There are several immediate lessons learned from the terrorist attacks that killed hundreds and wounded even more in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka – faced with its own internal political and economic problems – was a soft target for Islamic State terrorists. Meaning, there wasn’t much to stop the terrorists from targeting churches and hotels even when the government had information that an attack was imminent.
The Sri Lankan government plagued with its own internal disputes, communication failures and inadequate resources was victim to those targeting its own people.
The United States should heed the warning signs.
How capable and ready is America’s intelligence and law enforcement apparatus in preventing an attack of this magnitude? As a nation that has lived through similar and even greater attacks, like the nearly 2,977 killed by al Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001, the San Bernardino attacks that left 14 dead, and numerous other attacks information sharing, minimal law enforcement resources or failure to pass along information that wasn’t taken seriously led to carnage.
Why wasn’t the public warned? At the very least, the public could have been the eyes and ears in preventing what took place. The Sri Lankan government couldn’t have been the only intelligence agency aware that this attack was imminent.
In Sri Lanka, the country’s intelligence agencies had been closely watching an Islamic extremist cell known as National Thowheeth Jama’ath. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said at a news conference in Colombo, Tuesday that the attack could have been prevented if it hadn’t been for a breach in communications between his agencies.
“We, if it was known, certainly could have prevented many of the attacks in the churches and have more security in the hotels,” said Wickremesinghe, who added that his office was not informed of the ongoing chatter between the terrorists believed to be involved in the attack.
On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on its Aamaq news agency: “The perpetrators of the attack that targeted nationals of the countries of the coalitions and Christians in Sri Lanka before yesterday are fighters from the Islamic State.” The post was translated by the Associated Press.
If the United States is to prevent possible similar attacks both abroad targeting Americans and in our homeland, the country’s 16 intelligence agencies and the military apparatus must be prepared to meet those challenges. It requires compromise between the Democrats and Republicans to resolve the crisis of our nation’s border security.
This requires the Trump administration, Congress and the Senate to be ready to compromise and work together. It also requires that our agencies budgetary needs be met and that long standing lower-level and higher-level nominees be appointed to the hundreds of vacant positions still left unfilled. Continuous Democratic obstruction and failure by the administration to put the right people in those positions is no longer an option if the government is to meet the necessary national security challenges ahead.
In an opinion editorial written by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Politico he points out this very problem. He notes that since January 2017, “for the first time in memory, a minority has exploited procedure to systematically obstruct a president from staffing up his administration.”
“This new, across-the-board obstruction is unfair to the president and, more importantly, to the American people,” McConnell notes. “Left unchecked, it is guaranteed to create an unsustainable precedent that would see every future presidency of either party obstructed in the same mindless way.”
Sadly, this historic bipartisan infighting does nothing for the American people. The failure of the Senate to confirm appointments and congressional committees more focused on President Donald Trump than foreign threats have taken precedence. This puts our nation at risk. It makes us a soft target for terrorists and a target for foreign state actors that take advantage of the chaos.
Democrats have focused more on President Trump’s taxes, his family business and rehashing an investigation into the now debunked Russia’s ties with the Trump campaign than the threats posed from external enemy states and actors. It’s made the United States vulnerable and for that they should be ashamed.
Just look at what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-CA, is promising to do. Schiff is committed that American tax dollars will be spent on investigating ‘everything’ Trump. Despite findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team that there was absolutely no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia and no obstruction charges, Schiff is not backing down. He told ABC news that Trump’s “case is far worse than anything that Richard Nixon did, the break in by the Russians of Democratic institutions, a foreign adversary far more significant than the plumbers breaking into the Democratic headquarters so yes, I would say in every way this is more significant than Watergate.”
His Democratic colleagues are doing more of the same, promising to spend their time politicking and targeting Trump, rather than doing their jobs.
If there is any lesson in Sri Lanka, is that this infighting makes the United States more of a target and Congress needs to do what it was meant to do: protect the American people.
Just read what FBI Director Christopher Wray had to say to the House Appropriations Committee early on April, 4 when describing the importance of getting the vital resources to combat growing threats.
“Our nation continues to face a multitude of serious and evolving threats ranging from homegrown violent extremists to hostile foreign intelligence services and operatives; from sophisticated cyber-based attacks to Internet-facilitated sexual exploitation of children; from violent gangs and criminal organizations to public corruption and corporate fraud. Keeping pace with these threats is a significant challenge for the FBI,” Wray said.
“As an organization, we must be able to stay current with constantly evolving technologies. Our adversaries—terrorists, foreign intelligence services, and criminals—take advantage of modern technology, including the Internet and social media, to facilitate illegal activities, recruit followers, encourage terrorist attacks and other illicit actions, and to disperse information on building improvised explosive devices and other means to attack the U.S.,” Wray added. “The breadth of these threats and challenges are as complex as any time in our history.”