Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani told a Congressional audience on Wednesday that the Obama administration’s “political correctness” is negatively impacting the United States’ ability to address potential Islamist-inspired domestic terrorism threats. The hearing was called to address the security breakdowns that led to the April 30 bombing at the Boston marathon.
“You can’t fight an enemy you don’t acknowledge,” argued Giuliani on Wednesday. “If the party line is to never use the words ‘Islamic extremist terrorists,’ if there’s a reluctance to label something a jihadist act, then the result is…a bureaucracy that is paralyzed by a greater fear of being wrong—that they’re going to identify someone as an Islamic extremist terrorist—than they’re going to be wrong about preventing a bombing.” Giuliani added that, “to confront this threat effectively, we have to purge ourselves of the practice of political correctness when it goes so far that it interferes with our rational and intellectually honest analysis of the identifying characteristics that help discover these killers in advance.”
Giuliani pointed to the 2009 shooting at the Fort Hood military base, in which suspect Army Maj. Nidal Hasan allegedly killed 13 people, as evidence of such oversight. “The elevation of political correctness over sound investigative judgment certainly explains the failure to identify Maj. Hasan as a terrorist,” the former mayor said, criticizing the administration’s treatment of the Fort Hood shooting as ‘workplace violence.’ “This isn’t just preposterous,” Giuliani argued. “What we fail to realize is, this is dangerous.”
Giuliani cautiously maintained that, had the administration been less reluctant to identify Maj. Hasan and the Tsarnaev brothers (allegedly responsible for the Boston bombing) as Islamic extremist terrorists, there may have been a greater possibility of the tragic events being stopped. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by authorities while evading capture after the marathon bombing, spent six months last year in his native Dagestan, a region often associated with Islamic extremism—a fact that Giuliani says should have tipped off authorities. “The fear of incorrectly identifying Tsarnaev as a suspected Muslim extremist might have played a role in not taking all the steps that seemed prudent given his suspicious behavior,” said Giuliani, adding that Tsarnaev “obviously wasn’t going back to listen to the Moscow symphony.”
But former head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter, who also testified at the hearing, disagreed with Giuliani’s conclusions. The notion that domestic terrorism security suffers from the administration’s political correctness “is simply beyond me,” he said. Leiter argued that “our record is far from perfect, but it’s very good,” and pointed out than fewer than 20 people have died in the United States since 9/11 in attacks inspired by Islamist extremism. He also suggested that that any actions taken on data regarding potential domestic jihadists that have not yet committed any crimes on American soil could impinge on rights and lead to “real civil liberties issues.”