Rushville Republican

May 8, 2013

Messer: Have we learned the lessons of 9/11?

US Rep. Luke Messer
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — September 11 was a devastating wake up call for every American. The events of that terrible day taught us that we are at war with violent Islamist extremists. If we let them, these jihadists are committed to exploiting our generosity and legal protections to further their murderous mania. The 9/11 Commission which investigated that tragedy concluded warning signs were everywhere, noting that “the system was blinking red.”

Recent attacks in Boston and Benghazi are a reminder that the War on Terror is not over. We must be vigilant in investigating these attacks to ensure we don’t repeat past mistakes and ignore warning signs with deadly consequences.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee just released a report revealing the deadly attack on our embassy in Benghazi may have been possible to prevent. The report found systemic flaws in the Administration’s approach to securing U.S. interests and personnel around the world. It concluded that officials failed to properly anticipate and plan for threats based on available intelligence. The report also found that reductions in security levels were approved at the highest levels of the State Department and senior Administration officials altered accurate talking points to fit the Administration’s flawed narrative of events.

While facts are still unfolding, it is already clear that there were missed opportunities to stop the Boston bombing as well. The FBI was alerted about one of the suspects but ultimately failed to share or follow-up on his activities. The brothers subscribed to an Islamic extremist magazine and regularly espoused radical Islamic views, praising jihad, even using extremist social media sites for that purpose. They were both naturalized citizens, which fits the evolving nature of terrorism where individuals already in the country are becoming radicalized and carrying out less coordinated and smaller scale killings. Given this information, one would hope federal homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies could have pieced the puzzle together, but they did not.

Make no mistake about it. America’s security has made major strides since 9/11. We are safer now than we were before that terrible tragedy. Moreover, federal officials working on our national security have a very difficult job. There is no way to guarantee that the government can prevent those committed to killing Americans from carrying out their evil. But we must stay vigilant, and we cannot bury our heads in the sand in hopes that those who hate us won’t try to hurt us.

The attacks in Boston and Benghazi are a reminder that we can and must do more to bolster our homeland defenses. Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies must better coordinate and share information with each other to connect the dots before the enemy attacks. Actionable intelligence must be taken seriously, even if it undermines the company line that America’s charm offensive is winning the hearts and minds of those who may never like us. Enemy combatants need to be treated as such. Foreign terrorists should be tried in military tribunals, not in courtrooms on American soil. Immigration screenings must prioritize security above all else.

Simply put, we must remain committed to winning the War on Terror. There have been dozens of disrupted terrorist plots on U.S. soil since 9/11. We must learn the lessons necessary to make sure that trend continues.