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The Villages
Sunday, April 14, 2024

The story nobody is talking about

Rich Nugent
Rich Nugent

A week ago, our neighbors to the east suffered a homegrown terrorist attack.  The shooter was an American citizen. His father (from Afghanistan) is an open and vocal supporter of the Taliban. As more information trickled out, it became clear that the shooter had been investigated multiple times by the FBI, had been placed on the terrorist watch list and had been removed.  Had the shooter remained on that list, his weapons purchases would’ve flagged him for increased surveillance.  Instead, 49 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded.
For me, as the former head of a law enforcement agency, it’s hard not to focus on how things could’ve been handled differently. The FBI held a press conference with their staff laughing on camera before the Director came out to announce they’d done everything right. In the days since, we haven’t been having a serious, somber conversation about what we’re going to do differently to stop this threat.  Instead, way too many people have started treating this as a political opportunity.  Some Democrats in the House actually protested a moment of silence for the victims saying that instead of offering a prayer for the victims, we should be taking up their gun-banning legislation. No matter how strongly one may feel about a legislative issue, I don’t think that’s appropriate.
In the days since, nobody has been talking about what we could or should be doing to stop ISIS abroad so they stop being able to inspire and facilitate attacks at home. Nobody is talking about the steady trickle of refugees from Syria and elsewhere still coming into this country with insufficient background checks.  Nobody is talking about the sorry state of readiness in our military that cripples our capabilities and puts our people in danger. And nobody seemingly, is asking tough questions about how the son of a Taliban cheerleader who just shot a hundred Americans after being reported to the FBI by two separate sets of people was not deemed to be a threat.
You’ve heard plenty from me over the last few months about ISIS and our military.  You’ve heard me talk about the half-hearted and unauthorized air war we’re relying on to stop this threat. We also need to focus on how we’re going to stop the lone attackers – the ones who aren’t communicating their intentions.  It’s an extremely tough question.  But the terrorist watch list is a mess.  Senator Ted Kennedy was famously on it and couldn’t get off.  There are little kids and grandmothers who can’t get off it.  And yet the son of a Taliban supporter who bragged about his own association with terrorist groups is cleared to do as he pleases without anyone checking after him.  That’s crazy.  We also don’t have any kind of system in place to notify us if somebody who’s been investigated for terror-related activities tries to buy weapons.  That seems like a good place to focus some bipartisan attention.
If we restrict this debate to taking away Americans’ constitutional rights – without any judicial review – I think we’ll remain at loggerheads with no progress made.  This threat isn’t going away.  There will be more attacks.  This one has shown just how close to home the threat can be.  In the weeks ahead, I hope you’ll reach out with your views on what steps the government should be taking.  Reasonable people can and will disagree, but I think we owe it to the victims of terror – past, present and future – to try and reach a consensus about what we can be doing better.  I don’t accept the FBI Directors comments that this nation or their agency did everything possible.  This is the strongest country on earth and we shouldn’t let anybody forget it.

U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent represents The Villages in Congress.

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