A few weeks back, Osama Bin Laden emitted his latest address to
the faithful, promising to "open new fronts" in his war against the
West. While it is not clear what he meant, it is equally baffling
trying to figure out what Washington is doing to thwart him and
other enemies of America.
From Capitol Hill, the signals on security are just plain bad.
Congressional leaders still refuse to consolidate oversight of the
Homeland Security Department in a single committee -- even though
the 9/11 Commission identified it as a necessary and critical
reform. Worse, it's becoming questionable as to whether the
committees charged with security responsibilities take their roles
Take the House Homeland Security Committee. Three high-powered
veteran Democrats -- Reps. Edward J. Markey (Mass.), Nita M. Lowey
(N.Y.) and James Langevin (R.I.) -- just bailed. In fact, Speaker
Nancy Pelosi has installed eight new Democrats on the committee ...
and six are freshmen.
The committee's agenda doesn't look promising either. This
year's draft "oversight plan" -- detailing the focus of committee
hearings and legislative action -- omits topics such as the Coast
Guard, the Secret Service, and "gaining operational control of the
Seeing the committee drop border security from its radar screen
is particularly disturbing. Border violence is skyrocketing,
primarily due to cartels and gangs smuggling drugs, people, money,
and guns. These enterprises are so lucrative, they're not even
asking for a government bailout. A "so what" attitude from Congress
The Executive Branch response has been odd as well.
Other than pledging to close Guantanamo Bay, the White House has
said little about how it plans to stop extremists trying to kill
us. The operative mantra seems to be "We'll study the problem."
Currently, they are "studying" what to do with the Guantanamo
Bay detainees, including conducting a 30-day review to see if Gitmo
is compliant with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
Nothing wrong with that, except Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon
England got a report on that in 2006. Why not just read the
President Obama also wants a "study" of cyber-security issues.
Last week, he appointed Melissa Hathaway to conduct a 60-day review
of national cyber efforts. Hathaway is a logical choice. She's been
at this issue a long time, even spearheading President Bush's $6
billion National Cyber-security Initiative. So why does she need
two months to study the problem?
Cyber-security is a worldwide problem and should be a top-tier
national concern. Last week the French grounded their fighter
planes because a Microsoft virus wouldn't let the pilots download
their fight plans. Action, not analysis should be the order of the
Meanwhile, over at the Department of Homeland Security, it's
more study. Secretary Janet Napolitano is on a fact-finding tour,
learning about disaster response. She's stopping off in Kentucky
(ice storms); Iowa (floods), and Kansas (a tornado in 2007). As for
Immigration and workplace enforcement? That's right, more study.
The secretary just appointed a special adviser on Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Detention and Removal.
No one's saying the White House should rush to do something
earth-shattering on the security front. But a clear sign to
America's enemies that the new Administration takes homeland
security seriously would be most welcome.
Where to begin? First, how about publicly pressuring Congress to
reform homeland security oversight? Second, squash ideas that the
Homeland Security Department is a congressional play-thing.
Security grant-making should not be turned into a pork fest and
taking agencies like FEMA out of the department is a terrible
In troubled times the world becomes less safe, not more. The
9/11 attacks came at a time when America was at its
height--respected and feared throughout the world. Enemies bold
enough to attack then will hardly be less determined to attack
The administration must start sending out very strong messages
that there are no time outs in the terror war.
Carafano is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation
and the author of GI Ingenuity: Improvisation, Technology and
Winning World War II.