It wasn’t pretty. With the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., the United States homeland “is in the highest threat environment since 9/11,,” McCaul said in his speech at the National War College in Washington. As for the Islamic State, McCaul labeled the terrorist organization “more dangerous than al-Qaeda ever was under Osama bin Laden.” Authorities have said one of the San Bernardino shooters, Tashfeen Malik, pledged loyalty to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Unlike some of the 2016 presidential candidates, McCaul has significant experience digging into the details of how to best protect the U.S. homeland. His committee and its six subcommittees have held dozens of hearings on all manner of homeland security topics since he became chair in 2013.
Yet his remarks Monday carried a sharply partisan tinge. He blasted President Obama, saying Obama was slow to awaken to the Islamic State threat and that the president’s Oval Office address about terrorism Sunday “failed to lay out any new steps to fight this menace. Instead, he doubled down on a strategy of hesitancy and half-measures.”
McCaul casts the terrorist threat in stark terms. “Make no mistake,” he said. “We are a nation at war. Fourteen years after 9/11, the fight against Islamic terror rages on, and our adversaries have opened up new battlegrounds across the world. Our own city streets are now the front lines.”
As for solutions, McCaul issued a number of proposals, including more outreach to “vulnerable communities” in the United States. He said his committee “will introduce a slate of new bills” in the coming weeks on subjects such as enhancing the security of the U.S. visa process; helping foreign allies address their own security weaknesses; and streamlining the Department of Homeland Security into “a more focused counter-terrorism organization.”
But he conceded that achieving true security will be difficult, especially in the digital age. “Unfortunately, the rare no simple answers,” McCaul said.