With all of Washington officialdom buzzing about Scott Brown’s stunning upset win in Massachusetts, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will convene a hearing on the issue many pundits now say provided the margin that carried Brown to victory: Increasingly unpopular administration policies on combating terror that include treating terror suspects as common criminals.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a sharp rebuke Tuesday to the policies he says have opened the door to increasing U.S. vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
“The misguided policies of this administration make it harder, not easier, to find terrorists and foil their plots,” Sessions tells Newsmax. “This is the product of a failure to recognize that we are at war, instead treating the terror threat as a matter of law enforcement – as we did before 9/11.”
The hearing will be titled: “Securing America's Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication,” and it will focus on many of the same war-on-terror issues that pollsters now believe played a stealth role in Brown’s stunning upset win.
On the campaign trail, Brown openly scorned the Obama administration’s policy of prosecuting terrorists such as the Christmas Day bomber criminally in U.S. courts, rather than declaring them enemy combatants, interrogating them for intelligence, and hauling them before military tribunals.
His Democratic opponent Martha Coakley, by contrast, posited the rather baffling view that no al-Qaida terrorists exist in Afghanistan -- despite a major suicide-bomb attack that recently claimed the lives of seven CIA patriots.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe program Wednesday, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O’Donnell reported Brown’s chief campaign strategist is reporting that while angst over healthcare reform was a key issue in the campaign, it was actually the interrogation issue that put Brown over the top.
In what is sure to be seen as a roadmap to victory by other GOP campaign strategists, the Brown campaign’s internal polling indicates that the No. 1 issue motivating voters was the way terrorists are being managed by the Obama administration.
“With respect to the people who wish to harm us,” Brown said in his acceptance speech, “I believe, and I know all of you believe, that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation. Our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, and not lawyers to defend them.”
The crowd response to Brown’s statement was deafening. And no doubt the “shot heard round the world” in Massachusetts on Tuesday will continue to echo in Senate chambers as the terrorism meeting convenes this morning.
Wednesday’s hearing will focus on giving America’s defenders the tools they need to fight terrorism, and the enhancement of interagency communication.
“On Christmas Day we narrowly escaped disaster,” Sessions said Tuesday. “It was a harrowing reminder that we are faced with a ruthless enemy—one that will stop at nothing in its quest to kill American civilians. Intelligence officials have confirmed that, at this very moment, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is plotting new attacks against our country.
“But the attack on Christmas Day was only the latest of several recent efforts to strike America. It followed jihadist plots in Chicago and New York City, and a devastating assault on America’s largest Army base. The Ft. Hood terrorist, Nidal Malik Hassan, had been in touch with the same radical imam in Yemen who has been linked to several of the 9/11 hijackers.
“We are at war,” Sessions declared flatly. “A war declared on us by Islamic terrorists. Winning that war will require the fullest measure of our resources and our resolve. Clearly, our system failed on Christmas Day. We must identify and fix the failures that allowed an al-Qaida terrorist, strapped with explosives, to board a Detroit-bound airliner—even though we had ample intelligence to prevent the attack.”
Previous hearings on the topic have sparked plenty of fireworks.
In September, Sessions appeared stunned when he elicited the admission from FBI Director Robert Mueller that the FBI, which generally focuses on criminal activity, was involved in questioning prisoners in Iraq.
“We have muddled entirely the classical distinction between war and criminal prosecution,” Sessions responded, according to Politico. Sessions added of the administration’s inclination toward criminal prosecution, “This is going to reduce the amount of intelligence obtained on the battlefield.”
Mueller told Congress however that reading terrorists in the field their “Miranda rights,” thereby offering them the legal representation and protections that U.S. citizens receive, would actually be rare. The results in Massachusetts, Brown supporters say, would suggest they’re not rare enough.
“From al-Qaida to Yemen to the rising menace of homegrown Jihad,” Sessions tells Newsmax, “the threats against our country are severe and increasing. Now is not the time to weaken our ability to gather intelligence.”
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