By U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell
Like many Kentuckians, I am saddened and horrified by the tragic shootings in Orlando. I mourn for the innocent lives lost. And I stand shoulder to shoulder with all Americans in supporting the victims’ families.
Make no mistake, this atrocity was an act of terrorism. The killer declared his allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a hateful terrorist network which has declared itself the Islamic State. And it’s not the first time that ISIL has inspired or directed attacks on innocents—as we have seen after recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, and the latest attacks in Istanbul which appear to carry many of the aspects of previous ISIL attacks.
We must do all we can to prevent future terrorist attacks inspired or directed by ISIL. And the best way to do that is to defeat this terrorist organization where it trains, operates, and prepares—inside Iraq and Syria.
President Obama—who in 2014 famously referred to ISIL as a “JV team”—has taken a different approach. He has led a campaign to merely contain ISIL, which has been insufficient to dislodge ISIL from its headquarters in Syria or to prevent attacks on our country. The director of the CIA recently testified before Congress that “our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” He added, “as we have seen in Orlando, San Bernardino, and elsewhere, ISIL is attempting to inspire attacks by sympathizers…[and it’s] training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks.”
The president must lead a campaign to defeat, not contain, ISIL. As the CIA Director’s testimony makes clear, ISIL is not contained. Working to defeat ISIL and prevent further attacks is paramount for both Congress and the president.
There are also other measures our government can take to help aid counter-terrorism efforts. The Republican Majority in the U.S. Senate has offered several ideas to do this. One proposed bill would give the FBI and law enforcement more resources to track down and defuse terrorist threats.
Another commonsense piece of legislation would allow law enforcement to connect the dots of terrorist communications by obtaining the records of their communications in order to better disrupt their plans. This would help law enforcement immensely as they track ISIL’s sophisticated Internet campaign to inspire and radicalize adherents. The FBI director calls this reform “enormously helpful” and declared it a top legislative priority.
Another legislative reform would help the FBI in their pursuit of so-called “lone wolves,” or ISIL-inspired terrorists who do not have direct connections to the terrorist organization but still wish to harm Americans, by enabling law-enforcement officials to obtain the electronic communications of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens.
This is an idea that’s already passed Congress before, and we should do so again. The threat of lone wolf terrorists unfortunately is not going away; we should make sure that the tools we need to prevent attacks by them does not go away either.
All of these measures would help fight terror here at home—but ultimately the best method of preventing more attacks on the homeland is to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria. I stand ready to work with the president—and his successor—to achieve this goal. We cannot allow terrorists to take more innocent lives.