Homeland security needs attention

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2010

National security should not be an issue of politics. Congress and the administration need to take necessary action and pass a combined bill from both the House and Senate to further impose sanctions on Iran, as well as work to ensure the safety of our citizens both at home and abroad. The implications of inaction are something this country and our people cannot afford to risk.

The Obama Administration has held off long enough on imposing sanctions on Iran. Iran is the single largest threat to the security of the Middle East as well as the United States. Iran’s volatile regime — which openly discusses the destruction of Israel — continues to strengthen its nuclear weapons program while disregarding U.N. Security Council resolutions ordering its suspension. The events on Feb. 11 in Tehran, which happened to be the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, should send a clear message that Iran is not backing down, as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that they have begun enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, making it a “nuclear state.”

In December, the House passed H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, and the Senate followed suit on Jan. 28 by passing its own version. Both bills target companies doing energy business with Iran, and seek to use tough economic sanctions on Iran to finally suspend its nuclear weapons programs. As a cosponsor of the house-passed version, I believe we must apply the necessary pressure and force Tehran to confront a real choice: continue its nuclear programs and reach economic ruin or suspend the program and open the door to relief from sanctions. The Treasury Department has also recently announced new sanctions against companies affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a key player in the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

On Feb. 18, I joined 30 of my colleagues in writing a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting she disclose the companies under investigation for having “problematic” business dealings with Iran. Moreover, we urged her to fully enforce the Iran Sanctions Act and levy appropriate sanctions against firms that have violated U.S. law.

Our homeland defenses are not working as they should, and we need to reinforce and repair these defenses at the current time. We should work to prevent terrorist attacks at all costs. Congress must continue to protect our nation and our communities from the world’s most dangerous terrorists; we must keep the terrorist detainees off American soil, out of our courts, and ensure they are not a threat to our national safety.

President Obama’s budget proposal includes approximately $237 million for the acquisition and renovation of a prison in Thomson, Ill., to house Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detainees. The administration has signaled that it might conduct military commission trials of some detainees at the facility, but that any detainees designated for criminal trials would be held in the Justice Department’s custody elsewhere.

Since 2002, Guantanamo Bay has helped keep America safe by holding some of the most malicious terrorists known to the world. Many of these detainees were instrumental in plotting attacks against American citizens, including the horrific attacks that changed America forever on September 11. Known terrorists will be moved to the heartland of our country to stand trial, granting them the rights provided by the very Constitution they sought to destroy.

I cannot comprehend how bringing these terrorist detainees into our backyards and giving them the same liberties as U.S. citizens will make any of us safer. The American people deserve answers and a plan for a clear path forward, which is why I am proud to support the “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act.” This legislation guarantees that dangerous terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are kept off American soil and out of our courts.

The failed Christmas day bomber and the Fort Hood attack should have resonated with the administration and firmly renewed its focus on restraining terrorists who threaten our country. We need to address these issues today so that we do not have to react to the fulfillment of these threats tomorrow.

Rep. Rodney Alexander represents the 5th Congressional District of Louisiana in the U.S. Congress.