Former Rep. Vito Fossella tells Newsmax that security officials need to fix the “loophole” that allowed a man accused of trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square to board a plane even though he was on the federal no-fly list.
Fossella also says the botched bombing should serve as a reminder that the United States remains a “battlefield” in the war against terror, and calls efforts to try terror suspects in civilian courts “wrong-headed.”
Fossella first took office in 1997 and served six terms as the lone Republican congressman from New York City, representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.
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As a native New Yorker he is particularly disturbed by the events of May 1, when police found a potentially powerful bomb inside a parked sport utility vehicle amid tourists and Broadway theater-goers.
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen, has been charged with crimes related to the bombing attempt. He was on the no-fly list, yet managed to get on a jet at JFK Airport bound for the United Arab Emirates even though he had been under surveillance following the botched bombing attempt.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Fossella has high praise for law enforcement for apprehending Shahzad in about 53 hours after police found the explosives materials inside the SUV, which could have led to the deaths of hundreds of people and “clearly would have affected our psyche for years to come,” Fossella says.
“Still, some questions remain as to how an individual on the no-fly list was able to pay cash and get on an airline and almost flee the country. I think what Homeland Security and others need to do is to fix that loophole, to figure out what went wrong and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
“It’s also a strong reminder about this war against terror — I know the current administration doesn’t want to call it that — that we still have those who want to wage war against us.
“And the reality is there are different battlefields. There are battlefields in Afghanistan, in Iraq, but the battlefields also exist in our country. Here in New York City, post 9/11 alone, there have been almost three dozen attacks that have been foiled. They’re not going away. We need to ensure that we are vigilant against those terrorists.
“I think it also speaks to some of these decisions that need to be made in Washington, particularly relative to providing civilian trials for terrorists. There was a push months ago to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, and four of his colleagues in civilian trials in, of all places, downtown New York. Many of us have been arguing against that wrong-headed decision for months and yet it’s still on the table.”
Fossella was asked about reports that Shahzad was read his Miranda rights after his arrest yet has been providing valuable information to interrogators.
“If somebody’s a declared enemy combatant of this country, he should not be treated as a normal run-of-the-mill criminal,” he responds.
“Some say we are getting valuable information. We don’t know what that is. The way we obtain information will be a lot different and I think incredibly more valuable if we didn’t apply the same standards we apply to every citizen to those who want to bring this country to its knees.
“I just don’t understand. If we believe that he was getting trained in Pakistan, clearly those who were training him about how to use bombs have a knowledge of others who to want to continue to bring this country harm and hurt our fellow citizens. So I don’t think these policy decisions being made in Washington are the right ones right now.”
Shahzad reportedly received training at a terrorist camp in an area where the Pakistani Taliban operates with impunity.
“One would hope that there is a coordination to identify where that camp is and root it out,” Fossella says.
“And I’m sure if it’s up to our brave men and women in the military, that is being taken care of.”
Fossella takes issue with a bill before Congress that would implement a massive overhaul of the financial services sector.
“It’s no surprise what’s happening these days in Washington,” he tells Newsmax.
“It seems that whenever there’s a problem, whenever there’s an issue to be solved, the solution out of Washington is that we need a 2,000-page bill of more regulation, of more taxation, of more government control.”
Fossella declares that the Obama administration seems to be engaged in “class warfare” to separate Wall Street from Main Street, when they should go “hand in hand.”
He adds: “The focus should be on reducing the tax burden on the American people, creating incentives and pro-growth policies. [We should] reduce the regulatory burden and allow our capitalist spirit to grow, and not leave the next generation or generations with unbelievable deficits and debts that sooner or later somebody is going to have to repay.”
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