Press Releases

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which stated that al-Qaeda has a safe haven in Pakistan and regenerated top leadership:

“The National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday is the latest in a string of troubling reports of a rebuilding al-Qaeda working to strike American targets. 

“Specifically, the NIE states that al-Qaeda has a safe haven in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas and that its leadership structure has regenerated.  The estimate also explains that the terrorist group is using our occupation of Iraq to recruit new members and finance global operations.

“These are troubling developments, and they indicate a key flaw in the Administration’s anti-terror strategy.  The Administration has not adequately focused specifically on al-Qaeda and their top leadership.  Instead we’ve spread our efforts across a broad range of terrorist groups and the conflict in Iraq.  As a result, we have given al-Qaeda a chance to regenerate its central leadership and gain capabilities not seen since before 9/11.  Our first priority has to be to target al-Qaeda’s top leaders and their organization, and our resources must be allocated accordingly.

“Unfortunately, we are not adequately focusing our assets on al-Qaeda and their command structure.  Currently we have a very high percentage our military assets focused in Iraq.  It is essential that we refocus on the Afghanistan / Pakistan border and other crucial battlegrounds if we are to effectively protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

“Recent news reports indicate that the peace agreement between local tribal leaders in Northwest Pakistan and the Pakistani government may have broken down.  This could be an opportunity for us to work with the Pakistanis to go after our common extremist enemies, but first we have to gain the trust of the Pakistani people.  The Pakistanis in this region face crushing poverty, and if we work with them to build a better society, we can both gain their trust and reduce the incentive for local populations to join groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

“The report also includes warnings about al-Qaeda’s use of modern communications technology to organize and proselytize.  Earlier this year, the House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee, which I chair, heard similar warnings from expert witnesses that the Internet has become a crucial battleground in this struggle, and that if we do not treat it as such, we will not defeat these terrorists.  The U.S. must improve its effort to monitor and counter these groups’ use of online communications.”

 

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted for S. 966, the Passport Backlog Reduction Act of 2007.  The bill addresses the serious backlog of passport and related travel document applications caused by the 2004 intelligence overhaul law which required more secure documents for travel between the U.S., Bermuda, Canada and Mexico.  The measure was passed by voice vote.

At the beginning of this year, the Department of Homeland Security began requiring U.S. travelers reentering into the U.S. by air to present secure identification, such as a passport.  This change resulted in skyrocketing numbers of qualifying document applications.  The legislation passed by the House of Representatives today allows Foreign Service retirees to retain retirement benefits when they return to temporary work for the purpose of easing the document application backlog.  

“The push to require high-security documents for international travel sooner than was feasible for a smooth implementation has seriously snarled our citizens’ ability to travel abroad.  The measure we passed this evening aims to rectify a problem affecting the summer travel of countless Americans by temporarily bringing already trained workers back into the system,” Smith said.

The measure passed under a suspension of the rules, a process which allows for the expedited consideration of legislation which must then be approved by a vote of two-thirds of the House.  The Senate has already approved their version of this bill, which must be signed by the President before it becomes law.

 

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today made the following remarks in the U.S. House of Representatives in reference to H.R. 2956, the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act.  The bill would require a responsible redeployment of U.S. troops beginning within 120 days of enactment and ending by April 1, 2008.  The legislation also requires the President to publicly justify the post-redeployment missions for the U.S. military in Iraq and the minimum number of troops necessary to carry out those missions.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  Listening to this debate, I think the biggest problem is that the proponents of the stay-the-course plan in Iraq continually, completely equate the battle in Iraq with the battle against al-Qaeda, with the terrorists that struck us, and the two are not the same.

“In fact we heard from Ms. Ros-Lehtinen that Iraq is but one of the battlefields where we are fighting against al-Qaeda and that is absolutely true.  And yet we have 80 percent of our assets in Iraq.  Meanwhile report after report comes out that al-Qaeda is strengthening themselves in Afghanistan and Pakistan where we don’t have enough resources. 

“Our argument is not for retreat.  Our argument is that there is a better way to fight al-Qaeda and those who threaten us than to put all of our assets in Iraq while not paying enough of attention to where al-Qaeda is really strengthening itself. 

“In Iraq, it is primarily a power struggle in which al-Qaeda is a player.   It is not primarily about al-Qaeda’s threat against the U.S.  In Afghanistan with the Taliban and al-Qaeda [it is] a very different story.  Our troops, our assets, the lives and talents of the people of this country are tied down in Iraq fighting what is primarily a civil war instead of better fighting al-Qaeda. 

“In fact our presence in many ways has strengthened al-Qaeda.  Syria would never be an ally of al-Qaeda but for our presence in Iraq.  Al-Qaeda wants to topple their regime, and yet to defeat us in Iraq they have come up with an alliance of convenience.  There is a better way to fight al-Qaeda. 

“We are here today to change course in Iraq because it is a better way to protect this country, and timing isn’t the issue. 

“Six months ago, when the President began the escalation in Iraq, these facts were basically the same as they are today.

“In September these facts will be basically the same as they are today.

“We cannot wait if we are going to have the best possible strategy to defeat al-Qaeda, the group that threatens us most, instead of getting bogged down in this civil war, in the tribal differences that are present in Iraq.

“We want to win, not to quit.  This is a better way to do it.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement on the President’s failed Iraq escalation, which was announced six months ago today: 

“Six months ago, President Bush announced a plan to increase troop levels in Iraq with assurances that we would hold the Iraqi government to a set of concrete benchmarks for progress.  Today, press reports indicate that the administration’s upcoming report will say that Iraq’s government has failed to achieve a single benchmark. 

“We are spending $10 billion a month on a strategy that has failed to achieve its stated goals.  Further, it has magnified the terrorist threat to our country, providing al-Qaeda fertile ground for recruitment, training, and financing.  We cannot continue on the abysmal course the President has charted in Iraq.

“Over the coming weeks, Congressional Democrats will continue to pressure holdout Republicans to end their misguided support of the President’s failed Iraq policies.  I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join Democrats in our efforts to chart a new direction in Iraq that includes the redeployment of our forces in the region.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in response to President Bush’s decision to commute I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence:

“I am disappointed by President Bush’s decision to commute Mr. Libby’s sentence.  Libby was, like other felons, convicted by a jury of his peers, and the laws against perjury should apply equally to everyone.  Thousands of other convicted felons, just like Mr. Libby, have arguments that their convictions were unjust or should be overturned for some reason.  We have an appeals process to deal with those claims.  Mr. Libby should not get special treatment just because he has been loyal to President Bush.”