Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.: We are very pleased that
Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) could join us today to talk about
Congress's important role in our nation's security, specifically in
enabling intelligence officers to do their job.
Intelligence is, after all, our first line of defense.
Democratic leaders in Congress let Americans down by letting the
Protect America Act expire and leaving town as they did. With their
access to intelligence, they know better than we do the danger
Our enemies may be out of sight, but they are not "Missing in
Action." They are exploiting every kind of technology there is to
wage their war against America and our liberties. We only need
revisit the 9/11 Report to see how vulnerable we made ourselves by
making it hard for law enforcement and the intelligence
community to share information.
Since September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush and Congress
have worked hard to remedy that problem. We may not agree with all
the recommendations in the 9/11 Report, but one of its points
is key: We must be able to listen in on enemy chatter around the
world to find out what they are planning to do. The Protect America
Act took good steps in that area, and not reauthorizing it has put
us at great risk.
Few people can talk about this as knowledgeably as our guest
today. Representative Peter Hoekstra is the Ranking Member of the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Previously, he
served as its Chairman. He is one of the nation's staunchest
defenders of the need to give the government and the U.S. military
the right tools to fight and win the War on Terrorism.
He has also been one of our key allies on a number of issues
since coming to Congress in 1993 to represent Michigan. As Senior
Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, he has sought
to correct flaws in the No Child Left Behind Act. He also is a
member of the Republican Study Committee, the Immigration Reform
Caucus, the Congressional Coast Guard Caucus, and the Values Action
Team, and he is the founding chairman of the Education Freedom
Today, we are fortunate that he is focusing on reforming and
reauthorizing our intelligence laws. Ladies and Gentlemen, please
help me welcome our good friend, Congressman Pete Hoekstra.
Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D., is Vice
President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, and Director, The
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies
at The Heritage Foundation.
The Honorable Peter Hoekstra: I am going to talk about
three things this morning: first, the continuing threat facing our
nation from radical jihadists and from terrorists; second, the
urgency that we give our intelligence agencies effective tools to
combat this threat; and third, how the Democrats are
weakening these tools and the chilling effect their actions
are having on the U.S. intelligence community.
While smoke and dust was still billowing from the ruins of the
World Trade Center in the agonizing days following the 9/11
terrorist attacks, President Bush huddled with his national
security team to discuss what needed to be done to protect our
nation from another catastrophic attack. The President's advisors
told him the tools and methods U.S. intelligence agencies
needed to track and combat radical jihadist groups like
The United States continues to employ tough anti-terrorist
programs because the radical jihadist threat did not end with the
9/11 attacks. One only has to listen to the statements by Osama bin
Ladin and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, to understand the seriousness
of this threat, its global implications, and the determination of
radical jihadists to strike the American homeland.
A Declaration of War
Osama bin Laden declared war against the United States with
little fanfare in 1996 when he issued a "fatwa" titled "Declaration
of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy
Places." He acted on this so-called declaration of war with
al-Qaeda attacks against the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000.
Bin Laden claims parallels between the American presence in
Iraq and the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. For example, according
to a strategy document posted on a jihadist Web site in 2003, "With
guerilla warfare the Americans were defeated in Vietnam and the
Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan. This is the method that
expelled the direct Crusader colonialism from most of the
The purpose of al-Qaeda's terrorist campaign is supposedly to
establish Osama bin Laden's brand of radical Islam over what he
claims is "the Caliphate," a region that in bin Laden's mind
constitutes historical "Muslim lands" extending from Morocco
to Indonesia. He said in 1998 that "the pious caliphate will start
from Afghanistan." Zawahiri made a similar statement in an
October 2005 letter when he wrote "[T]he goal in this age is the
establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet." In
2006, Zawahiri said, "The reinstatement of Islamic rule...is the
individual duty of every Muslim...with every land occupied by
The Left has asserted the radical jihadist threat in Iraq is
very limited or unreal, and that the U.S. should withdraw to focus
on the "real" War on Terrorism, which some of them claim is
confined to Afghanistan. Nothing could be further from the
In 2004, Osama bin Laden said, "Baghdad is 'the capital of the
Caliphate.'" In July 2005, Ayman Zawahiri gave this detailed
four-stage plan for Iraq in a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the
now-deceased head of al-Qaeda in Iraq:
The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.
The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or
emirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level
of a caliphate--over as much territory as you can to spread its
power in Iraq....
The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries
The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the
clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge
any new Islamic entity.
We have seen the world over that the threat from radical
jihadists is a global threat. It also is a sophisticated
threat that has spread its message, recruited followers, and
planned terrorist attacks using the Internet, satellite television,
and even computer games. Al-Qaeda activity has been reported in
dozens of countries, including China, Canada, Sweden, India,
the Philippines, Thailand, Yemen, and Serbia.
Radical jihadists are affecting Europe's rapidly growing Muslim
population and have led to "home grown" Islamist terrorists. Europe
is also threatened by a more subtle threat from radical Islamists
who hope to conquer European states from the inside by setting up
parallel Islamic legal systems and cultures in the belief that they
will be in the majority in many European countries in the next
25-50 years. The Dutch intelligence service has published some
excellent papers in English on how this phenomenon is
occurring in the Netherlands.
An Ongoing War
The threat of homegrown and radical jihadist terrorism is why we
need to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and
continue aggressive anti-terrorism programs. Radical jihadist
suicide bombers killed 202 people and injured 209 in the Indonesian
resort city of Bali on October 12, 2002. The Madrid train
bombings killed 191 people and left more than 2,000 injured on
March 11, 2004. The London subway and bus bombing killed 56 people
and injured 700 on July 7, 2005.
Although America has not been subjected to an attack by radical
jihadists since 2001, this has not been for a lack of trying. The
Heritage Foundation's James Carafano wrote an excellent paper last
November that lists 19 attempted terrorist attacks against the
United States and U.S. citizens since 2001. These include:
- An attempt by Richard Reid to detonate a shoe bomb on board an
American Airlines flight flying from Paris to Miami in
December 2001. A grand jury indictment of Reid found he had trained
in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
- The May 2002 arrest of Jose Padilla for planning to
detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States.
- A plot to place a bomb in the New York subway system during the
2004 Republican National Convention.
- An August 2006 plot by "home grown" U.K. jihadists to blow up
10 civilian airliners flying from London to the United States.
- A June 2006 plot to blow up a jet fuel artery that runs through
residential neighborhoods near New York's JFK Airport.
Democrats refuse to see or hear the continuing threat from
radical jihadists. Even more troubling, Democrats refuse to
recognize that tough anti-terrorist tools employed since 2001
have protected this country from terrorist attacks. Instead,
Democrats have distorted anti-terrorist programs as threats to the
American people rather than tools that our intelligence
agencies are using to protect us from threats of radical jihadist
terrorism. Instead of helping to strengthen anti-terrorism tools,
Democrats have established a clear pattern of trying to undermine
and erode them.
Democratic Distortions About
Let me discuss the tools we are using to fight radical
jihadists and other terrorists and the status of these tools.
Aggressive electronic surveillance of foreign terrorist
suspects has played a critical role in tracking al-Qaeda terrorist
activities and preventing terrorist attacks. Democrats have
undermined this effort by refusing to fix the FISA problem and by
demagoguing electronic surveillance of foreign terrorist
suspects as "domestic spying" and "warrantless wiretaps" in an
effort to rally the American people against the Bush
It didn't matter that Democrats and the news media could not
produce evidence that even one American citizen's rights had been
violated by this effort. It also didn't matter that senior
Democrats in the House and Senate had been regularly briefed
on--and never objected to--aggressive electronic surveillance of
terrorist suspects since this effort began in October 2001.
The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program is a program U.S.
intelligence agencies have effectively used to track terrorist
activities by "following the money." When this program was leaked
to the media in mid-2006, Democrats--without evidence--asserted the
Bush Administration had abused power to spy on Americans' personal
finances. Most Democrats voted against a June 2006 House
Resolution condemning this leak. While the New York
Times ombudsman later admitted this story shouldn't have been
published in the first place, Democrats never took back these
outrageous and untrue assertions.
Democrats have also taken steps to interfere with the
interrogation, investigation, and prosecution of terrorist
- Democrats have tried to weaken U.S. efforts to obtain
information on terrorist plots by foreign terrorist suspects by
trying to accord them U.S. constitutional protections such as
habeas corpus--protections radical jihadists want to do away with
and replace with medieval Sharia law.
- Democrats have pressed to "legitimize" al-Qaeda terrorists by
giving them the same rights as "lawful combatants" under the Geneva
Convention-- even though terrorist suspects do not meet the
criteria laid out by the Convention and certainly do not obey
the law of war themselves.
- For the last several months, House and Senate Democrats have
been pushing for a criminal investigation of the 2005 destruction
of CIA videotapes of interrogations of radical jihadist terrorists.
The House Intelligence Committee investigation of this issue has
consumed enormous amounts of staff time with little apparent
result and has been so poorly run that it may interfere with a
separate Justice Department investigation. However, the main
consequence of the Democratic investigation will be to scare
intelligence officers from taking difficult jobs in the fight
against al-Qaeda, and avoid taking risks that could result in
meritless congressional investigations.
As President Bush has been trying to focus the country on the
threat from radical jihadists, Senate and House Democrats
demonstrated they had a different focus when they mandated in
the 2008 Intelligence Authorization that U.S. intelligence
agencies craft an intelligence assessment of climate change. Before
the President's Day recess, the House Intelligence Committee
sent staff to the CIA to see how it is analyzing the environment.
Given the Democratic leadership's lack of focus on the threat from
radical jihadists, is it really a surprise they are pressing the
CIA to study global warming?
Recent Terrorist Plots
While the Democrats press for intelligence studies of "bugs
and bunnies," radical jihadist activity continues around the globe.
Just over the last few weeks the press has reported on these new
radical jihadist threats:
- Last week, Moroccan officials arrested 32 members of an
al-Qaeda-linked group who allegedly planned to assassinate Moroccan
- Hezbollah may retaliate against Israel, according to press
reports, over a massive car bomb on February 12 that killed Imad
Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah terrorist who was reportedly behind
radical jihadist terrorism since the 1970s, including the 1983
bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.
- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah earlier this month raised the
prospect of war with Israel declaring, "Zionists, if you want this
kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be
- The reputed leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq posted on a jihadi Web
site a call for war with Israel and for jihadists to use Iraq as a
launching pad to seize Jerusalem.
- In Denmark, three jihadists were arrested in a plot to murder a
cartoonist for drawing editorial cartoons years ago that they found
- In the Philippines, jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda are said
to be plotting the assassination of the Philippine president and
bombing Western embassies.
Despite these recent developments, House Democrat leaders
decided to go on vacation this month instead of updating the FISA
to close a loophole that is inhibiting U.S. intelligence agencies
from conducting electronic surveillance of foreign
Lawsuits and Lies
FISA requires court orders for monitoring electronic
communications that pass through the United States, even if
the surveillance targets foreign persons in foreign countries. That
made sense when the law was enacted in 1978 because it was clear
where phone calls started and ended.
Today, due to technological advances and the Internet, it is
possible that a cell phone call between two terrorists in Pakistan
could pass through the United States and require a time-consuming
FISA court order for U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor that
call. The press has reported at least one case where the lives of
U.S. soldiers in Iraq may have been placed at risk due to the
paperwork and lawyering required to ensure that all of the
legally required elements were met before obtaining a FISA order to
monitor foreign terrorist communications.
Democrats have never understood the necessity, the complexity,
or the urgency of these critical issues. They have responded by
again putting politics ahead of national security. They have
accused the Bush Administration of spying on Americans,
"fearmongering," and "hyping" the threat from radical jihadist
In addition, allegations that some American companies, for
patriotic reasons, may have helped U.S. intelligence agencies
monitor terrorist communications have led to the reward of an
estimated $40 billion in lawsuits.
Yesterday, four senior congressional Democrats published an
op-ed in the Washington Post raising the fearmongering
charge and asserting that there was no hurry to update FISA since
authorities provided under the now-expired Protect America Act
will allow the U.S. government to continue to monitor known
foreign terrorists without court orders or other bureaucratic
obstacles for up to a year.
This op-ed does not comport with the facts of this serious issue
for two reasons:
- First, it is extremely misleading to assert U.S. intelligence
agencies can rely on the authorities of the now-expired Protect
America Act because those authorities will not cover many potential
threats, especially new ones.
- Second, the expiration of the Protect America Act has returned
us to a broken and outdated system in which targeting foreigners in
foreign countries to detect and prevent potential attacks requires
burdensome paperwork, government lawyers, and court orders. This
bureaucracy costs precious time--time that could mean stopping a
terrorist plot or saving the life of an American soldier. FISA must
be modernized, permanently and immediately.
I have to admit I was puzzled by yesterday's Washington
Post op-ed since one of its authors, Democratic Senator
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, was the sponsor of the bipartisan Senate FISA bill that
overwhelmingly passed the Senate Intelligence Committee by a
vote of 13-2 and the Senate by a vote of 68-29. Senator
Rockefeller agreed with me as late as February 14 of this year that
a consequence of Congress not acting before the Protect America Act
expired would be "degraded" intelligence collection capability.
Fear the Fearmongerers
"Fearmongering" is when someone invents or exaggerates a threat.
Based on ongoing radical jihadist threats worldwide and pleas
from Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, an
intelligence professional who headed the National
Security Agency for President Clinton, this charge hardly fits
the Bush Administration or congressional Republicans--or the
significant number of House and Senate Democrats who support the
bipartisan Senate bill to fix FISA.
I submit the fearmongering charge fits those politicians
who are falsely telling the American people that U.S. intelligence
agencies are spying on their phone calls. It is fearmongering that
portrays our intelligence professionals as a greater threat than
al-Qaeda. America's intelligence professionals are tired of the
unending harsh criticism from congressional Democrats for doing the
best they can to protect our homeland. Shame on the Democrats for
fearmongering at the expense of the reputation of these good
men and women, our friends and neighbors!
Because of Democrat fearmongering, our soldiers may have to go
to a court for permission to exploit battlefield intelligence. Can
you imagine General Eisenhower having to go to court for permission
to spy on the Germans in advance of D-Day on the off-chance an
American may be on the shores of Normandy? Yet Democrats want to
force Admiral McConnell to go to court for permission to spy
on al-Qaeda. We shouldn't need a court order to spy on al-Qaeda,
and we shouldn't need one to save our soldiers.
I should add that since the Senate passed its bipartisan
legislation to fix FISA on February 12, 2008, over 200 people have
been killed in radical jihadist terrorist attacks.
- More than 100 people were killed by a suicide bomber in
Afghanistan at a dog fighting match on February 18. Thirty-eight
more died the next day when a suicide bomber attacked a Canadian
- In Pakistan, a suicide car bombing killed 40 on February 17 at
an election rally. Suicide bombers killed 52 Shiite pilgrims
in Iraq on February 24 and four on February 25.
The effectiveness of our anti-terrorism tools is eroding. We
have already lost the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
Telecommunications companies are fearful of helping the U.S.
government monitor terrorists when they are facing meritless,
crippling lawsuits and unending attacks and investigations by
congressional Democrats--even though these companies have done
nothing other than agree to help their country in programs ratified
by the same Democrat leadership that is now harassing them.
Many U.S. intelligence officers working against potential
terrorists are so afraid of being bankrupted by legal costs
associated with lawsuits or unwarranted congressional
investigations that they have been forced to take out professional
liability insurance. You can be sure that the Democrat assault on
anti-terrorist programs has contributed to the already serious
problem of risk aversion by U.S intelligence agencies. This is the
last thing we need when facing such a serious threat to our
The Legislation We Need
Congress is now back from its 12-day recess and must get to work
by putting partisan politics aside and promoting legislation that
protects our nation. We must pass national security legislation
that helps do the following:
- Commit to identify, contain, and ultimately defeat radical
jihadists--the real threat America faces;
- Give our intelligence community the tools it needs to be
effective in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks;
- Stop attacking and prosecuting intelligence professionals and
U.S. companies for trying to prevent these attacks. Our goal needs
to be preventing attacks, not prosecuting those trying to keep
Obviously, the first thing that needs to be done this week is
for the House to pass the bipartisan Senate FISA bill without
delay. With 21 House Democrats pledging to support this bill,
there is no excuse to not bring this legislation to the floor as
soon as possible. Time is of the essence and it should be spent
protecting the American people--not trial lawyers. Congress needs
to vote on the Senate bill today.
We need a more fundamental change in Congress toward
national security. The threats to our nation from radical jihadists
are real and continuing. When elected officials try to exploit
anti-terrorist programs for political gain, they are weakening
the safety net that is, and has kept, our nation safe. It is time
to stop demonizing congressional Republicans and the U.S.
intelligence community for trying to protect our nation from a
clear and present danger. It is time to stop demagoguing
anti-terrorist programs to appease the American Civil Liberties
Union, liberal bloggers, and trial lawyers.
It is time for House Democrats to see and hear the threats
facing our nation and to start honoring their most important
responsibility as elected officials--to protect the American
people from harm.