By Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) - 05/20/10 10:46 PM EDT
In the last year, three serious terrorist attempts—one of which was successful—have occurred in the U.S.
Army Major Nadal Hasan went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 14 innocent Americans and wounding 30 others. Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a plane headed for Detroit with explosives hidden under his clothes. His attack was thwarted by a poorly made bomb and alert passengers. And Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized citizen, parked a car loaded with explosives in New York City’s Times Square. This attack was stymied by his ineptness and alert pedestrians.
But 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. So what is the Obama administration doing to help keep Americans safe?
One thing they’re not doing is acknowledging the role radical Islam plays in motivating terrorism. During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to recognize the link between radical Islam and the terrorist plots of the last six months.
But we know that the same radical cleric (Anwar al-Awlaki) who communicated with two of the 9-11 hijackers, was in contact with both Major Hasan and Abdulmutallab. And according to news reports, the Times Square bomber told investigators he was inspired by the cleric.
Radical Islam poses the single greatest threat to America today—it motivated the hijackers on September 11 and it drives many of the terrorist threats currently facing America. If the Attorney General of the United States doesn’t know who we’re fighting, how can he expect to win?
The Attorney General’s comments are more than just a desire to be politically correct; they’re indicative of this Administration’s weak counterterrorism efforts. As Commander-in-Chief, the President is responsible for protecting the American people. Unfortunately, several of this Administration’s policies have put Americans at greater risk.
First, the President’s campaign promise to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay has not reduced the threat of terrorism. In fact, those transferred to other countries can be and are released. And former Gitmo detainees often return to terrorism.
Second, trying Gitmo terrorists in civilian courts is a dangerous proposal that has no legal precedent. Once in the U.S., terrorists can argue for additional constitutional rights, making it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions.
Third, 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.
Attorney General Holder recently said that he now wants to work with Congress to limit terrorists’ Miranda rights. That’s surprising since it is this Administration that has insisted on extending constitutional rights to terrorists in the first place. If the Administration treated terrorists like enemy combatants and tried them in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, they wouldn’t need to be read a Miranda warning.
Fourth, the Obama administration’s opposition to REAL ID weakens national security. The administration wants to repeal the law, which was enacted after 9-11 to prevent terrorists from obtaining legitimate forms of identification. This would give terrorists cover to plot and carry out attacks inside the United States.
And fifth, the Administration’s push for amnesty for illegal immigrants makes America less safe. The arrest of the Times Square bomber—a recently naturalized citizen—is another reason why we must reject proposals to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
If we can’t detect a potential terrorist who submits himself to our security process—as Shahzad did—how can we identify other potential terrorists who will apply for amnesty? Amnesty could legalize many would-be terrorists who are already in the U.S. and give them cover to plot attacks against innocent Americans.
It makes no sense to deny the link between immigration enforcement and national security. If we want to prevent attacks, we need to keep terrorists from getting visas and stop them from coming to the U.S. and obtaining citizenship. That means enforcing our immigration laws.
If we don’t enforce our immigration laws, terrorists are not “slipping through the cracks” … they’re walking through the front door.
Success in the War on Terror means preventing attacks, not just responding to attempts. The goal is to detect and deter, not just make arrests after the bomb is set.
But to achieve this goal, we need to improve our intelligence-gathering by interrogating terrorists—not reading them Miranda warnings.
We need to end the failed policy of releasing terrorists overseas.
And we need to prevent terrorists from using our immigration system to enter or stay in the U.S.
Smith is the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee