Republicans: War on terror is not over

Jul 10, 2013 Issues: Counterterrorism

Global terrorist networks continue to pose a grave threat to the security of the United States, and any attempt by the United States to revert to a pre-9/11 security posture would be "very dangerous," Republicans warned Thursday, seemingly criticizing the Obama administration's stated desire to end the global war on terror and pull America back from its "perpetual wartime footing."

Despite the recent spate of attacks planned by individuals and small groups, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, large terrorist syndicates like al Qaeda remain a deadly force. "The thought that we've conquered them would be exceedingly unrealistic and very, very dangerous," he said. "We have by no means conquered well organized Islamic terrorist groups."

"Whether we recognize that we are at war with them is almost completely irrelevant, because they are at war with us," Giuliani continued, saying we should not "fool ourselves into a very, very dangerous state of denial."

"Rarely a day goes by I'm not asked by someone, 'Are we safer today than we were before 9/11?" he said.

"The answer has never been a clear yes or no," he explained, saying that while we've improved our security with regard to attacks by air, we are now much more vulnerable to an attack by individuals or smaller groups.

Giuliani's remarks, voiced during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing about the lessons learned from recent domestic terror attacks, including the Boston Marathon bombing, were affirmed at the top of the hearing by the committee's chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who criticized the administration for seeking a return to a "pre-9/11 approach" to counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering.

"The rhetoric perpetrated by administration that threat of al Qaeda is diminishing and that its franchises are less dangerous is not the reality the United States faces today," McCaul warned.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, parried the charge from Republicans that the Obama administration was downplaying the threat posed by global terrorist networks, arguing that the "lone wolf" nature of recent terror attacks proves "we've successfully disrupted" the larger networks.

Terrorists have "shifted their methods," Thompson argued, and the United States must respond accordingly.

In his opening statement, McCaul also knocked the FBI for declining to testify before the committee, saying the refusal to appear was emblematic of the agency's failure to share information prior to the Boston bombings.

"When agencies fail to share critical information about terrorists, they fail to see the full picture. We still do not know if the FBI was alerted to [deceased Boston bombing suspect] Tamerlan [Tsarnaev]'s travel overseas but we do know that no action was taken after the fact," he said, arguing that that same failure to share information "is being witnessed now in this very room."

Noting that the remaining Boston bombing suspect, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, arrives in court Wednesday to answer for his alleged crimes, McCaul said the events in Boston "serve as an assessment of our counterterrorism efforts over a decade after 9/11."

Our "great challenge," he said, "remains in connecting the dots."

Giuliani pointed out that the government must not allow "political correctness" to prevent it from clearly identifying the threat posed by Islamic extremism.

"You can't fight an enemy you don't acknowledge," he said, arguing that authorities might have had a chance to stop the Boston bombings if America's counterterrorism bureaucracy was more focused on Islamic extremists.

On the other side of Capitol Hill on Wednesday, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on a similar topic, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis suggested that the Justice Department needs to share information more quickly.

"There is a gap with information sharing at a higher level while there are still opportunities to intervene in the planning of these terrorist events," Davis said.