During Protect America Month, it is important to remember the extraordinary success our counter-terrorism programs have had. Since 9/11, at least 30 terrorist plots against the United States have been thwarted, in large part because our counter-terrorism officials have had the tools they need to keep us safe. However, since taking office, President Obama has consistently scaled back or scheduled for elimination many of the very tools that have been so successful over the past decade. He has threatened to close down Guantanamo Bay, slackened support for the PATRIOT Act, and dismantled the CIA’s interrogation program.
Our latest video goes through some of the thwarted attacks and highlights a handful of Heritage’s recommendations to the President and Congress, including:
- Make key provisions of the PATRIOT Act permanent. Immediately following September 11, 2001, efforts were made to bring intelligence capabilities in line with the new nature of the terrorist threat. Such efforts were embodied in the passage of the PATRIOT Act and in the subsequent amendment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enhanced the legal and investigatory tools available to law enforcement in national security and counterterrorism. The tools provided by these acts have been vital in thwarting many of the 30 plots discussed above. Nevertheless, key provisions of the PATRIOT Act expired in December 2009. Congress has since extended these provisions until the end of 2010; further steps must be taken to ensure their permanence.
- Develop a detainment framework for terrorist detainees. Since his presidential campaign, President Obama has highlighted the issue of terrorist detention with calls to close Guantanamo Bay within one year of his taking office. However, issues of detainment go beyond debate centered solely on Gitmo. The Christmas Day bomber was another example of how the lack of a lawful detainment framework inhibits the collection of intelligence from captured suspects. The question is not only what will be done with those currently held at Guantanamo, but also what is to be done with future detainees. The Administration must develop a U.S. detention policy for detainees who cannot be tried safely in federal courts. This framework must be based on the principles of Article 5 of the Geneva Convention, which outlines protections for prisoners of war, as well as periodic review of detention. Such a policy would allow for a legal framework for detention and interrogation, as well as for the increased security of the United States and its allies, by preventing belligerents from returning to armed conflict.
To read the full list of recommendations, check out Heritage’s latest Backgrounder, “30 Terrorist Plots Foiled: How the System Worked“.