Former U.S. Army Capt. Michael Breen, executive director for the Center for National Policy and the Truman National Security Project, was quoted in Stars and Stripes recently recommending the reapplication of policies that have been tried and failed again and again in the decade and a half since 9/11.
Breen said: “Travel bans are not going to keep us safe, cracking down on civil liberties are not going to keep us safe….Having fundamentally strong community institutions and strong partnerships between security officials and leaders in our community will.”
This is a comforting vision, but Breen has no evidence to back it up. In reality, one of the proposals that he said we do not need is exactly what we do need. No one is suggesting any crackdown on civil liberties, and Breen and others do no good by falsely claiming that President Trump is proposing such a thing.
But travel bans from jihadi hot spots, as mired in the courts as they are, are urgently needed.
It is an acknowledged fact that since we have refused to secure our borders, we have facilitated the transit and infiltration of al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists and narco-terrorists who are now living illegally in the United States. Unfettered immigration with open borders has allowed for seeding Islamic jihadists among the Muslim immigrants who have settled throughout the country.
This is a serious national security issue, and there is one critical incident that shows simultaneously the terrorism risks involved in this unrestricted immigration, as well as the abject failure of “having fundamentally strong community institutions and strong partnerships between security officials and leaders in our community” as a deterrent to jihad terror attacks. This quintessential example of this failure is the Boston Marathon bombing.
In June 2013, two months after two immigrants exploded two bombs at the Boston Marathon, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) confronted then-FBI director Robert Mueller about what the FBI had done to investigate and monitor the Islamic Society of Boston, which both bombers attended. Gohmert noted that “the FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15th attacks.” He pointed out numerous reasons why the FBI had reason to be concerned about the Boston Marathon bombers before their attack, as well as about the mosque they attended.
In the course of a heated exchange, Mueller inadvertently revealed the fatal weakness in the recommendations just offered in Stars and Stripes by Michael Breen. He told Gohmert: “We went to the mosque. Prior to Boston. Prior to Boston happening, we were in that mosque talking to imams several months beforehand as part of our outreach efforts.”
As part of our outreach efforts. Before the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI had not investigated the Islamic Society of Boston, despite the many terrorists who have worshiped there. The mosque’s multiple ties to terrorists were well known not just to intelligence officials, but to the general public: right after the bombing, USA Today reported that “The mosque attended by the two brothers accused in the Boston Marathon double bombing has been associated with other terrorism suspects, has invited radical speakers to a sister mosque in Boston and is affiliated with a Muslim group that critics say nurses grievances that can lead to extremism.”
Despite this, the FBI had sent agents to the mosque only “as part of our outreach efforts.” The FBI was reaching out to this mosque in order to try to ensure that in Boston there were “strong community institutions and strong partnerships between security officials and leaders in our community.”
Clearly, it didn’t work. Nor has it worked elsewhere in the country. In January 2016, a Muslim named Abdul Shaheed (formerly known as Edward Archer) shot Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett at close range. He turned out to be a regular member of Philadelphia’s Masjid Mujahideen. Ibrahim Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who attempted a jihad terror attack at the Muhammad Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas in May 2015, were members in good standing of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.
The FBI conducts outreach to mosques in Philadelphia and Phoenix as well as in Boston. These incidents establish that outreach, contrary to Breen’s claim, is not enough. In contrast, cutting off immigration from hotbeds of jihad terror is one of the key elements of a genuine solution to the problem of terrorism.
The President of the United States has the responsibility to take the necessary steps to stop threats to the security of this great country. Failure to do so would be a dereliction of duty.
Admiral James A. “Ace” Lyons, USN (ret) is the former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.