This week several House committee chairmen wrote to President Obama criticizing the decision to bring accused Somali terrorist Ahmed Warsame to New York to be tried in a federal court. Legal and military experts dispute the core claims of the letter. Its complaints come as Congress debates radical provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act which would give this and future presidents fewer options, not more, to use against terrorism suspects. They represent an odd choice for politicking, as the administration’s approach to the Warsame case and counterterrorism more broadly have drawn strong support from editorial boards and public opinion.
Today's House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee hearings on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community's Response" were a flop. "The hearings produced political theater for Chairman King, but failed to produce new substance in policy or oversight to make our nation safer," said National Security Network's Executive Director Heather Hurlburt. "Indeed, what the witnesses had to say reinforced the strength of partnership between American Muslims and law enforcement, and underlined that an effective approach to counterterrorism does not isolate a community based on its faith."
As Representative Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, prepares to hold hearings on Muslim Americans and their cooperation with law enforcement in combating extremism, it's time to set the record straight: counterterrorism and law enforcement experts agree that King's facts are wrong and his approach will damage our security and even more important, our national unity. The real story is how Muslim-Americans are building and securing our society as neighbors, business owners, first responders, FBI investigators and members of our armed forces. Targeting an entire group - as these hearings do - is bad for America's people, its values and its security.
As the holiday season approaches so does an increased concern over terrorism and security. As we saw yesterday with the disruption of a plot in Baltimore and a similar instance last month in Portland, the challenge of terrorism remains. To address this challenge, a comprehensive strategic approach that combines vigilance at home with effective partnerships abroad, along with a commitment to our values, is necessary. However, some politicians have chosen to promote divisive and harmful demagoguery that instead only hurts America's interests. As American counterterrorism and law enforcement officials work tirelessly to protect America's security, it is important to remember that the American people have an important role to play in remaining resilient and to reject this fear mongering. By refusing to succumb to the paralysis of fear, American resilience will continue to be central to preventing terrorist plots - either carried out or disrupted - from becoming truly successful.
As news continues to come in on the explosive-laden packages found emanating from Yemen in the last 24 hours, counterterrorism experts agree on several points: Intelligence and law enforcement officials are working effectively, and coordinating successfully with overseas allies, to keep Americans safe. The very purpose of terrorism is to instill fear and over-reaction. As we gain a clearer picture of what happened, we can remember that resilience and vigilance, while refusing to succumb to fear, deprives terrorists of a victory.
Today, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chairman and co-chairman of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, spoke with a panel of terrorism and homeland security experts, about the status of terrorism nine years after the tragic 9/11 attacks. The conveners of the event, the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group, are also releasing a report by Peter Bergen and Bruce Hoffman, two of the world's foremost experts on terrorism and al Qaeda. The report outlines the changing nature of al Qaeda's strategy from large scale 9/11-style attacks to a more "diversified" approach that seeks to overwhelm its adversaries with small-scale attacks and cause overreaction from America both at home and abroad.
This week, with news about China's growing economic and military strength and the Iraq War coming to a symbolic end, the American political debate focused on one issue: the "Ground Zero Mosque." This debate has resulted in inflammatory and extreme rhetoric from the far right that many have rightfully called "Islam-bashing." This hate-filled rhetoric has been answered by moderate and principled conservatives - including Grover Norquist, Kathleen Parker and Joe Scarborough - who all came to the defense of American values and ideals. National security experts spoke out this week with another message: anti-Islamic rhetoric is not only against American values but against our security interests. From helping extremist groups recruit, to pushing away our most important allies, to hurting America's image, phrases like "unhelpful to the American fighting men and women," "like offering your opponent two or three whips with which to beat you," and "may contribute to the next homegrown terrorist attack" underscore the depth of their concern.
The Obama administration is taking unprecedented action to protect America and its allies from the dual threats of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The United States is the only country capable of forging international consensus for taking on these threats, and by reasserting American leadership on these critical issues, the Administration has demonstrated that it can mobilize global actors to confront global threats. The Administration's comprehensive actions have broad support from across the political spectrum, have generated tangible positive outcomes, and have set the stage for future progress on securing our country from the prospect of nuclear terrorism.
A troubling trend has emerged in American politics: conservatives in congress, conservative presidential candidates, and the conservative punditry have staked out radical positions that continually oppose the Pentagon's efforts to keep America safe. On major issue after major issue confronting the military and our nation's security, conservatives have time and again attacked the military's advice in order to both obstruct progress and score political points against the Obama administration. This politicking, which is often based on factual distortions, has pitted the conservative movement against the very institutions that safeguard our freedom and security. As NSN Senior Advisor Major General Paul D. Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.), recently wrote: "No one is safe it seems" from these pundits.
Two separate attacks took place in Northwest Pakistan this morning, including one against the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar. Following an attack on a political ceremony held in Lower Dir, militants, believed to be members of the Pakistani Taliban, assaulted the consulate with bombs and rocket launchers. While there were no reported U.S. casualties, a local police official reported that four militants and three Pakistani security personnel had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attacks, reportedly claiming that they were in reprisal for the wave of drone strikes conducted on militants operating along the country's border with Afghanistan. These attacks reaffirm the importance of the Obama administration's engagement policy towards Pakistan.