The global war on terror continues
By By Jo Bonner
Last Thursday morning, people across the United States and throughout the world awoke to sobering news. A terrorist group had been plotting to blow up airliners bound for the United States using liquid explosives.
The plot was reported to involve multiple airplanes being attacked at virtually the same time with the goal of killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The discovery of this terror plot is a vivid reminder of the ever present threat that terrorists pose.
It is unfortunate that some, even in this country, need to be reminded that we are still actively engaged in a global war on terrorism, and that freedom-loving countries like the United States and Great Britain are very much a target.
The truth is, we have been fighting a global war on terrorism long before the attacks on September 11, 2001: the bombing of PanAm flight 103 in 1988 by Libyan terrorists killed all 259 people on board; the World Trade Center Bombing in 1993 killed 6 people and injured 1,000; the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996 killed 19 and injured 515 people; and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 killed 17 people and injured 39 others.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff even noted the similarities between this plan and the one hatched in the 1990s by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the top al-Qaeda operative who was the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, to detonate liquid explosives on 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean.
The recent plot in the United Kingdom should remind us that we must remain vigilant in our commitment to defeat the terrorists before they hurt more innocent people.
It should also remind the critics that improved means of reasonable intelligence gathering-some of which the liberals in Washington have been so vocal with their criticism-is one of the reasons why so many new threats are discovered before they are successfully implemented.
The USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed in 2001 and reauthorized earlier this year, puts procedures in place to disrupt terrorist activities before attacks take place. It has made the United States safer than it was prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The PATRIOT Act has played a key role in a number of successful operations to protect innocent Americans. It removed major legal barriers that prevented law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from talking and coordinating their work.
FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and intelligence officials were also given the ability to "connect the dots" to uncover terrorist plots before they are completed while respecting constitutional rights.
This increased coordination has allowed the FBI to approach terrorism investigations not as separate criminal and intelligence investigations, each with separate agents developing separate information and evidence, but as a single investigation.
Naturally, it will take more than this act to make Americans truly safe; it will also take diligence, paying attention to our surroundings, and placing greater emphasis on stronger security measures.
Here in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security immediately raised the terrorist level to "Code Red," the highest alert level, for U.S. bound flights originating in the United Kingdom and to "Code Orange," the second-highest level, for all other flights operating within or destined for the United States. Additionally, all liquids, including beverages, hair gels, and lotions, were prohibited from being carried on an airplane.
For many, this created long lines at airports, the likes of which had not been seen since the fall of 2001. These measures, however inconvenient, will serve to assure that air travel remains safe and secure.
We must remain vigilant in fighting the global war on terrorism and preventing future attacks here at home. I commend the officials across the United States and the United Kingdom whose hard work stopped this evil plan.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.