House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) gave his second annual state of homeland security address at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. He did not have good news.
“Our country is less secure than it was eight years ago,” McCaul said. Thanks to President Obama’s “wait and see” foreign policy, “our allies no longer trust us, our adversaries no longer fear us, and our enemies are plotting against us.”
“He was more inclined to tell us what he wouldn’t do than what he would do,” McCaul noted.
Not to mention, much of what Obama told the American people was just plain wrong. “He said ISIS was on the run when they were really on the rise,” McCaul said.
Last month, however, McCaul said that Americans “rejected” leading from behind policies.
Thankfully, McCaul said, Trump is “much more clear eyed about the danger.”
“He is committed to winning,” the chairman said. “Give him the opportunity to turn the tide in this war.”
Donald Trump recognizes “we must shape the world around us,” the chairman said. As a result, Trump is inheriting a counterterror policy in “shambles.”
We need to project American ideals now more than ever, he urged, because jihadists have a whole new weapon to use: the internet. Terrorists have larger pools to recruit from than any time in modern history thanks to the rise of social media, McCaul said.
To answer these new threats, the incoming administration is preparing the biggest domestic terrorism overhaul in a decade, McCaul revealed. He outlined what parts of that overhaul will look like.
The administration will shut down terror pathways into the U.S. and begin an extreme vetting of foreign travelers. Anyone applying for visa should undergo screening in the nations they’re leaving before they come here, McCaul said. They are also going to bring security screening into the digital age. As of now, we are not permitted to check visitors’ social media. “Those days will be gone soon,” he said.
Second, the White House will suspend immigration from high-risk countries where we cannot weed out terror suspects, like Syria. “We are a compassionate nation, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage” of our humanitarianism, McCaul insisted.
Third, we need to push defenses outward and pressure foreign governments to step up. "If we let the dark cloud of terror creep over Europe," it may come here next, McCaul warned. He suggested we need a Marshall Plan of sorts to help our allies defeat terrorism.
Furthermore, McCaul said we need to stop radicalization from within and make it difficult for terrorists to recruit within U.S., with help from tech companies.
“We have a new generation of terrorists who know how to exploit the internet,” McCaul emphasized again.
Furthermore, we need to make sure communities know how to spot early warning signs. Before Ahmad Rahami launched his attacks this fall in Manhattan and New Jersey, the terrorist had been setting off bombs in his backyard. Obvious signs like this need to be reported. McCaul is pushing for expanded awareness and confidential nationwide tiplines. He plans to draft legislation to automatically notify communities when a terrorist is let out of prison. We do it for sexual offenders, “why in the world don’t we do that for terrorists?” he demanded.
McCaul also spent a bit of time talking about the U.S. border crisis. People doubted Trump could make his immigration policies reality, but “this is all about to change,” the chairman promised.
“Next month, people are going to get what they asked for,” he said. “We are going to build a wall. Period.”
In terms of funding, McCaul said our neighbors have failed to contain crisis so they must have “skin in the game.” He said reasonable ways to pay for the wall would include enforcing immigration fees for Mexico and Latin American countries, seize and freeze drug cartel assets and create tolls at the border. In turn, we’ll offer to work with these nations on how to secure their borders.
As the wall construction is getting underway, a border security surge will be taking place. McCaul and company will introduce an emergency plan in Congress to build a tough array of barriers to close security gaps and defend American sovereignty. It will be a “historic, multilayered defense system,” he said. He also stressed the need for more border agents, sensors and aerial surveillance to ensure we have 100 percent visibility. They will end the catch and release program, deport all criminal aliens in our country, cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities and, of course, they will rescind Obama’s executive actions.
Finally, McCaul promised to help fix the “broken bureaucracy” at the department of homeland security. Morale is terrible and organizational infighting is preventing the “dysfunctional agency” from achieving their goals, he said.
“We can do better for the American people,” he said. The overhaul starts with scrapping failing offices, revamping the TSA, giving airports the option to privatize the screening process and reforming the intelligence enterprise. “The department must stay ahead of our enemies,” he said.
He ended on a word of hope, noting that no matter how many threats we face, “the American spirit” cannot be matched by our foes.
Now, I’ll let you contrast McCaul’s urgent message with President Obama’s final foreign policy address on Tuesday, in which he laid out a list of apparent counterterror successes he and his team have achieved in the past eight years.