Senator John ThuneOn Christmas Eve, the U.S. Senate voted on and passed a health care bill that would fundamentally restructure one-sixth of our entire economy while raising taxes and increasing the cost of health insurance. On Christmas Day, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist attempted to blow up an airline flight carrying 258 passengers and crew bound for Detroit. The contrast of these two events, just one day apart, is a necessary reminder of the importance of our national security interests. Congress and the Obama Administration must remember that if we fail to address national security concerns, the debate over health care, and everything else, becomes academic.
The foiled Christmas Day attack is a good reminder that even though the terrorists have not succeeded in carrying out a large-scale attack on the United States in the years since 9-11, the threat of another terrorist attack has never gone away. In fact, the Christmas Day attack was the third jihadist motivated attack on our soil in 2009. The others were the Fort Hood shootings in November and the shooting of two American soldiers outside a military recruiting office in Arkansas last June. Our armed forces, intelligence services, and domestic law enforcement agencies have worked hard throughout the last several years, and the security we have enjoyed in that time is a testament to their dedication. However, when incidents like what happened Christmas Day occur, we must examine what went wrong.
Recently, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to learn more about what worked and what didn’t work on the Christmas Day flight. At that hearing, I mentioned in my opening statement that following the incident, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “The system worked.” I think nothing could be further from the truth. The suspected terrorist who tried to blow up that flight had raised many red flags, but our intelligence network failed to connect many important details that should have prevented him from boarding a flight into the United States. His own father even went so far as to notify American officials that he believed his son to be a threat. Clearly, he was dangerous, and should never been allowed on that flight. Thankfully, alert passengers were able to help stave off disaster.
One of President Obama’s first actions upon taking office a year ago was signing an executive order mandating the closing of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He said that he intended to close the facility in one year. Thankfully, at least in my eyes, he has failed to live up to this pledge. The prisoners at Guantanamo are hardened terrorists who pose a great danger to the United States. Bringing them into the U.S. would endanger the areas where they are kept, particularly if a judge were to order their release. Guantanamo is as good of a location for keeping terrorists as we are likely to get, and I believe closing it would amount to putting politics ahead of national security in the worst possible way.
Meaningful health care reform and curbing government spending and debt are important for our nation’s future, but keeping the American people safe from outside threats must be the government’s top priority. The foiled attack on Christmas Day is an important and timely reminder that there are still many dangerous people in the world that want to harm our country. Congress and the White House must work together in a way that puts security above politics.