We’ve heard a whole lot from the Republican presidential hopefuls, one more absurd than another, of what they would do to “keep our nation safe” – devoting an entire 2 hour debate to the subject. Donald Trump would bring back waterboarding and torture, would kill family members of suspected terrorists. Ted Cruz would “carpet bomb” cities held by ISIS, even if there are tens of thousands of civilians being occupied by the terrorists. Chris Christie, staring into a camera to “intimidate” Vladimir Putin, says he would create a no-fly zone and shoot down any Russian plane that penetrates it (“That’s great if you want a candidate to start World War III,” was Rand Paul’s response.) Carly Fiorina would rehire generals who have resigned or retired.
And yet, Republicans in Congress refuse to do some of the most basic things to actually keep us safe. Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmation – and gone home for the holidays – of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations. And Republicans in both houses have blocked legislation which would keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list (if there is a problem with the list, they should fix it by giving the individual recourse to defend themselves, and that would be sufficient in fact to uncover actual terrorists). But there is no common sense. It makes you wonder whether Republicans like an atmosphere of terror because they think that fear whips up votes in their favor.
The Republicans also have been stingy in funding the very services they are faulting for being inadequate – visa services, State Department security (Benghazi, Benghazi).
But in a speech on the same day as the Republican debate, December 15, Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate, gave a thoughtful speech outlining her previously stated overall anti-terrorism strategy, and a more intensively focused “360-degree strategy to keep America safe.” The speech received virtually no coverage, but she repeated the strategy in an op-ed published December 18.
Hillary for America released a new web video comparing Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks in Minnesota with Republican candidates, who were exposed as unfit and ill-prepared during this week’s Republican debate. In the remarks, Clinton said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief. Republican candidates, on the other hand, have offered fear instead of facts. (Here are some other reviews of the Republicans’ performance this week HERE)
Here are highlights from Hillary Clinton’s speech in Minneapolis:
“I want to begin by saying, we cannot give in to fear. We can’t let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe, and doing it in way that is consistent with our values.
We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe. Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity…..
The threat we face is daunting. But America has overcome big challenges many times before. Throughout our history, we’ve stared into the face of evil and refused to blink. We beat Fascism, won the Cold War, brought Osama bin Laden to justice.
So no one should ever underestimate the determination of the American people. And I am confident we will once again choose resolve over fear. And we will defeat these new enemies, just as we’ve defeated those who’ve threatened us in the past.
Because it is not enough to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS, break its momentum and then its back. And not just ISIS, but the broader radical jihadist movement that also includes al Qaeda and offshoots like al Shabaab in Somalia.
Now, waging and winning this fight will require serious leadership. But unfortunately, our political debate has been anything but serious.
We can’t afford another major ground war in the Middle East. That’s exactly what ISIS wants from us. Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy. Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head. Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming Commander-in-Chief.
And it is hard to take seriously senators who talk tough but then hold up key national security nominations, including the top official at the Treasury Department responsible for disrupting terrorist financing.
Every day that’s wasted on partisan gridlock could put Americans in danger. So, yes, we need a serious discussion. And that’s why in a speech last month before the Council on Foreign Relations I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS and the broader extremist movement.
One, defeat ISIS in the Middle East by smashing its stronghold, hitting its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure from the air, and intensifying support for local forces who can pursue them on the ground.
Second, defeat them around the world by dismantling the global network of terror that supplies radical jihadists with money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.
And third, defeat them here at home by foiling plots, disrupting radicalization, and hardening our defenses.
Now, these three lines of effort reinforce one another. So we need to pursue all of them at once, using every pillar of American power.
It will require skillful diplomacy to continue Secretary Kerry’s efforts to encourage political reconciliation in Iraq and political transition in Syria, enabling more Sunni Arabs and Kurdish fighters to take on ISIS on both sides of the border, and to get our Arab and Turkish partners to actually step up and do their part.
It will require more U.S. and allied airpower, and a broader target set for strikes by planes and drones, with proper safeguards.
It will require Special Operations units to advise and train local forces and conduct key counterterrorism missions.
What it will not require is tens of thousands of American combat troops. That is not the right action for us to take in this situation.
So there is a lot to do, and today, I want to focus on the third part of my plan, how we defend our country and prevent radicalization here at home.
We need a comprehensive strategy to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack like the one in San Bernardino.
First, we have to shut down ISIS recruitment in the United States, especially online.
Second, stop would-be jihadists from getting training overseas, and stop foreign terrorists from coming here.
Third, discover and disrupt plots before they can be carried out.
Fourth, support law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to attacks.
And fifth, empower our Muslim-American communities, who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.
This is a 360-degree strategy to keep America safe, and I want to walk through each of the elements, from recruitment to training to planning to execution.
First, shutting down recruitment. We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in-person and through social media, chat rooms, and what’s called the “Dark Web.”
To do that, we need stronger relationships between Washington, Silicon Valley, and all of our great tech companies and entrepreneurs. American innovation is a powerful force, and we have to put it to work defeating ISIS.
That starts with understanding where and how recruitment happens. Our security professionals need to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks, and they need help from the tech community.
Companies should redouble their efforts to maintain and enforce their own service agreements and other necessary policies to police their networks, identifying extremist content and removing it.
Now, many are already doing this, and sharing those best practices more widely is important.
At the State Department, I started an interagency center to combat violent jihadist messages, to have a better way to communicate on behalf of our values, and to give young people drawn to those messages an alternative narrative.
We recruited specialists fluent in Arabic, Urdu, and Somali to wave online battles with extremists to counter their propaganda.
Now, those efforts have not kept pace with the threat, so we need to step up our game, in partnership with the private sector and credible moderate voices outside government.
But that’s just some of what we have to do. Experts from the FBI, the intelligence community, Homeland Security, DOD, the State Department, and the technology industry should work together to develop a unified national strategy to defeat ISIS in cyberspace, using all of our capabilities to deny jihadists virtual territory, just as we work to deny them actual territory.
And at the same time, we also have to do more to address the challenge of radicalization, whatever form it takes.
It’s imperative that the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and others stop their citizens from supporting radical schools, madrassas and mosques around the world, once and for all, and that should be the top priority in all of our discussions with these countries.
Now, second, we have to prevent ISIS recruits from training abroad, and prevent foreign jihadists from coming here.
Most urgent is stemming the flow of fighters from Europe and America to Iraq and Syria, and then back home again.
The United States and our allies need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip, and then share information with each other in real time.
Right now, European nations don’t always alert each other when they turn away a suspected extremist at the border or when a passport is stolen. They have to dramatically improve intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation. And we’re ready to help them do that.
We also need to take down the network of enablers who help jihadists finance and facilitate their travel, forge documents, and evade detection. And the United States and our allies should commit to revoke the passports and visas of jihadists who have gone to join ISIS or other groups, and bring the full force of law against them.
As I’ve said before, the United States has to take a close look at our visa programs. And I am glad the administration and Congress are stepping up scrutiny in the wake of San Bernardino. And that should include scrutinizing applicants’ social media postings. We also should dispatch more Homeland Security agents to high-risk countries to better investigate visa applicants.
For many years, America has waived visa requirements for travelers from countries with reliable security procedures, including key allies in Europe and Asia. That makes sense. But we also have to be smart. Except for limited exceptions like diplomats and aid workers, anyone who has traveled in the past five years to a country facing serious problems with terrorism and foreign fighters should have to go through a full visa investigation, no matter where they’re from.
We also have to be vigilant in screening and vetting refugees from Syria, guided by the best judgment of our security and diplomatic professionals. Rigorous vetting already takes place while these refugees are still overseas, and it’s a process that historically takes 18 to 24 months.
But Congress needs to provide enough resources to ensure we have sufficient personnel deployed to run the most thorough possible process.
And just as important, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations.
Turning away orphans, applying a religious test that discriminates against Muslims, slamming the door on every single Syrian refugee; that is not who we are. We are better than that.
It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from finding new ones. So after rigorous screening, we should welcome families fleeing Syria just as the Twin Cities and this state have welcomed previous generations of refugees, exiles, and immigrants.
Of course, the key is to prevent terrorists also from exploiting our compassion and endangering our security. But we can do this. And I think we must.
Third, we have to discover and disrupt jihadist plots before they can be carried out. This is going to take better intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing. I’ve proposed an “intelligence surge” against ISIS that includes more operations officers and linguists, enhancing our technical surveillance of overseas targets, intercepting terrorist communications, flying more reconnaissance missions to track terrorists’ movements, and developing even closer partnerships with other intelligence services.
President Obama recently signed the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress. It protects civil liberties while maintaining capabilities that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe. However, the new law is now under attack from presidential candidates on the left and right. Some would strip away crucial counterterrorism tools, even with appropriate judicial and congressional oversight. Others seem eager to go back to discredited practices of the past.
I don’t think we can afford to let either view prevail. Now, encryption of mobile devices and communications does present a particularly tough problem with important implications for security and civil liberties. Law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals warn that impenetrable encryption may make it harder for them to investigate plots and prevent future attacks. On the other hand, there are very legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit.
I know there’s no magic fix to this dilemma that will satisfy all these concerns. But we can’t just throw up our hands. The tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to keep us safe from terrorists. And even as we make sure law enforcement officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we also make sure jihadists don’t get the tools they need to carry out attacks.
It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns. If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun, period. And we should insist on comprehensive background checks and close loopholes that allow potential terrorists to buy weapons online or at gun shows. And I think it’s time to restore the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
I know this will drive some of our Republican friends a little crazy. You’ll probably hear it tonight. They will say that guns are a totally separate issue, nothing to do with terrorism. Well, I have news for them, terrorists use guns to kill Americans. And I think we should make it a lot harder for them from to do that ever again.
And there’s a question, a question they should be asked: Why don’t the Republican candidates want to do that? You see, I have this old fashioned idea that we elect a President in part, in large part, to keep us safe, from terrorists, from gun violence, from whatever threatens our families and communities. And I’m not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that’s not the right path for us to go down.
Now, the fourth element in my strategy is supporting law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.
In San Bernardino, city, county, state, and federal authorities acted with speed and courage to prevent even more loss of life. Like Detective Jorge Lozano, a 15-year police veteran, who assured terrified civilians, “I’ll take a bullet before you do.” There is no limit to the gratitude we owe to law enforcement professionals like that Detective Lozano who run toward danger to try to save lives. And not just in the immediate wake of an attack. Our police, firefighters, and emergency responders will keep putting their lives on the line long after the cameras move on.
It’s disgraceful that Congress has thus far failed to keep faith with first responders suffering from the lasting health effects of 9/11. Many of them were men and women I was so proud to represent as a Senator from New York. The Zadroga 9/11 Health Act never should have been allowed to lapse. It looks like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have finally dropped his opposition. And I hope the American people will hold him to that. And we will continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who responded to the worst terrorist attack in our history.
We have to make sure that local law enforcement has the resources and training they need to keep us safe. And they should be more closely synced up with national counterterrorism experts, including with better use of “fusion centers” that serve as clearinghouses for intelligence and coordination.
And we need to strengthen our defenses and our resilience wherever we’re vulnerable, whether it’s “soft targets” like shopping malls or higher-profile targets like airports, railways, or power plants. We have to build on the progress of the Obama Administration in locking down loose nuclear materials, and other WMD, so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who seek them actively around the world.
So we should be providing the Department of Homeland Security with the resources it needs to stay one step ahead, not trying to privatize key functions, like TSA, as some Republicans have proposed.
And it’s important for us to recognize that when we talk about law enforcement, we have made progress in being sure that our federal authorities share information with our state and local authorities, but that was an issue I tackled after 9/11, and we have to stay really vigilant so that information is in the hands where it needs to be.
Finally, the fifth element in the strategy is empowering Muslim-American communities who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization. There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in our country. These Americans may be our first, last, and best defense against home grown radicalization and terrorism. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, intervene to help set a young person straight. They are the best positioned to block anything going forward.
That’s why law enforcement has worked so hard since 9/11 to build up trust and strong relationships within Muslim-American communities. Here in the Twin Cities, you have an innovative partnership that brings together parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community with law enforcement, non-profits, local businesses, mental health professionals and others to intervene with young people who are at risk.
It’s called the Building Community Resilience Pilot Program, and it deserves increased support. It has not gotten the financial resources that it needs to do everything the people involved in it know they can do. And we’ve got to do a better job of supporting it.
Now I know that like many places across the country, there’s more work to do to increase trust between communities and law enforcement. Just last month, I know here a young African American man was fatally shot by a police officer. And I understand an investigation is underway. Whatever the outcome, tragedies like this raise hard questions about racial justice in America and put at risk efforts to build the community relationships that help keep us safe from crime and from terrorism.
When people see that respect and trust are two-way streets, they’re more likely to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement. One of the mothers of the 10 men recently charged with conspiring with terrorists said, “We have to stop the denial,” she told other parents that. “We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.” That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.
But we also want to highlight the successes in Muslim American communities, and there are so many of them. I just met with the first Somali-American council member of the City Council here. And he was proudly telling me how much change Somali immigrants, now Muslim-Americans have made in parts of the city and neighborhoods that had been pretty much hollowed out. Let’s look at the successes.
If we’re going to full integrate everyone into America, then we need to be seeing all their contributions, too. And that is one of the many reasons why we must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric. You know, not only do these comments cut against everything we stand for as Americans, they are also dangerous.
As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult. We need every community invested in this fight, not alienated and sitting on the sidelines.
One of the community leaders I met with told me that a lot of the children in the community are now afraid to go to school. They’re not only afraid of being perceived as a threat, they are afraid of being threatened because of who they are. This is such a open-hearted and generous community, I hope there will be even more efforts perhaps under the aegis of the university and certainly Governor Dayton and others, to bring people together to reassure members of the community, particularly children and teenagers that they are welcome, invited and valued here in this city and state.
Now Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has rightly sparked outrage across our country and around the world. Even some of the other Republican candidates are saying he’s gone too far. But the truth is, many of those same candidates have also said disgraceful things about Muslims. And this kind of divisive rhetoric actually plays into the hands of terrorists. It alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.
You know, you hear a lot of talk from some of the other candidates about coalitions. Everyone seems to want one. But there’s not nearly as much talk about what it actually takes to build a coalition and make it work. I know how hard this is because I’ve done it. And I can tell you, insulting potential allies doesn’t make it any easier.
And demonizing Muslims also feeds a narrative that jihadists use to recruit new followers around the world, that the United States is at war with Islam. As both the Pentagon and the FBI have said in the past week, we cannot in any way lend credence to that twisted idea. This is not a clash of civilizations. It’s a clash between civilization and barbarism and that’s how it must be seen and fought.
Some will tell you that our open society is a vulnerability in the struggle against terrorism. I disagree. I believe our tolerance and diversity are at the core of our strength. At a Naturalization ceremony for new citizens today in Washington, President Obama noted the tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger. It is, he said, about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be? And it’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding, E Pluribus Unum. Out of many we are one.
President Obama is right, and it matters. It’s no coincidence that American Muslims have long been better integrated and less susceptible to radicalization than Muslims in less welcoming countries. We can’t give in to demagogues who play on our basest instincts. We must instead rely on the principles written into our American DNA. Freedom. Equality. Opportunity.
America is strongest when all our people believe they have a stake in our country and our future, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, how they worship, or who they love. Our country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. As George Washington put it, the United States gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” So to all our Muslim-American brothers and sisters, this is your country too. And I am proud to be your fellow American.
And I want to remind us, particularly our Republican friends, that George W. Bush was right. Six days after 9/11 he went to a Muslim community center and here’s what he said, those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of human kind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior….
“We are Americans.” We are the greatest nation on earth not in spite of the challenges we’ve faced, but because of them. Americans will not buckle or break. We will not turn on each other or turn on our principles. We will pursue our enemies with unyielding power and purpose. We will crush their would-be caliphate and counter radical jihadism wherever it takes root. We’re in it for the long haul. And we’ll stand taller and stronger than they can possibly imagine.
That’s what we do here. It’s who we are. That’s how we’ll win, by looking at one another with respect, with concern, with commitment. That’s the America that I know makes us all so proud to be a part of.”