he descried
the failure to “connect the dots,” dramatizes the predicament we find ourselves
in – and the reason for our ongoing failure. The problem is one of having to
calculate such a large number of factors, both known and unknowable, that no
mortal being, or collection of such beings, could possibly pull it off. There
are too many dots to connect.
Americans, with their worship of all
things technological, are convinced that advanced computer technology can do
the dot-connecting for them, but the old geekish adage, “garbage in, garbage
out,” applies here in spades. The assumptions and limited knowledge of the
those who do in inputting inevitably introduce flaws into the system – in this
case, the person who entered the Christmas bomber’s name into the
terrorist-watch database didn’t spell his name correctly, and, indeed, I’ve seen
at least two different spellings used by news organizations. Can anyone outside
of a very narrow realm of specialized knowledge know for certain?
The highly centralized model of
intelligence-gathering –and- analysis is worse than useless against the fluid,
decentralized methodology of al-Qaeda, which relies on self-contained localized
cells to carry out operations autonomously. Yet US government officials are
unable to recognize their own limitations precisely because they are so
thoroughly and deeply embedded in a system founded on the assumption that an
all-knowing central authority can properly direct not only a worldwide
counter-intelligence operation against a dispersed enemy, but also that his
same central authority can intelligently direct the economic life of the
nation, from deciding how much to “stimulate” it in one area, and rein it in
with regulation in another. The centralizers must confront the knowledge
problem, as pointed to by the “Austrian” economists (Ludwig von Mises, and his
disciples such as the Nobel-winning Friedrich von Hayek) – but the big problem
is that they don’t even know they have a problem in this regard.
The second part of the President’s
statement – that we must not sacrifice our civil liberties in pursuit of
security – I can agree with completely, while feeling obligated to point out
that the tension between these two principles – security and liberty – is
created and heightened by our clueless foreign policy. Echoing Truman, that old
cold warrior, Obama acknowledged that “the buck stops here.” “I take
responsibility,” he said – but responsibility for what? For the fact that a
low-level data entry clerk somewhere in the bowels of the State Department
failed to spell the Panty-bomber’s name correctly? Well, no – but for what,
then, is he responsible?
I would say he’s responsible for one
factor he failed to mention in his statement, and that is our foreign policy of
global intervention: specifically, the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and
the continuing assault on Pakistan. Al-Qaeda has no trouble recruiting suicide
bombers to hurl themselves at our defenses for the simple reason that we are
seen as occupiers and would-be conquerors of Muslim lands. “Blowback” from our
actions abroad fuels the worldwide Islamic insurgency led by al-Qaeda, and only
by changing our foreign policy – not creating a kinder, gentler, more
“multilateral” form of imperialism, but by reversing the ultra-interventionism
that has characterized our foreign policy since the end of the cold war.
Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals
offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.
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:
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
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.
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.
By Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.)
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.
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.