When hijacked jetliners flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and plummeted into a pasture in Pennsylvania 11 years ago, it exposed our Intelligence Community’s failure to use its imagination and connect the dots in determining threats to the United States. Today, I am concerned about how much progress we have made.
As an example, this Friday I will chair a Homeland Security oversight hearing on the failure to share information and connect the dots before the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. Both the Army and the FBI were aware of Major Hasan’s opposition to the war in Afghanistan. The FBI knew he was in contact with al Qaeda leader Anwar Awlaki. But nothing was done.
I recognize the success our military, the FBI, our Intelligence Community and law enforcement have had since the 9/11 attacks, especially in light of the very difficult work of determining which leads need to be closed and which need to be further investigated. These successes should be recognized by the American people. However, failed plots such as the underwear bomber who tried to blow up a jet on approach to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and the car bomb in Times Square, failed because of the incompetence of the attacker and a vigilant public, not because of intelligence or law enforcement efforts.
Today’s terrorist threats are more tactically and geographically diverse than a decade ago. They emanate from the Middle East, from within our borders, and from Latin America, where Iran and Hezbollah have dramatically increased their presence and influence. These operatives that send millions of dollars a month to Hezbollah to fund its terrorist operations have the ability to turn operational. Their relationship with Mexican drug cartels combined with controlled smuggling routes across the U.S.-Mexico border accentuate this threat, especially as tensions mount between Iran, Israel and the United States.
Americais safer than it was 11 years ago, and terrorists who once plotted against us are no longer here. Our challenge is to remain vigilant even in times of tranquility, and for our men and women charged with detecting and thwarting a terrorist strike to adapt to the ever changing landscape.
The victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks remain in our thoughts and prayers. May God bless their families and may God bless the United States of America.