Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) sent the following letter to President Barack Obama following a briefing yesterday about the attempted terrorist attack on December 25th. The letter expresses concern about information sharing across intelligence agencies and emphasizes the need to remain on the offensive to destroy extremist groups' ability to recruit, train, and plan terrorist activities:
December 30, 2009
Dear Mr. President:
The recent attempted attack on a U.S. airplane is disturbing to me and the American people. I know you share these concerns. Despite all that our law enforcement, intelligence, and policy communities have done to keep Americans safe, this incident demonstrates that weaknesses still exist in our global strategy to protect the American people against terrorism. Today, Congressional staff received an inter-agency briefing on the Christmas Day event that left me with more questions than answers. I understand that there were failures across the government and the international community that quite frankly, eight years after the attacks on 9-11, should not have happened.
Failures, to include proper information sharing across all agencies, continue to challenge our ability to identify potential extremists poised to strike. Given the technologies available and the high quality personnel serving in our government, there is no excuse for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. Policy directives regarding our VISA programs and travel screenings procedures must be reviewed and updated. We must continue to develop and utilize state-of-the-art technology to enhance our security measures. Above all we must take a hard look at the watchlist and screening procedures developed under the last administration.
I realize the task of finding and foiling these plots is difficult. One might call it looking for a specific needle within a stack of needles. I commend the outstanding men and women who serve every day performing critical law enforcement, intelligence, and military functions. It is certainly because of their efforts that we have succeeded in thwarting attacks on our homeland in recent years. However, more needs to be done.
I agree with you that we must do everything possible to get to the bottom of this particular case and to root out the systemic failures demonstrated here. I look forward to frequent updates from members of your administration on your progress in this regard. Particularly from the position as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I believe we must remain on the offensive—ready to prevent those who would harm this nation from ever being able to attack this homeland. The committee will pay particular attention to efforts our armed forces are making to disrupt al Qa’ida and its networks. Destroying these extremists groups’ ability to recruit, train, communicate, finance, and plan terrorist activities is essential to American security. The Armed Services Committee will continue its oversight in this area and we look forward to an update on global counter-terror efforts early in the New Year. I remain committed to working with you on these issues in the coming months. No issue is more important to American national security.
Very truly yours,