Washington, D.C. – Four years after September 11, 2001, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined together today with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, former National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Director Rand Beers, former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice and former Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to call on President Bush to finally release a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy after months of delay over bureaucratic infighting. The leaders argued that together, America can do better and they unveiled a letter to the President outlining his failure to outline a counter-terrorism strategy, and analysis that the administration is not fully prepared to protect Americans from a terrorist strike here at home. Along with the letter, they released a new report from national security experts, led by Albright and Podesta, outlining the effects of Bush’s failed strategy and new proposals to help guide the administration in formulating their strategy.
“After Katrina, it became clear to every American that the White House had not done enough to prepare America for disaster. It was a wake-up call for those who thought the Bush White House was backing up its tough talk with real action,” said Senator Reid. “We can’t afford any wake-up calls when it comes to preparing for or preventing a terrorist attack. America can do better. Democrats believe it’s time for the President to stop dropping the ball, and to start implementing a more comprehensive strategy to fight the war on terror.”
“Americans don’t need photo ops, platitudes, or empty promises. They need a real and demonstrated commitment to keeping them safe. President Bush has yet to give the American people a long-term, comprehensive strategy that will protect them terrorist attacks. Democrats believe that a stronger America begins at home,” said Leader Pelosi.
The report entitled Combating Catastrophic Terror: A Security Strategy for the Nation, offers the president a vision for what his administration has not produced – a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy for defeating terrorism and the violent extremist threat. The report details ideas on three fronts: tactical counterterrorism, strategic counterterrorism and homeland security. It offers ideas on eliminating terror cells, changing the balance of opinion in the Muslim world and doing more at home to protect Americans from a terrorist strike. The Democratic Leaders urged the president to consider the recommendations as they urged the administration to end their bureaucratic infighting and formulate an integrated strategy.
The text of the letter is attached below:
October 26, 2005
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
We are concerned that more than four years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and your administration lacks the comprehensive strategy for winning the global war on terrorism that you have repeatedly promised. Despite continued assurances from Administration officials over the past several months that the White House was prepared to release a new, more coherent strategy to deal with catastrophic terror attacks, we understand that this new strategy has been mired in bureaucratic in-fighting and has been delayed indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the accumulated evidence to date indicates that we are not yet winning the war on terror. In spite of your Administration’s emphasis on the importance of bringing Usama bin Laden to justice, he remains at large. Credible international polling suggests there has been a significant increase in anti-Americanism, especially in the Islamic world. The most recent annual report of significant incidents of terrorism published by the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) continues to show a trend of sharply increasing numbers of significant terrorist attacks around the world, including Madrid, London and Bali. Since 2001, the number of significant terrorist attacks has grown from 124 significant attacks in 2001 to 651 significant attacks causing 1,907 deaths in 2004.
In addition, there appears to be a significant amount of evidence that the war in Iraq has further exacerbated the terrorist threat to this nation. Iraq risks becoming what it was not before the war: a magnet and training ground for terrorists. CIA Director Porter J. Goss stated as much in Senate testimony in February earlier this year,
“Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.”
It is no surprise, therefore, that more and more Americans are increasingly critical of this Administration’s efforts to combat terrorism and left wondering whether it has a real strategy for prevailing. The federal government’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina has only exacerbated this problem, with many Americans now questioning whether we are prepared to handle a catastrophic terrorist event at home.
Unfortunately, to the extent the Administration has any counterterrorism policies, they appear to be outdated or ineffective, in part because they have become entangled in the proliferation of overlapping initiatives. For example, the 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy, which made unilateral military preemption a centerpiece, has largely been discredited. This document has not been revised since its release, despite its obvious shortcomings and despite the annual requirement to produce an updated strategy. In addition, your National Strategy to Combat Terrorism was last published more than two and half years ago, while the National Strategy to Combat WMD has not been updated in nearly three years. Contributing to the confusion and disarray is the fact that some 10 different strategies currently guide the federal government’s response to terrorism and catastrophic attacks to the nation.
Despite the overlapping and multiple government strategies, there are still few meaningful indicators for measuring your administration’s performance in the war on terrorism. The American public is still not able to answer fundamental questions about your success, such as ones asked by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in October 2003:
“Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?”
(Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s memorandum to General Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, General Pete Pace, and Doug Feith, October 16, 2003)
We trust that any new strategy developed by the White House would have these kinds of metrics and would be sufficiently clear and transparent to ensure that the American people can gain a clear sense of whether we are winning this crucial struggle.
In short, we believe it is critical and time-sensitive that your Administration develop a more effective and comprehensive strategy in the war on terrorism and this can only be done with your leadership. Even internal administration debates over the name of your initiative — Global War on Terror (GWOT) versus the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) – appear to have bogged down or been cut short. We urge you to immediately bring this process to a close. America expects better from its government.
In this regard, we commend to your attention a report entitled Combating Catastrophic Terror: A Security Strategy for the Nation, recently produced by a group of American national security specialists, that offers one vision for what your administration so far has not produced — a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy for defeating terrorism and the violent extremist threat.
Harry Reid, Democratic Leader, United States Senate
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader, United States House of Representatives