When President George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, he was already behind the power curve when it came to the war on terror. As the 9/11 Commission confirmed, the United States was not on a wartime footing with Al Qaeda even though they were at war with us. While our country took its peace dividend, our enemies continued to train, plot, test us, and plan.
International terrorism took the forefront as Bin Laden began his war against freedom. Afghanistan was used as a training ground for terrorists and the Taliban regime allowed Al Qaeda unfettered mobility.
They took advantage of this in major attacks. On February 26, 1993, a car bomb was planted in the underground parking garage below the World Trade Center, foreshadowing the 9/11 attacks. On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers were bombed by Hezbollah, with intelligence pointing to support by Al Qaeda. American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. On August 7, 1998, there were simultaneous bombings at the US embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. On October 12, 2000 suicide bombers used a boat to attack the USS Cole while it was moored in Yemen.
The US response was at best inconsistent. Operation Infinite Reach included cruise missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan, but there was no real change. This inadequate response has been cited as a factor in emboldening Al Qaeda’s will to undertake more ambitious plans. In Operation Restore Hope, we became entangled in Somalia. After the battle of Mogadishu, President Clinton directed U.S. forces to stop all actions against Aidid except those required for self-defense. We withdrew from the country shortly thereafter.
We also failed to remain vigilant of the Chinese. Security at our national labs was deliberately destroyed. We did away with color coded security badges so workers didn’t feel discriminated against. In 1995, we discovered that China had stolen our W-88 warhead plans. This was the crown jewel of our nuclear program, capable of attaching ten nuclear missiles to a single warhead.
U.S. companies, such as Bernard Schwartz of Loral Space and Communications, were given the green light to improve the precision and reliability of China’s satellites and nuclear missiles. This special waiver from the President undermined 50 years of technology-export restrictions, and strengthened China’s missile program. China also gained the capability to accurately reaching the continental U.S. with nuclear missiles and targeted between 13 and 18 US cities. All of this occurred while President Clinton proclaimed, “not one missile is pointed at American children.”
Simultaneously, WMD proliferation throughout the world reached an unprecedented level. The Chinese government learned that it could rely on our acquiescence. They transferred prohibited weapons technology to North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and other countries, threatened to absorb Taiwan, and intimidated our regional treaty allies, South Korea and Japan. The vast Soviet Union nuclear stockpile became fair game for entrepreneurs, with over 40 kilograms of Russian-origin uranium and plutonium being seized since 1991.
Abdul Qadeer (Ka-deer) Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, began an international network of clandestine nuclear proliferation to Libya, Iran and North Korea. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on March 12, 1993, and refused to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites. And Libya further continued WMD research as a priority.
Despite the increase in terrorist activities around the world, and the growing signs of a direct threat to this country, we essentially broke our intelligence community through lack of funding, inadequate number of linguists, and little to no interagency cooperation. If this was not enough, with the demise of the Soviet Union, our military was essentially neutered to counter a ‘perceived’ diminished world threat.
The Clinton/Gore administration cut the defense budget by 40 percent, reducing it to its lowest percentage of the Gross National Product (GNP) since prior to World War II. As a result of these budgetary cuts, today’s force is half the size of the military in the 1990s. As our forces decreased in size and capability, deployments and deployment times increased – we have all seen the results - 15 month deployments. Between FY94 and FY01 DoD budget experienced a downward trend, $313.3 billion less than if it stayed true to the rate of inflation. Clinton’s proposed budget was $99 billion less than what Congress believed Defense required. Programs, modernization efforts, and equipment replacement costs were literally kicked down the road and left waiting in the wings.
Enter President George W. Bush. Starting with his first budget submission after inauguration, he proposed increases in Defense spending and focused his Pentagon team on reform. He started with reorganizing and revitalizing the military for the post-Cold War world it now faced. He provided the military with the funding required to develop force structure and modernize its aging force. He also increased funding for intelligence and instituted a major growth in language training.
On 9/11, nearly 3000 American citizens perished at the hands of an enemy devoted to our destruction. President Bush’s response was swift and decisive. He asked Congress for new authorities and began to implement sweeping changes in our national security policy. The new policy: he declared war on terror, “We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.”
The President then outlined our country’s strategy. He said: “First, we’re determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur… Second, we’re determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and to their terrorist allies who would use them…Third, we’re determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes… Fourth, we’re determined to deny militants control of any nation.”
He asked Congress for the Patriot Act to break down walls between government agencies . On October 7, 2001, President Bush initiated Operation Enduring Freedom to dismantle the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was harboring al Qaeda. Bombing runs and Tomahawk missile strikes were launched. October 8, 2001: President Bush established the Office of Homeland Security. The 9-11 Commission was formed and he began implementing its recommendations including Intelligence Reform, which included establishing the Director of National Intelligence.
In March 2003, President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, preemptive attacks against Saddam Hussein…a gathering threat to the United States, who was reportedly developing ties with our enemies and who openly praised the 9-11 attacks.
President Bush established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to assist in analyzing and integrating foreign and domestic intelligence acquired from all U.S. government departments and agencies pertaining to the war on terrorism.
He established the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), in the Department of Homeland Security, to provide a single federal organization to develop and deploy a nuclear-detection system to thwart the importation of illegal nuclear or radiological materials.
In order to consolidate terrorist watch lists and provide around-the-clock operational support for Federal and other government law-enforcement personnel across the country and around the world, President Bush created the Terrorist Screening Center to ensure that government investigators, screeners, and agents are working with the same unified, comprehensive set of information about terrorists.
He transformed the FBI to focus on preventing terrorism. He strengthened the Transportation Security Administration through screening and prevention. He improved border screening and security through the US-VISIT Entry-Exit System. He established the National Targeting Center (NTC) to screen all imported cargo. He expanded shipping security through the container security initiative (CSI). He developed Project Bioshield to increase preparedness for a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack.
Finally, he aggressively cracked down on terrorist financing with many international partners - over 400 individuals and entities have been designated pursuant to Executive order, resulting in nearly $150 million in frozen assets and millions more blocked in transit or seized at the borders. President Bush also rallied international support to fight terrorism with a coalition of more than 90 nations. This coalition of nations has actively worked to synchronize diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, economic, financial, and military power to attack terrorism globally.
The result of all these efforts and many more is that we are safer today. There has not been another attack on this country since 9/11 – and do not think this was due to a lack of effort on the part of the terrorists. In fact there have been many attempts.
· December 2001, the first post - 9/11 plot was thwarted
- Captured an al Qaeda operative named Ali Salih al-Mari in the United States who we believe was targeting water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange, and United States military academies.
- Al-Mari offered himself as a martyr to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (the mastermind of 9/11) who sent him to the U.S. after he received training in poisons at an al Qaeda camp.
· May 2002, Jose Padilla ‘Dirty Bomb’ Plot
- American citizen accused of seeking radioactive-laced "dirty bomb" to use in an attack against America.
- Padilla was convicted of conspiracy in August, 2007
· 2002 Aviation Plots
- Al Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia known as Hambali recruited Jemaah Islamiyah of Asian origin (less conspicuous)
- Plot derailed in early 2002 with international cooperation.
- Library tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi (1,018’)
- Among the 25 tallest buildings in the world.
· September 2002, Lackawanna Six
- FBI Thwarted the locally recruited terrorist cell the “Lackawanna 6” by the capture of Juma al-Dosari in Afghanistan and subsequent interrogation while imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Six American citizens of Yemeni origin convicted of supporting Al Qaeda after attending jihadist camp in Pakistan.
- Five of six were from Lackawanna, N.Y.
- Summer/Fall 2001: FBI agents in New York receive anonymous tips from Yemeni-American community in New York that a local group of men is conspiring and training with Al Qaeda to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S.
- Several implicated men are put on the FBI terrorist watch list and detained upon return from Pakistan.
- Al Dosari is captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and subsequently reveals the greater plot in New York to recruit.
- “Lackawanna 6” were arrested and convicted of supporting Al Qaeda and plotting terrorist acts.
· May 2003, Brooklyn Bridge Plot
- American citizen Iyman Faris was charged with plotting to use blowtorches to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge.
- After being introduced to Al Qaeda operatives, NY & federal authorities intercepted a plan to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting suspension cables as well as potentially derailing a train en route to Washington, D.C.
- Faris was arrested by the FBI after they intercepted a phone call to Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan· Faris was offered and accepted a deal to work as a double-agent for the U.S., helping the FBI with their anti-terrorist intelligence collection.
· June 2003, Virginia Jihad Network
- 11 men from Alexandria, VA, trained for jihad against American soldiers, convicted of violating the Neutrality Act, conspiracy.
- 11 Muslim men were charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with training with and fighting for Lashkar-i-Taiba (a group fighting the Indian government that the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization.
- Several members of the group were found to have trained for future attacks by using paintball facilities in the Northern Virginia area.
· August 2004, Financial Centers Plot
- Dhiren Barot Indian-born leader of terror cell plotted bombings on financial centers.
- Barot plotted a “memorable black day of terror” via a dirty bomb that targeted financial institutions in NY, D.C. and Newark.
- Barot was arrested at his home in Pakistan with the cooperation and help of U.S. and U.K. anti-terror authorities.
August 2004, Penn Station Plot
- James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj sought to plant a bomb at New York's Penn Station near Madison Square Garden during the Republican National Convention.
- The New York City Police Departments Intelligence Division helped to conduct an investigation leading to the arrests.
- An undercover agent infiltrated the group, provided information to authorities, and later testified against Elshafay and Siraj.
· August 2004, Pakistani Diplomat Assasination Plot
- Two leaders of an Albany, New York, mosque Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, were charged with plotting to purchase a shoulder-fired grenade launcher to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat.
- An investigation by the FBI, the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the local police contributed to the arrest.
- With the help of an informant, the FBI was able to set up a sting that lured Mohammed Hossain into a fake terrorist conspiracy. Hossain brought Yassin Araf, a Kurdish refugee, as a witness. The informant offered details of a fake terrorist plot, claiming that he needed the missiles to murder a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. Both agreed to help.
· June 2005, Father and son Terror Camp Plot
- In California, Pakistani immigrants Umer Hayat and Hamid Hayat, father and son, were arrested in June 2005 after allegedly lying to the FBI about the son's attendance at an Islamic terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
- Umer and Hamid Hayat were charged with attending terrorist camp training in Pakistan and later found guilty of supporting terrorism and customs violations.
- The son, Hamid Hayat, was sentenced to 24 years for supporting terrorism while the father, Umer Hayat, was convicted of customs violations including an attempt to carry $28,000 into Pakistan.
· August 2005, Orange County, California, Terror Plot
- In August 2005, Kevin James, Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana were arrested in Los Angeles, California, and charged with conspiring to attack Los Angeles National Guard facilities, synagogues, and other targets in the Orange County area.
- Kevin James allegedly founded a radical Islamic prison group and converted Levar Washington and others to the group, which was known as J.I.S., short for Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh
- The J.I.S. allegedly planned to finance their operations by robbing gas stations.
- After Washington and Patterson were arrested for robberies, police and federal agents began a terrorist investigation when a search of Washington's apartment revealed a suspicious target list.
· December 2005, Gas Lines Plot
- Michael C. Reynolds was arrested by the FBI in December 2005 and charged with being involved in a plot to blow up a Wyoming natural gas refinery; the Transcontinental Pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline stretching from the Gulf Coast to New York and New Jersey; and a New Jersey Standard Oil refinery.
- He was arrested trying to pick up the $40,000 owed him for planning the attack.
- His purported contact, Shannen Rossmiller, was a Montana judge who was working with the FBI.
- The FBI later found explosives in a locker in his home town, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
- Reynolds claimed that he was working as a private citizen to find terrorists.
- Reynolds was convicted of providing material support to terrorists, soliciting a crime of violence, unlawful distribution of explosives, and unlawful possession of a hand grenade and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
· February 2006, Iraq Bomb Building Plot
- In Toledo, Ohio, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum were arrested in February 2006 for "conspiring to kill or injure people in the Middle East" and providing material support to terrorist organizations.
- They allegedly intended to build bombs to be used in Iraq.
- The investigation was begun through the help of an informant who was approached to help train the group.
· April 2006, U.S. Capitol & World Bank Plot
- Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee from Atlanta, Georgia, were accused of conspiracy, having discussed terrorist targets with alleged terrorist organizations.
- They allegedly met with Islamic extremists and received training and instruction in how to gather videotape surveillance of potential targets in Washington area.
- They videotaped places such as the U.S. Capitol and the World Bank headquarters as potential targets and sent the videos to a London extremist group.
- They were indicted for providing material support to terrorist organizations and have pled not guilty.
· June 2006, Sears Tower Plot
- Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor , Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augstine were arrested in Miami and Atlanta in June 2006 for allegedly being in the early stages of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, as well as the FBI offices and other buildings.
- The arrests resulted from an investigation involving an FBI informant. It is alleged that Narsearl Batiste was the leader of the group and first suggested attacking the Sears Tower in December 2005.
· July 2006, New York City Train Tunell Plot
- Eight suspects, including Assem Hammoud, an al-Qaeda loyalist living in Lebanon, were arrested for plotting to bomb New York City train tunnels.
- Conducting on-line surveillance of chat rooms, the FBI discovered a plot to attack underground transit links with New Jersey.
- Hammoud was a self-proclaimed operative for al-Qaeda and admitted to the plot. He is currently in custody in Lebanon, and his case is pending. Two other suspects are in custody in other locations, and investigators continue to hunt down the other five suspects.
· August 2006, Liquid Explosives Plot
- Planned to blow up as many as 12 U.S.-bound passenger jets using liquid explosives hidden in carryon luggage.
- U.S./British authorities had the group under surveillance for many months.
- Many of the suspects were British citizens of Pakistani origin.
· March 2007, Skyscraper Plot
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of Sept. 11 and author of numerous plots confessed in court in March 2007 to planning to destroy skyscrapers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
- Mohammed also plotted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and former President Bill Clinton.
· May 2007, Fort Dix Plot
- Result of a 16 month investigation by Justice Dept and FBI .
- Tipped off by an alert citizen (a video processing worker) .
- Suspects had taken an incriminating video to the store to be transferred to DVD.
- Video showed calls for jihad and radical and violent ranting in Arabic, included images of the men firing assault weapons.
- “The Ft. Dix Six” thought to be a leaderless, homegrown cell of immigrants from Jordan, Turkey and Yugoslavia (not believed to be tied to Al Qaeda).
- All six suspects were convicted in December 2008.
· June 2007, JFK Plot
- · Suspects planned to hit fuel farms and a 40-mile aviation fuel supply pipeline.
- · Specifically, they targeted the symbolism of JFK, seeking to invoke an emotional reaction saying “It’s like killing the man twice.”
- · Suspects were tied to extremists groups in South America and Caribbean, specifically Guyana and Trinidad .
- One suspect was a former airport cargo worker.
· September 2007, Americans Terrorists in Germany
- German authorities disrupted a terrorist cell that was planning attacks on military installations and facilities used by Americans in Germany.
- The Germans arrested three suspected members of the Islamic Jihad Union, a group that has links to Al Qaeda and supports Al Qaeda's global jihadist agenda.
· 29 Jun 2007, London’s West End Car Bombs
- Heightened public awareness and quick police action prevented detonations of two Mercedes car bombs in two separate locations.
- One in the Theater District and one outside a popular nightclub with up to two thousand people in vicinity.
- Vehicles were loaded with gallons of gasoline and canisters of propane surrounded by boxes of nails for added lethality.
- Eight suspects were detained, six of whom were doctors or training to be doctors, two of them expressed interest in training in the U.S.
- Suspects included an Iraqi doctor (Bilal Abdullah) and a husband, wife and three family members of the same Indian Muslim family.
The bottom line is, because of President Bush there has not been another successful attack on this country since 9/11. What this administration has accomplished in the last 5 years is phenomenal. In the aftermath of September 11th, he brought us together as a nation, prevented our enemies from striking again, and captured many who have tried. President Bush awoke a nation so we could begin to deal aggressively with the threats that were facing us.
Because of President Bush we no longer treat terrorists like common criminals but as enemy combatants. We no longer turn a blind eye to nuclear proliferation by negotiating without the real threat of military action. We fully funded a readiness challenged, Cold War-equipped and organized military who had suffered from a decade of no modernization. We have removed threatening regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, freeing 50 million people. We have weakened the al-Qaeda network and its affiliates. We have disrupted terrorist plots and built a coalition of more than 90 nations to fight terrorism. And we have transformed our approach to combating terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.
The fact is that we are safer today than we were eight years ago. 9/11 brought national security to the forefront, and we have responded. I am not saying that there have not been setbacks or problems. I am saying that this President has fulfilled his solemn obligation to protect the American people. President Bush understood that this fight against terrorism was not a sprint; that it is a marathon and we must remain vigilant, determined, and strong. Remaining vigilant means understanding our past and what brought us to where we are now.
It is not about today or tomorrow but about many tomorrows. It is about our grandchildren’s grandchildren and the world they will live in. Our nation paid a heavy price on September 11th and we must never forget the Pentagon in flames, the towers that fell, the heroes who forced a plane into the ground, and most importantly, the loved ones we lost. Seven years later we continue to not only fight for the oppressed but also help the oppressed fight for themselves.
With our coalition partners and allies, we continue to take the fight to the enemy at the time and place of our choosing; keeping them on the run and constantly looking over their shoulders. We have pursued the enemy throughout the world in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, and the Horn of Africa. There must be no place the enemy can hide that we will not pursue.
Together with 39 other nations, we have freed the Afghan people from the oppressive and barbaric Taliban. We have taken away Al Qaeda’s base of operations and freedom of movement, forcing them into the no man’s land between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
We should be proud of our Nation and all those that have protected her freedom and fought against tyranny.
We still need to do more because our enemy constantly adapts. We must continue to improve our intelligence collection capabilities, our security measures at ports and airports, train stations, bus stations and public events, and our ability to respond to another attack. We must remain committed to fighting against the extremists and their hate filled ideology in every corner that they hide. In so doing, we inspire people of the world to reject the terrorists and what they stand for. We must keep them on the run, disorganized, without the opportunity to plan another 9/11 or a 7/7(London) or an 11/3 (Madrid). It will take the continued effort of this entire nation as well as the entire globe to rid this world of terrorism and make extremists an endangered species. We must remain true to the cause of freedom and stay the course President Bush pioneered.