Bin Laden may be gone, and there hasn’t been a successful attack by al-Qaida-inspired extremists on U.S. soil since the deadly shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. But the danger still remains, even though the Administration tells us otherwise. The terrorist assault on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 injected the issue of diplomatic security into the presidential campaign and renewed questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence.
WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND
Obama approved the raid that killed bin Laden, and set a policy to end the use of harsh interrogation tactics. But he’s greatly expanded drone attacks and is calling for the renewal of surveillance powers put in place after the 2001 attacks. He failed to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp as promised.
Mitt Romney has said little about terrorism during his campaign, yet Republicans are pressing for answers on why Washington rejected requests for heavier security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, before the deadly assault.
WHY IT MATTERS
Voters according to polls, aren’t too concerned with terrorism this election season, but that could change any minute, should another attack occur. A trip through an airport may be the most tangible reminder of the impact of terrorism on Americans. Anyone who flies commercial airlines knows what it’s like to be required to take off shoes and walk through body-imaging machines. The government says these security measures are necessary because terrorists continue to target airplanes and develop new methods and weapons to evade U.S. security.
There are less visible aspects of anti-terrorism, too, such as secret surveillance at home and military operations abroad.
Dozens of Americans, inspired by al-Qaida’s ideology, are known to have plotted to kill innocent people inside the U.S. and abroad. There is a fine line between expressing one’s opinion, however hateful, and being motivated to commit violence. The government is constantly trying to identify the latter.
So in order to catch terrorists before they attack, the Administration wants to renew a program to monitor terrorism suspects’ international communications. That means snooping on the communications of law-abiding Americans at times. It’s not known how often.
Also the government is expanding the use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen. But there’s a consequence of that action – the drone have killed civilians in the process.
And the government has no shortage of secret lists, many including Americans.
One list includes suspected American terrorists whom the U.S. has authorized itself to kill or capture. The justifications for that authorization are as secret as the names on the list. The government also has suspected terrorists on a no-fly list. This list ballooned under Obama and continues to grow. Though the list includes about 500 Americans, there is no official process to determine whether you are on it and whether it’s for legitimate reasons.