Faced with terrorist threats both at home and abroad, keeping America safe is my number one priority as a member of Congress. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I am working to ensure that the federal government has the resources to protect our nation from those who wish to do us harm, while eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.
THE NEED TO STAY VIGILANT
Cargo Plane Bomb Plot
On October 29, 2010, two packages containing explosive material and detonators were found on cargo planes bound from Yemen to the United States. Due to the swift action of the intelligence community, cooperating with international authorities, the threat was contained with none of the bombs exploded. Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based wing has claimed responsibility for the foiled plot.
Times Square Car Bombing Attempt
On May 1, 2010, bystanders alerted the New York Police Department (NYPD) of a smoking vehicle parked in crowded Times Square. The vehicle was packed with explosives, but fortunately a faulty connection meant that it did not explode. Authorities quickly arrested Faisal Shahzad, a 31-year Pakistani-American, and charged him with several terrorism-related crimes. On October 5, Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in a New York City court. Officials continue to investigate Shahzad's connections to international terrorist groups such as the Pakistani Taliban.
Fort Hood Shooting
On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire at the Fort Hood military installation in Killeen, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30. To date, official investigations surrounding the incident have not led to any concrete connections between Nidal Malik Hasan and terrorist groups.
The Christmas Day Bomber
On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national with extensive ties to Al-Qaeda, attempted to ignite an explosive device as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approached Detroit. Alert passengers subdued the would-be bomber, but only after his detonator failed to ignite the high explosive he had smuggled onto the plane. In other words, sheer luck saved the lives of nearly 300 people on the plane and countless others who might have been caught in path of falling debris. Abdulmutallab was subsequently detained, and he is awaiting civilian prosecution in Detroit, Michigan.
These threats portray the very real threat that terrorists pose to the United States both at home and abroad. Moving forward, Congress must aid in the swift identification of threats and streamline cooperation among the various agencies charged with keeping our nation safe. First and foremost, our nation's intelligence agencies must do a better job of sharing information on potential terrorist threats in real-time. We must work to enhance communication among the contributors, users, and administrators of our nation's early warning and intelligence systems, like the terrorist watch and no-fly lists. Our security officials must be empowered to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen, especially when we have already collected information sufficient to identify the threat.
FISCAL YEAR 2011 HOMELAND SECURITY BUDGET REQUEST
The President's FY2011 budget requested $43.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an increase of about 10.5% over FY2010. Among several provisions, the request includes $200 million for terrorist trials in civilian courts and $950 million for Federal Air Marshals. It also reduces funding for deployment of virtual fencing along our nation's southern border, decreases U.S. Coast Guard end strength by 1,100 people, and reduces the Border Patrol by about 180 agents.
The President's FY2011 DHS budget request represents yet another double-digit spending increase at a time of record deficits and considerable economic uncertainty. While I fully support efforts to keep our homeland safe and secure, I am concerned with the Obama Administration's overall commitment to massive spending increases.
Transferring Terrorists to the Homeland
The U.S. has maintained an active naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 1903. While the base has served many functions over the years, it has become known recently for the on-base detention center which holds unlawful enemy combatants captured during the ongoing War on Terrorism. Since January 11, 2002, over 800 unlawful enemy combatants have been held at Guantanamo Bay, and approximately 170 are currently detained there.
On January 22, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order mandating a review of U.S. detainee policy, along with the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year of the date of the order. Two years later, we are still awaiting details on how the Administration intends to handle the detention and prosecution of the enemy combatants currently incarcerated there. The United States should move as quickly as possible in processing the remaining detainees under the Military Commissions Act.
I oppose transporting them from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, which the President proposed. This unnecessary proposal creates more problems than it solves. At the very least, states and localities must have a say in this decision. For this reason, I cosponsored H.R. 2294, the Keep Terrorists out of America Act. This bill would prohibit the President from transferring or releasing any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay into the United States unless he has the prior approval of the relevant State governor and legislature. I believe such explicit approval is critical to ensure that states are not only aware of the threats that detainees pose, but also that residents are given the opportunity to decide if taking on detainees is in their best interest. Whatever the outcome of the President's review of U.S. detainee policy, I sincerely hope that the President and the Department of Justice will reconsider this misguided strategy to transfer detained terrorists to the Midwest.
Civilian Trials for Terrorists
On November 11, 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he intended to try accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City. I believe this disastrous policy sends a clear message to our enemy: If you declare war on America, and kill Americans on American soil, you will have more rights and civil protections than if you attack Americans soldiers on battlefields overseas. These terrorists are no better than the suicide bombers attacking civilians in Baghdad, and they should not receive any additional rights for waging their jihad on the U.S. homeland instead of overseas. As the Administration continues to debate whether to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military court or a civilian court, I will continue to monitor the situation closely and work to ensure that terrorists are not tried on U.S. soil.
We must not forget that we are a nation at war. Careful vigilance must be exercised in our defense of freedom and democracy as we face difficult challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on other fronts in the War on Terrorism. Putting aside the myriad of legal complications and security challenges, it is unclear what operational advantage trying terrorists in civilian courts or transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. homeland would provide in the War on Terrorism. In fact, many argue these actions would actually empower terrorists by giving them a forum in which to publicly air their grievances or provide them increased criminal rights if moved to the Federal prison system.
I believe these terrorists are war criminals, and they should be tried and processed according to the constitutional military tribunal process set up specifically for this purpose.
Terrorism Must Not Become a Law Enforcement Issue
From the recent cargo plane bomb plot, to the recent debates over detainee issues, it is clear that al-Qaeda and its radical Islamist allies remain committed to finding new and sophisticated ways to attack our homeland. As terrorists plan new and creative attacks, we must be careful not to weaken our response to these threats in order to appease some perceived international consensus. I firmly believe that protecting the American people should be the highest priority of the federal government, and I have grave concerns with the President's apparent insistence on treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue.
We must not forget that we are a nation at war. Careful vigilance must be exercised in our defense of freedom and democracy as we face difficult challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on other fronts in the War on Terrorism. Rest assured that as Congress continues debating the future of these issues, I will not lose sight of the effect these substantial policy changes will have on our homeland security.