During the presidential campaign, there was a striking lack of debate on homeland security. Given the country’s economic problems, the public understandably wasn’t focused on terrorism, and President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney may have been satisfied that the government’s reforms since the 9/11 attacks enhanced our safety and left little to debate. The silence is eerily reminiscent of the 2000 presidential campaign, when, despite a horrific attack on a U.S. warship during the height of the campaign and the bombings of two U.S. embassies only two years before, neither candidate had much to say about terrorism. As then, we cannot afford to forego an ongoing debate on our security.
We are undoubtedly safer since the pre-9/11 days, and our political leaders and the thousands of dedicated government security professionals deserve our thanks. New government counterterrorism organizations have been created, including the Department of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence and National Counterterrorism Center. The “no fly” list has grown from 16 names to more than 20,000 — a change that has immeasurably increased the security of commercial flights. Al Qaeda has been hurt badly, and could have considerable difficulty in executing a spectacular terrorist attack or coordinating simultaneous attacks. But the terrorist threat has evolved significantly over the last several years and is still lethal.