National Security Must Be Our Top Priority
By Sen. John Thune
By now, most Americans have seen in chilling detail what happened late last month in Istanbul, Turkey. A group of terrorists casually walked into one of Ataturk Airport’s public terminals and proceeded to open fire before detonating suicide vests among fleeing travelers. In the wake of this attack, 45 people were left dead, and more than 200 were injured. Although no group has formally claimed responsibility, the Turkish government says all signs point to ISIS.
The list of cities outside the Middle East impacted by ISIS-related terrorist attacks is steadily growing: Paris, Brussels, and now Istanbul. While an ocean separated us from the latest attack, Americans have seen radical Islamic terrorism on our shores in San Bernardino, and most recently in Orlando. These attacks are a warning sign that ISIS-inspired attacks aren’t contained to certain borders, and in response we must do everything we can to protect Americans around the world.
The Republican-led Senate is committed to defeating ISIS, but I am concerned some Democrats, President Obama included, don’t entirely share that priority. John Brennan, the Obama-appointed director of the CIA, recently conceded that “our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” Part of that bleak assessment is likely due to the fact that President Obama has never – despite all of the ISIS-created carnage around the world – laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat the terrorist group. While the Republican-led Senate can’t force President Obama to take this threat seriously, we can work hard to pursue policies that will increase our national security, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
One of the best ways to combat terrorism is by ensuring the military has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. It’s unfortunate, though, that for the second year in a row, Senate Democrats have decided to put their interests ahead of our troops by playing politics with the Department of Defense appropriations bill. Passing this essential bill is a key part of meeting our obligations to the men and women in uniform who fight to keep us safe. My hope is that my Democrat colleagues drop their unnecessary objections and let this bill move forward without delay.
Another key aspect to protecting our nation from terrorist threats is controlling our borders, which is why I’m disappointed Senate Democrats recently blocked a bill that would have discouraged sanctuary city policies, which have resulted in the release of thousands of criminals who could otherwise have been picked up by federal authorities and deported. That debate is far from over, though.
The Senate will also soon take up several important airport security measures that I authored, which will keep air travelers in South Dakota and around the country safer and more secure. Included is a provision that improves the vetting of airport employees to address the risk that an insider might give a terrorist access to secure areas of an airport.
Although I’m not holding out much hope, I’d like to think the president and his allies on Capitol Hill will develop a greater seriousness about ISIS in the coming months. But whatever they do – or fail to do – Republicans will do everything we can to protect our country and keep Americans safe from terrorists.