A recent Observer editorial following the ISIS attack on Paris suggested that the USA needs a “muscular approach” to fighting terrorism and it “can’t wait for the next president.” Then came the San Bernardino attack. Then came a flurry of presidential candidates pontificating about what they will do to keep us safe.
With that in mind, here are a few aspects of the global jihadist movement that have received scant attention from the candidates, but which should be front and center in next week’s debates.
Recently, Obama’s Chief of Staff, Dennis McDonough, told a conference call of governors that they essentially had no say in whether Syrian refugees would be placed in their respective states. Under present law, he is correct. The fate of the majority of refugee populations are currently first determined by the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees (Antonio Guterres, the former socialist president of Portugal).
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The U.S. State Department then contracts with volunteer agencies, many of them religiously affiliated, to resettle these immigrants using taxpayer dollars. The presiding statute, The Refugee Act of 1980, gives Congress the authority to review these numbers, but that has been up to this point little more than a rubber stamp. State and local governments most affected by these decisions almost never have any input or foreknowledge of this process. Every candidate should be compelled to detail what changes if any need to be made to the U.S. refugee policy. This must be discussed because the U.S. is dealing with an enemy that is now using asylum as a weapon.
Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, Faisal Shazhad, the Times Square bomber, and Abdulhakim Muhammed, aka Carlos Bledsoe, the Little Rock recruiting center shooter, were all either naturalized or native U.S. citizens who became jihadis through an indoctrination that took place over the Internet or in person. Recently, Donald Trump suggested that we need to investigate mosques as possible sources of such persuasion. Liberal French President Francois Hollande is calling for the same thing in France as part of his “state of emergency.”
But when former NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly attempted a similar tactic in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attacks, he was publicly vilified by Muslim-American advocacy groups.Valuable intel was collected that may have prevented subsequent attacks, but the cries of prejudice and profiling grew so deafening that Kelly’s programs were terminated and are not even discussed in Mayor DeBlasio’s administration. Meanwhile the FBI has ongoing investigations of ISIS activities in 50 states and this year alone has made 80 arrests, six of which have been minors. Senator Ted Cruz has introduced legislation that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This group is already considered dangerous enough to be so classified in Egypt and Jordan, but thus far the prevailing atmosphere of political correctness has prevented the U.S. from following suit.
Topics such as these will force every presidential contender to do something all of them are loathe to do: leverage civil liberties and individual freedoms against national security. Whatever choices they make are certain to lose them supporters. But if these questions are not addressed forthrightly, it is we who will be the losers.
Fred Grandy starred on “The Love Boat,” then was a Republican member of Congress from Iowa, then hosted a radio talk show. He lives in Charlotte.