U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-07), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, today held a hearing about the threat to the United States emanating from Pakistan.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Meehan:
Opening Statement of Chairman Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
House Committee on Homeland Security
"Threat to the U.S. Homeland Emanating from Pakistan"
May 3, 2011
I'd like to welcome everyone to today's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearing.
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses on the ongoing danger emanating from Pakistan to the United States and the intent and capability of the various terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan to strike the U.S. Homeland.
Today's Hearing and Historic Events
Today's hearing is the third hearing this subcommittee has held that is aimed at educating Members about the myriad terrorist threats to the homeland from various parts of the world. So far, we have heard from experts on the threat posed by AQAP in Yemen and the ramifications of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa on U.S. Counterterrorism efforts.
Today's hearing comes at a historic moment in the global war on terrorism. In the last 48 hours--at the direction of President Obama and as a result of the incredible work of the U.S. military, intelligence community, and law enforcement, al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces deep inside of Pakistan.
This is a critical blow to al Qaeda and the ideology of militant Islam. It is a victory for the United States and our allies around the world. As President Obama stated, the world is a safer, more secure place as a result of bin Laden's death. I commend President Obama and his national security team for the planning, execution of this mission, and for taking the enormous risk to eliminate bin Laden. The Nation is grateful for his leadership. We are also deeply grateful to the men who carried out the mission; their dedication, professionalism, and sacrifice exemplify the best of our fighting forces.
Today's hearing was originally aimed at delving deeper into the various terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan and their intent and capability to strike the U.S. homeland. We will still conduct that important examination.
However, in light of events in the last 72 hours, we will try to make sense of the important questions in the wake of bin Laden's killing, including the extent to which Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in the fight against terrorism.
I would like to highlight the fact that Pakistan has provided enormous assistance in the last decade in the fight against al-Qaeda, including critical intelligence and military operations. In fact, they have been a critical ally to the West for decades. They have lost thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians in the fight against Islamic militancy. They have also been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan by a large margin. Their efforts should be commended and the United States must continue to foster the US-Pakistani relationship. We must make the relationship work.
Threat Increase, Vigilance, and Continued Patience
Despite bin Laden's killing, the fact is the threat from al Qaeda and affiliate groups remains as dangerous as it did last Friday. In fact, CIA Director Panetta warned yesterday "terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him and we must remain vigilant and resolute." If anything, the threat is even more dangerous in the days and weeks ahead after his demise.
This was most obvious last May when a Pakistani born U.S. citizen named Faisal Shahzad drove an SUV into Times Square in an attempt to kill hundreds of people. Shahzad had travelled to Pakistan and received training from TTP and indicated at his sentencing hearing his attack was retribution for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Retribution has been a driver of attacks in the past and we must be on guard.
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses on the myriad of terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and their intent and capability to strike the homeland.
These amorphous and continually evolving groups present huge challenges for the United States and it is critical that we--as Members of Congress--do everything we can to completely understand the threat, especially in light of bin Laden's killing and its ramifications.
Nevertheless, certain facts are as clear as they are disturbing. Osama bin Laden was the world's most wanted terrorist.
He was discovered, not in the caves of Tora Bora, nor in Saudi Arabia, or Yemen, or even Iran, as Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik suggested as a possibility to visiting Members of Congress in 2009. He was discovered in a mansion/fortress prominent for its size as well as its location, in Abbottabad, a well populated city just a short way from Pakistan's Military Academy.
The President's Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan stated today that Osama bin Laden lived in that compound for SIX years.
In John Brennan's words, "It is inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in that country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time."
Members of Congress have a responsibility to also ask: What kind of "support system" or "benefactors" could have enabled bin Laden to maintain his safe haven?
What should Pakistan officials have known about such a support system and who should have known it?
How is it that a mansion complex with 18-foot walls and barbed wire capping can avoid the scrutiny of investigative, military, and government officials who make it their business to know what is going on around them? Why did Pakistani officials not investigate?
At a time of tremendous fiscal challenge here at home, the United States is asking its citizens to support the expenditure of billions of dollars of military and foreign aid to Pakistan.
Before I turn to the Ranking Member, I would like to make one important point about Osama bin Laden's killing:
I am heartened to know that the last thing bin Laden saw before death was an American soldier bearing down on him with an American flag on his shoulder. That he reportedly died using a woman as a human shield is an image that cements the true nature of his character, and such cowardice will be a part of his legacy.
Bin Laden's demise will not diminish the pain and loss for the families of the victims of September 11, nor will it significantly diminish the threat of terrorism that emanates from a complex region, but it closes a chapter and fulfills our nation's promise that with respect to bin Laden, we would not rest until justice is served.
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses.