Within a span of almost 6 months, there have been two near-miss terror attacks on U.S. soil—the Christmas Day plot and Saturday’s Times Square attempted bombing. The Obama Administration had emphasized, in its review of the Christmas Day terror plot that:
…despite several opportunities that might have allowed the CT community to put these pieces together in this case, and despite the tireless effort and best intentions of individuals at every level of the CT community, that was not done.
Despite this admission, the Obama Administration continues to drag its feet on beefing up the Visa Security Program—which puts homeland security officers at U.S. consulate offices to perform background checks on visa applicants. In fact the Administration has only deployed officers at 14 high risk countries (out of 57 likely candidates).
Tackling visa security is the right kind of lesson to be learned from plots like Times Square and Christmas Day. More often than not, jurisdictional disputes between the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have interfered with this process. Tearing down these walls is important; as my colleague, James Carafano, has emphasizes, “visas…are part of a layered international security system for fighting transnational terrorism.”
Considering such a program would have likely caught the Christmas Day bomber before he ever even boarded a plane for the U.S. (his dad conveyed information to consulate authorities that he was up to no good), it seems unspeakable that this simple reform hasn’t taken place. And what’s worse is that this problem isn’t likely to change in the near future. The Administration has proposed on freeze on the program’s budget for FY2011.
Time and time again, the U.S. has successful since 9/11 in stopping terror plots—31 times to be exact—building on this success requires an understanding that (1) terrorists won’t give up and (2) the U.S. needs a full arsenal of tools at its disposal to get the job done. If Obama doesn’t learn these lessons—next time, we might not be so lucky.