The Ripon Forum

Volume 0, No. 0

Winter 2009 Issue

In the Wake of Mumbai

By on December 1, 2015


There’s only one word to describe the challenge ahead for the United States Congress on national security. That word is “Mumbai.” The horrendous 60-hour bloodbath that killed almost 300 last month in this Indian city is a wake-up call to America not just that the threat from radical Jihadists continues but how essential it is that we not neglect homeland security.

The recent Mumbai killings demonstrate the determination of Muslim extremists to slip across national borders to kill defenseless civilians with suicide attacks. We believe these terrorists had links to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT), an al-Qaeda affiliated radical Islamist group operating in Pakistan. This killing spree was sophisticated, well-planned, and well-funded.

Although some have blamed the severity of the Mumbai attacks on an alleged lack of readiness by Indian police and military forces, let’s not pretend the United States is invulnerable to a similar calamity. Lashkar-e-Taiba members were arrested near Washington, DC in 2006 for plotting to send weapons and training equipment to LT members in Pakistan. Six “home-grown” radical Jihadists were arrested in 2007 for plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey. 18 members of a radical Islamic terrorist cell were arrested just across the U.S. border in Toronto, Canada in 2006 before they were able to commit acts of violence. Horrific terrorist attacks since 2001 in London (2005), Madrid (2004), Indonesia (2003 and 2005), and elsewhere demonstrate that despite increased security measures and improved intelligence sharing, the United States and its allies cannot let down their guard against radical Jihadists.

As the loyal opposition, Republicans will remind the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats that the main focus of our national security policy should not be trying to get foreigners to like us.

There have been several major terrorist attacks in India over the last five years, including the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train bombing by a radical Jihadist group that killed 206 and injured over 700. The November 2008 Mumbai attacks represent a new strategy by radical Jihadists. Instead of a bombing, the November attacks consisted of a small number of heavily armed foreign insurgents who conducted a killing spree against Westerners and Jews in a major economic center. The goal of this new strategy appeared to be generating several days of intense global press coverage.

In light of the Mumbai attacks, Republicans will make sure the new Obama Administration does not take its eyes off the ball on the crucial matter of homeland security. As a loyal opposition, Republicans will remind the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats that the main focus of our national security policy should not be trying to get foreigners to like us. Although coalition building and global outreach should certainly be a foreign policy goal, the primary U.S. national security goal is keeping our nation safe. This means taking the following steps to protect our homeland.

Border security must remain a top priority. The Mumbai attacks demonstrate how easily a small group of insurgents can cross a national border and create enormous mayhem. We need an architecture for border security and domestic counterterrorism intelligence that promotes rationalized cooperation and information sharing between the Federal Government and local law enforcement.

We must redouble pressure to target terrorist strongholds. This means a responsible withdrawal from Iraq when the time is right so it does not fall into the hands of radical Jihadists. We reevaluate the situation in Afghanistan and assess what it will take, working with our allies, to defeat the Taliban insurgents. We must continue to urgently press our efforts to go after al Qaeda and Taliban camps in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), without creating a schism between the government and the people that could enhance support for radical Jihadists.

9We must continue and further strengthen anti-terrorism programs. Our nation has been kept safe from further terrorist attacks since 9/11 in large part due to aggressive anti-terrorism programs to track terrorists, disrupt their plots, and kill or arrest them. These programs include foreign intelligence surveillance conducted under a newly modernized Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Terrorist Financial Tracking Program, and the High Value Terrorist Detainee program. Republicans have led a lonely fight defending these programs against false attacks by Congressional Democrats that these programs constitute “domestic spying.” Now that a Democrat will sit in the White House, it is time for Congressional Democrats to stop politicizing these vital programs and instead strengthen them so our intelligence personnel have the tools and authorities they need to keep America safe and prevent attacks against our homeland.

The Mumbai attacks demonstrate how easily a small group of insurgents can cross a national border and create enormous mayhem.

Congress must ensure accountability and responsible national security policies from the Executive branch by conducting aggressive oversight. I did not shy away from aggressive oversight of the Bush Administration and I will insist that Congressional Democrats do the same with an Obama Administration.

We must properly reform U.S. intelligence. Major strides to keep our nation safe were made in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) to promote intelligence sharing and break down walls between intelligence agencies. However, much still needs to be done. IRTPA also created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) which was intended to be a small staff to coordinate the work of America’s 16 intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, the ODNI has exploded into an enormous bureaucracy that is making intelligence more bureaucratized and bland. This is preventing the production of quick-turn around and “out of the box” analyses we need to keep pace with radical Jihadists who are sophisticated and tech-savvy. It also is clear that despite the serious threats facing our nation, U.S. intelligence agencies are weighed down by a bureaucratic subculture that thinks it can ignore the needs of the Executive Branch and even U.S. law. This cannot be allowed to continue. Republicans believe getting intelligence reform right is crucial to our national security and believe that bipartisan dialogue on this problem should begin as soon as possible.

Republicans hope to support a robust Obama national security strategy that builds on the lessons of the Mumbai and other terrorist attacks. I urge that bipartisan efforts continue to aggressively defend our homeland and keep our nation on the offense against radical Jihadists and others who would do our nation harm. I for one will pray for Mr Obama’s success in defending our nation.


Peter Hoekstra was recently reelected to represent Michigan’s Second Congressional District. He is the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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