President Donald Trump has both a challenge and an opportunity with his search for a new FBI director.
The challenge is to find someone who inspires confidence and who will be an independent voice of national law enforcement.
The opportunity is to put behind the contentiousness of the previous director, restore the credibility and effectiveness of the FBI, and return it to its primary mission of fighting domestic crime as well as international terrorism.
If the president wants to set the FBI on a new course, he should look beyond the current controversies swirling around this decision and set the FBI firmly on a course that will impact the real lives of the vast majority of Americans.
We are in the midst of a national epidemic of drug abuse and gang violence that is claiming the lives of thousands of Americans every year.
In Long Island, this scourge is taking the form of particularly violent gang warfare being waged by vicious gangs like M13. However, this crisis knows no geographic bounds. It is piling up murders and assaults in cities like Chicago and St. Louis, in small towns from Appalachia to New England, and in suburban communities everywhere.
This gang warfare is being fueled by an unprecedented level of drug trafficking and abuse that should be the focus of a nationally directed effort to root it out. The FBI can and should be at the center of this battle. And we should not just accept that this campaign will fall short like other earlier "wars on drugs."
This time the full law enforcement resources of all levels of government should be brought to the fight.
It's a fight that starts at our borders, with an all-out effort to stem the massive inflow of narcotics into the country. It's a fight that must address the insatiable demand for these drugs that began with over prescription of pain killers like OxyContin, from which many users graduate to heroin. And it's a fight against the vicious gang members who are pushing drugs and terrorizing once peaceful communities.
Elected leaders must mount a concerted battle to take back our streets and neighborhoods from these young thugs. That should start with President Trump filling the FBI director's position with someone who has led difficult fights against crime; who understands law enforcement from the ground up; and who has a proven public safety management record.
I believe that no one being considered for FBI director better fits this bill than former New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, a decorated former Marine with a proven track record of successfully fighting crime.
In two separate tours directing the nation's largest police force -- including during the dark days after the 9/11 attacks -- Ray Kelly distinguished himself with leadership skills that dramatically reduced crime in some of New York's most troubled neighborhoods.
This set the stage for an unprecedented and lasting overall reduction in violent crime that directly contributed to New York City's current resurgence. And as Senator I was proud to introduce Mr. Kelly to the Senate Committee that unanimously approved his nomination as U.S. Commissioner of Customs, from which he led the fight to secure our borders and stem the flow of drugs.
It's time to get the FBI back to the real threat to our domestic peace and tranquility. Frankly, that threat is not from foreign intelligence agencies, or from any state actors. It is from a dangerous enemy within that threatens all Americans where it matters most, right here at home.
Whether Ray Kelly is appointed or not, he is the kind of leader that this country needs running the FBI - above reproach and political partisanship.
Al D'Amato, a Republican, represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1999.
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