Americans living in the decade after 9/11 are not equipped — politically or psychologically — to handle another terrorist strike inside the United States, because elected officials aren't making readiness and resilience national priorities, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore told Newsmax TV
"I believe there will be further attacks . . . The question is what is our reaction," Gilmore, president of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner in a blunt assessment of the country's preparedness for what he called "the war ahead."
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"We are not ready," he said, adding, "That requires national leadership."
The shock that greeted news of an American's joining anti-Western jihadis
in Syria proves how little national security leadership the country has under President Barack Obama, said Gilmore.
"We need to have a good conversation
with the American people," he said, not only to discourage U.S. citizens from taking up arms against the United States but to explain that some will do so anyway, and that if and when an attack occurs — whether homegrown or imported — the country must respond maturely.
Gilmore, who chaired a 9/11-era congressional advisory panel on domestic responses to terror, said, "We have to explain whose side is on whose side here, and also prepare the American people for the potential of another terrorist attack in this country, [and] not allow there to be any kind of extreme response."
All of which would be easier, he said, if the president had a "decisive foreign policy" that he was effectively communicating to Americans and to U.S. allies and enemies abroad.
"It can't be a pullback foreign policy, which is what the president has been doing — and by the way, what [Republican Sen.] Rand Paul [of Kentucky] has been advocating as well," said Gilmore.
Gilmore said Paul's flip-flop on airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, once the president had authorized them, demonstrates the importance of consistency.
"We have to send a decisive message here that people who attack Americans and attack American interests will be retaliated against," said Gilmore.
Gilmore said the United States has all the military, intelligence and technical capabilities it needs to anticipate and eliminate future terrorist threats. The question is whether it is prepared to use them.
He said there is a legitimate debate to be had about how and where to deploy, for example, U.S. surveillance to uncover terrorist plots before they are carried out.
But he added, "There are people in this country that are very suspicious, that are very alarmed, and there are unscrupulous politicians that want to take advantage of that sense of unease and paranoia in the body politic."
"I'm not in favor of the National Security Agency spying on all of our personal emails or our correspondence or any of that kind of thing," said Gilmore, a former Army counter-intelligence officer.
"What I have asserted is that we have a technological advantage in this ongoing war against the terrorists and against these kinds of organizations, and that is the ability to reach in and find out who they're talking to, who their connections are, and make sure that we can map all of that and do something to protect the people of the United States," he said.
With proper oversight and transparency, said Gilmore, that advantage should be exploited. He said the liberty-or-security, either-or dichotomy promoted by some NSA critics amounts to a "false choice."
"We can make it clear to the American people that we care about their privacy, we care about their liberty," he said, "but we also are not going to give away our advantages in the war ahead."
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