Washington, Jan 15 – By Iowa Congressman Tom Latham
Iowa’s 4th Congressional District
The only person for whom the “system worked” surrounding the Christmas Day bombing attempt on Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit was the perpetrator, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Rather than facing detention and questioning by military officials as an enemy combatant for the terrorist attack he was attempting, Abdulmutallab has been afforded the same rights that a U.S. citizen would receive when accused of a crime on American soil. He has a lawyer. He has the right to remain silent. He has leverage.
Abdulmutallab did not act as an isolated extremist, as new information has made clear in the weeks following the failed attack. He had connections with established terrorist networks, offering him access to insight and information that could be of great importance to our national security. Now, the United States will have to strike a deal with him and his lawyers to gain information that has the potential to save American lives and prevent future attacks.
The United States should never be forced to grant a plea bargain to a terrorist who attempted to kill hundreds of innocent civilians. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a war criminal, and he should not be treated as an ordinary defendant in a criminal court. Rather, he should be detained and tried by the military.
The plot to destroy the plane and everyone aboard has exposed major shortcomings in the efforts to protect our country from terrorist activity. The failed attack has inspired a chorus of politicians, critics and pundits to take to the airwaves to lay blame and make demands. But bold rhetoric doesn’t save lives and shore up national security. Only bold, clear and decisive action can do that.
We ask much of the U.S. intelligence community, and I have the utmost respect for the critical work they do. This failed attack only highlights the need for the constant evaluation and improvement of our national security and intelligence gathering practices. Simply put, we can’t allow these terrorist operations to make it through airport security checkpoints, much less off the runway. The fact that Abdulmutallab came so close to carrying out his attack indicates that the administration has not made fighting the war on terrorism a high enough priority. Decisions to try Adbulmutallab and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in criminal courts and single-mindedly pushing for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay while bringing some of those detainees onto American soil further reinforce the viewpoint that the administration is out of step on national security.
This is not a test the United States can afford to fail. We’ve seen proof that gaps remain in our airport and national security practices. With Congress returning to Capitol Hill for the 2010 legislative session, it must be our top priority to learn exactly what happened and fill those gaps. American lives and security depend on it.
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