The Terrorist Network in America 1991-2005
This page provides an overview of my position on the Global War on Terrorism and provides links to resources related to it. Many Americans may be particularly surprised about the number of and geographic distribution of terrorist cells known to be operating in the United States. I welcome your comments and appreciate your interest.
Global War on Terrorism:
Protecting the security of our nation is one of the most important responsibilities of our government. On September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorists committed an act of war against the United States by killing thousands of innocent civilians. This attack was intended not only to take American lives but to attack our way of life.
Although radicals are a minority within the larger Islamic community, these men and women kill without regard for human decency. They will accept only those who adopt their form of religious doctrine and they are committed to ending the positive influence of western values, including the universal value of freedom.
Terrorist leaders have also made clear their intent to attack the on a massive scale. Many plots have been foiled since the 9/11 attacks, some of which remain classified due to ongoing efforts to locate conspirators.
At this time, our government is engaged in a comprehensive effort to protect the homeland and defeat terrorism. While the debate in Congress has largely focused on the war in Iraq, a significant battleground against terrorists, our nation must not lose sight of the reality that the danger we face is broader than the borders of the Middle East. In recognition of this, we are using all instruments of national power, as are many of our allies, to hunt down terrorists around the world.
We have been fortunate, thanks to aggressive action at home and abroad, to have had no terrorist attacks within our boarders since 9/11. However, this should not provide us a false sense of security. The independent 9/11 Commission warned against complacency and one of the key lessons we have learned is that the best way to limit terrorism on our shores is aggressive preemptive action.
The war on terrorism is indeed a military conflict. It is not merely a matter of law enforcement. Those who wish to de-emphasize this fact do so at great risk of emboldening the enemy. Victory against Islamic extremism will occur through the sustained efforts of a global coalition. While our efforts will not always involve large-scale military confrontations, such as those underway in Iraq and Afganistan, our efforts must always recognize the reality of the brutal threats we face.
For more information, please see "al-Qaeda: The Many Faces of an Islamist Extremist Threat." This unclassified document was prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
There are a number of important reforms to our national security and law enforcement systems that have helped to safeguard the against attack. Some of these reforms have raised concerns from privacy rights activists. I am sympathetic to these concerns and support prudent Congressional oversight with respect to the entire spectrum of homeland security initiatives, many of which remain classified to prevent terrorists from adapting their methods. However, I oppose the efforts of some in Congress to transform our national security debate into a political game of gotcha.
The Patriot Act
With the passage of the USA Patriot Act, Congress established new criminal investigation standards, reformed foreign intelligence gathering laws, and made a variety of changes to our criminal justice and immigration systems. These laws resulted from Congressional review and independent analysis of the nation's national security infrastructure, which detected profound flaws in the country's ability to defend against terrorism. Since that time, Congress has worked to develop appropriate changes to our national laws, which were originally crafted to protect Americans against conventional foreign threats, such as those posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
These reforms are essential to the security of this country and were the beginning of an enhanced federal law enforcement emphasis on detecting and preventing terrorist attacks against our homeland. Unfortunately, there has been a concerted effort by certain activist groups to undermine the USA Patriot Act. This has included a misinformation campaign, largely advanced by internet sites and email chains. While I am sensitive to concerns about privacy rights, I have seen no evidence that the underlying law is seriously flawed. Indeed, the USA Patriot Act has been highly successful in protecting our nation from attack.
I encourage anyone interested in the Patriot Act to visit the Department of Justice online at http://www.lifeandliberty.gov.
Terrorist Surveillance Program (National Security Agency)
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has governed our foreign surveillance capabilities since 1978, and it has never required our Intelligence Community to get pre-approval to spy on terrorists overseas. I stand with the majority of the American people in my support for the National Security Agency's (NSA) efforts to monitor the communications of terrorists overseas and their supporters in the United States. This program is essential to our national security.
Congressional leadership of both parties, including the appropriate oversight committees, have been aware of this classified NSA program since it was initially established. I find it highly unfortunate that political opportunism and misinformation have clouded our discussion of the NSA's efforts to protect our country. It was irresponsible and highly illegal for anyone to have leaked this information to the media and I believe that every possible action should be taken to prosecute those who have damaged our nation's national security.
The Protect America Act, legislation necessary to conduct surveillance against terrorists, expired in February. Prior to the law's expiration, Admiral Mike McConnell (Director of National Intelligence) warned Congress that Americans would be placed in danger if the Protect America Act were not extended.
Admiral McConnell said "Expiration would lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on to discover the locations, intentions and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad. Some critical operations, including our ability to adjust to dynamic terrorist threats that exploit new methods of communication, which sometimes requires assistance from private parties, would probably become impossible. And the difficulties we face in obtaining this essential help from private parties would worsen significantly if the act expires or is merely extended without addressing this issue. Without long-term legislation that includes liability protection, we will be delayed in gathering -- or may simply miss -- intelligence needed to protect the nation."
Despite overwhelming evidence and warnings from our nation's law enforcement and national security officials, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leaders have refused to pass the necessary legislation to protect our nation from terrorist attacks.
Instead, House Democrats are pushing their own bill that requires prior court approval to gather foreign intelligence from foreign targets located overseas. These foreign terrorists do not have the right to any court review of such surveillance under our Constitution, but Democratic leaders want to give it to them.
Not only does the Democratic leadership's latest flawed bill leave the door wide-open to endless lawsuits against firms who helped our government after 9/11, but the scope of the legislation is so enormous that it would allow a "suit in Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the Intelligence Community."