Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee's hearing titled "Understand the Homeland Threat Landscape" featured Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter.
As was outlined in yesterday's hearing, effective and vigilant counterterrorism operations have brought a great deal of pain to al Qaeda as an organization. As a result, the terrorist threat has diversified. Administration officials and outside experts agree we are more likely to see amateurish and small-scale attacks - such as the failed Underwear Bomber or the failed Times Square Bomber. America's law enforcement and intelligence communities have proven highly capable at combating this threat. The media has been focused on Secretary Napolitano's statement that, "in some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since those [9/11] attacks." This analysis needs to be put in its full context. Deterring our enemies and preventing attacks demands vigilance abroad and resilience at home - from the American government and people.
Tomorrow, the House Homeland Security Committee will hear testimony from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter on "Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape - Considerations for the 112th Congress." Recent months and years have brought progress on combating terrorism: from terrorists captured or killed abroad, to plots disrupted at home, to terrorists brought to justice. Counterterrorism experts point to several areas where there is room for improvement, such as the need to close Guantanamo Bay. Another area that counterterrorism experts agree that the United States needs to improve on is its resilience in the face of threat. Fear and overreaction are the very purpose of terrorism. Not falling into this trap not only deprives enemies of a victory, but also serves as a deterrent. Practical and productive approaches to combating terrorism will serve us better than hysterics and overreaction.
As the Homeland Security Committee schedules hearings assessing threats to the U.S., its chairman, Peter King (R-NY), is also said to be planning hearings narrowly focused on Muslim Americans - an unprecedented move to single out a religious group of Americans for public scrutiny. Instead, now is the time for a sober and fact-based assessment of the real threats. Counterterrorism experts and the chairmen of the 9-11 Commission continue to stress that law enforcement most effectively identifies terrorists based on actions, not ethnicity - and that American unity across religious and ethnic lines is one of the central underpinnings of our security. Meanwhile, the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a nonpartisan research institute, released a study documenting that such instances are actually on the decline and the ways that Muslim-American communities are playing a significant positive role in our security. Muslim Americans - just as so many communities in the United States - are a vital part of the American fabric, helping keep America strong.
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.
The past two years have demonstrated that a principled, pragmatic and progressive approach to national security keeps America safe and strengthens America's power. A consensus national security experts, centrists and progressives has brought progress on core security issues; fruitful engagement that rebuilds alliances and isolates foes; and renewed energy for the diplomatic, economic, social and moral aspects of our national power. The challenges ahead: maintaining a U.S. approach to the world that is resilient, balanced, competitive - and engaged with the toughest global challenges - are severe. In addressing these challenges, political polarization and 20th-century thinking will fail us.
The National Security Network welcomes the sentencing of Ahmed Ghailani, the former Guantanamo Bay camp detainee who was tried in the civilian court system and sentenced to life in prison without parole today for his role in the 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in East Africa.
Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote, "a strong economy is the basis of both a vibrant democracy at home and U.S. military might abroad." President Obama is said to be preparing a five-pillar strategy for competitiveness and economic growth to be presented at tomorrow night's State of the Union address. American power abroad and security at home are seamlessly intertwined with these pillars: Innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction, and government reform. The strength of our economy and the vibrancy of our national life are the foundations of our global power - and non-partisan security experts join domestic policy leaders in calling for progress in all five areas.