The Obama administration’s ongoing failure to identify Islamic terrorists as such due to a prevailing policy of "political correctness" has left the country vulnerable to terror attacks, experts testified on Wednesday before Congress.
U.S. intelligence agencies continue to avoid using terms such as "Islamic extremist" because they are worried about being called Islamophobic or worse, according to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led the city through the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
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"In the present climate, the message being conveyed from the top is that it is inappropriate to label someone an ‘Islamic extremist’ no matter how compelling the suspicions," Giuliani told lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing focused on U.S. intelligence failures following the Boston Marathon terror bombing.
"But you can’t fight an enemy you don’t acknowledge," he said.
Despite these warnings from Giuliani and lawmakers on the committee, the FBI refused to comply with multiple requests to appear at the hearing and provide updates about the investigation into the Boston bombers.
Giuliani said Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been treated as "enemy combatant" for at least "four or five weeks" upon his arrest. This designation would have allowed authorities to question Tsarnaev for as long as they saw fit.
"We didn't need his statement as a properly admitted confession," Giuliani said. "What we needed was an endless amount of information from him."
Giuliani said the U.S. government’s reluctance to acknowledge Islamic extremists and share information allows these terrorists to carry out successful attacks.
"There would have been a greater chance of preventing Fort Hood and maybe the Boston bombings if the relevant bureaucracies had been less reluctant to identify the eventual killers as potential Islamic extremists terrorists," said Giuliani, a former Justice Department official and U.S. attorney.
The Fort Hood Army base shooting, for instance, was classified as "work place violence," even though Muslim shooter Nidal Hasan was screaming "Allah Hu Akbar" during the attack.
"This isn’t just prosperous," Giuliani said. "What we fail to realize is this is dangerous. It leads to all sorts of mistakes from the bureaucracy."
"This elevation of political correctness over sound, investigative judgment and data collection certainly explains the failure to identify Maj. Hasan as a terrorist despite repeated indications of his jihadist view," Giuliani said.
In order for the United States to effectively combat would-be terrorists, "we have to purge ourselves of the practice of political correctness when it interferes with our rational and intellectually honest analysis of identifying characteristic that help us to discover these killers in advance," Giuliani said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the committee’s chairman, criticized the FBI for stonewalling congressional investigations into the Boston bombings.
It came to light during a congressional hearing in May that the FBI had failed to tell the Boston Police Department about concerns related to the Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the attack.
"We didn’t see it coming" in Boston," McCaul said, citing "a failure to share information that is being witnessed now in this very room."
Information about potential terrorists, as well as the investigation, "does not belong solely to the FBI, and I hope they don’t continue to stonewall our inquiry" McCaul said. "I will not be satisfied until we get the answers the American people deserve."
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) also chastised the FBI for stonewalling Congress "completely since the Boston bombings."
"It’s unacceptable," King said. "We should stand together on both sides of the aisle and insist" that the FBI cooperate with Congress.
Intelligence failures and inter-agency reluctance to share key information led to the 9/11 attacks, as well as several subsequent ones. Agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were established to combat this exact problem.
However, full-scale intelligence sharing still does not take place, McCaul warned.
"Twelve years later, what has gone wrong here and what can we do to fix this?" he Giuliani asked.
"If you ask me, the emphasis on state and local law enforcement becomes critical here," he said.