From San Bernardino to Saudi Arabia – A Bad Week for Homeland Security

Last week was not a good one for homeland security in America. On Sunday night President Obama sought to quiet concerns over the growing threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), following the terrorist attack by a husband and wife duo of jihadists in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead.

The president called for gun control as a means to combat terrorism by preventing people on the government’s “No Fly List” from purchasing firearms. This, even though neither of the Islamist terrorists in San Bernardino were on the list, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and the list is a virtual dumping ground of names, many of which have no nexus to terrorism. List members have included former Senator Ted Kennedy, journalists, federal workers, and the former state treasures of Washington and Arizona, to name just a few.

The president’s proposal does sound good in theory, but in practice it amounts to a total deprivation of a constitutional right through the imposition of a secret government list without due process to challenge the government’s designation. Until the list can be better managed and due process better accounted for, linking gun control to counterterrorism is little more than a distraction. This does not mean would-be-terrorists are running free buying guns without consequence. When a member of the list does purchase a firearm, the FBI Counterterrorism Division is notified.

The gaps in screening immigrants from countries rife with radical Islam were exposed last week. The female shooter in San Bernardino, a Pakistani national, passed a counterterrorism background check before she was admitted into the United States. Her pledge of allegiance to ISIS on the day of the attack further highlighted that she and her husband were not isolated extremists. Today, radical Islamists are linked together through an electronic global web enabling a toxic ideology to be espoused and passed on more readily across continents. On this front our enemies are winning decisively.

Part of the reason our enemies are winning the ideological battle is the near void that exists when it comes to producing opposing voices. Instead, we hear from deniers of radical Islam as we did last week who keep telling us that ISIS and their ilk have nothing to do with Islam, even though the plane text of the Qur’an and the Hadith dictate otherwise. Regardless, the deniers admonish us that most of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims. While this is objectively true, it conflates cause with effect.

The fact that thousands of Muslims have been murdered by ISIS, al-Qaida, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, etc. does not obviate the fact that it is a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that inspires the groups to kill, rape, and torture on an industrial scale. Even President Obama admitted as much in his Sunday address when he finally, at long-last said, “an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.”

Worse than the deniers, we heard from the apologists last week when the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) explained that the United States is partly to blame for Islamist terrorism around the world. Note to CAIR, such terrorism is less a reaction to our policies, and more of a means of imposing seventh century Islam across the Muslim world and beyond. The radical Islamist grievance culture will never run out of excuses to hurl at its enemies in order to rally supporters and shame its opposition into submission.

We learned last week that the “if you see something, say something” terrorist detection campaign is in trouble. People who witnessed suspicious activity occurring at the home of the San Bernardino terrorists before the attack declined to report it, because they did not want to engage in “racial profiling.” This is eerily similar to 2009 when no one in the U.S. Army or the FBI dared to confront the obvious radical Islamist Major Nidal Malik Hasan for fear of being labeled an Islamophobe. Hasan went on to kill 13 people at Fort Hood.

It was revealed last week that the two San Bernardino killers may have met in Saudi Arabia. While it’s too early to know what, if any, significance this may have had, one thing is absolutely clear: the Saudi’s are a chief practitioner and global exporter of Sunni radical Islam – a combination of Wahhabism and Salafism. This goes to the root of the global Islamist crisis, and Riyadh must be directly and consistently confronted over it. Any counterterrorism strategy that continues to ignore this epicenter of radicalism is a feckless and hollow one.

In Paris last week we were told by world leaders that the greatest threat to humanity is global warming. No, the greatest threat to humanity is the risk that seventh century barbarians will acquire 21st century weapons of mass destruction and use them. A close second is a group of world leaders who think the former is more of a risk than the latter.

Last week was not all doom and gloom. We saw true heroism among the first responders in San Bernardino who were literally willing to take a bullet in order to save innocent victims. We also witnessed a group of courageous Muslims known as the Muslim Reform Movement march on the Saudi-sponsored Islamic Center in Washington, DC to demand a wholesale reformation within Islam. It is men and women like them who will ultimately defeat radical Islam and win the “War on Terror.” It should be the policy of the United States to support them in every way possible. We should not wait another week to do so.

Joshua Filler

About Joshua Filler

Joshua D. Filler is the president of Filler Security Strategies, a homeland security and emergency preparedness consulting firm in Falmouth that works with public safety responders from across the country. An attorney, Josh has served in several senior positions at the federal and local level, including as the first Director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as Director of Local Affairs at the White House Office of Homeland Security, and in the cabinet of Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York City. Josh has testified before Congress, written several articles for major newspapers, and given speeches and lectures on homeland security and emergency preparedness around the nation.