Why We Are Safer
By: Congressman Lamar Smith
Each day on my way to work I pass the Pentagon. On September 11, 2001, as I passed the Pentagon on my right, I saw thick black smoke rising in the air. When I stopped at the entrance to the Rayburn House Office Building, where my office is located, a Capitol Police Officer told me of the terrorist attack.
In the decades before that terrible day, the terrorists conducted a series of bolder attacks in the Middle East and elsewhere. They became convinced that free nations were weak, and would never offer a sustained and serious response. Now they now know otherwise.
Our nation has successfully prevented another massive terrorist attack and is dismantling the international terrorist network because President Bush and Congress took action immediately. There are numerous reasons why we are a safer and more secure country. Five, in particular, stand out. They are:
1) The capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The 9-11 "mastermind" and self-proclaimed head of al-Qaeda's military committee, Mohammed has been in U.S. custody for 18 months. He has been linked to the kidnap and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002, the 2002 suicide bomb attack on a Tunisian synagogue that killed 21 and a plot to assassinate the Pope during his 1995 visit to the Philippines.
An intelligence report obtained by Newsweek magazine said Mohammed had "directed operatives to target bridges, gas stations, and power plants in a number of locations, including New York City." According to other news accounts, Mohammed has given U.S. interrogators the names and descriptions of a dozen key al-Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks on American and other Western interests.
2) The liberation of Afghanistan . Three years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al-Qaida - a country ruled by the Taliban, one of the most backward and brutal regimes of modern history. Today, a presidential election is scheduled for this fall, the terror camps are closed and the Afghan government helps us hunt down the Taliban and terrorists in remote regions. Today, because we acted to liberate Afghanistan, a threat has been removed, and the American people are safer.
3) The liberation of Iraq . Three years ago, Saddam Hussein was a sworn enemy of America who provided a safe haven for terrorists and had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. Today, he is behind bars, his murderous sons are dead and Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors. Last year the Defense Department issued a list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis. Forty-five have been captured or killed.
4) Muammar Qaddafi Paid Attention to Iraq and Afghanistan. Only five days after U.S. forces captured Hussein, President Bush announced that Qaddafi, Libya's dictator since 1969, agreed to disclose and remove all nuclear weapons in his country. He also agreed to immediately and unconditionally allow inspectors from international organizations to enter Libya. Today, thousands of Libya's munitions have been destroyed and equipment to produce nuclear materials that could ultimately have threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands is stored in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
5) The Patriot Act . The FBI and other law enforcement officials have used the tools of the Patriot Act to protect America's families and communities. It removes "the wall" between law enforcement and the intelligence community, which made it virtually impossible for them to share information before September 11, 2001. The removal of "the wall" helped to destroy terror cells in Portland, Oregon; Lackawanna, New York; and Northern Virginia. Our law enforcement and intelligence teams have never before been so integrated, coordinated, and technologically-equipped to target the 21st Century threat of global terror.