Campaign Promises

Departments -> Homeland Security -> Terrorism

ItemHomeland Security
HS-37 The Promise: "I will address the problem in our prisons, where the most disaffected and disconnected Americans are being explicitly targeted for conversion by al Qaeda and its ideological allies."
When/Where: Candidate Obama Speech at the Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., dated 08/01/07.
Status:Approximately 15% of the U.S. prison population is comprised of Muslim inmates. Prisons are known to be fertile grounds for converting Muslim and other inmates to a radicalized form of Islam. In recent years, radical Muslim chaplains are believed to have monopolized Islamic religious activities in U.S. state, federal, and city prisons and jails. When Muslim prisoners are released from incarceration, they are reportedly strongly encouraged to contact specific Islamic communities and mosques, where they can continue their Islamic jihad training. These training camps are known as "Muslims of the Americas" (MOA) compounds.

A direct link between Al Qaeda and/or its ideological allies and U.S. federal or state prisons is known to exist, according to a former New York State Department of Correctional Services official testifying before a Congressional Homeland Security Committee hearing led by Representative Peter King (R-NY) on 06/15/11. That official testified that "individuals and groups that subscribe to radical Islamic ideology have made sustained efforts to target inmates for indoctrination." There have been many similar hearings in Congress. The trouble with these hearings is that little-to-nothing was done to resolve the issue...with one recent exception.

On 12/17/15, Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) introduced the "Prevent Terrorism from Entering our Prisons Act of 2015" (H.R. 4285) to require the screening of volunteers at federal prisons for terrorist links. This bill was given a 1% chance (by website of being signed into law before the 114th Congress expires at the end of CY2016.

After President Obama assumed the presidency in CY2009, the FBI was directed to remove all references to Islam or jihad from its training materials. Agents are even prohibited from vocalizing those terms. Further, the FBI's CY2013 "National Domestic Threat Assessment" made no mention of Islam in any form.

As of end-CY2016, there was no evidence that the Obama Administration took any special steps to thwart the influence that Al Qaeda operatives and their ideological allies such as members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were believed to have inside U.S. prisons.

This promise was not fulfilled.
HS-38 The Promise: "Chemical plants are potential terrorist targets because they are often located near cities, are relatively easy to attack, and contain multi-ton quantities of hazardous chemicals...Obama will establish a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation, and safety training..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), enforced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came into effect on 06/08/07 with Appendix A for Chemicals of Interest (COI) revisions that became effective on 11/20/07. The resulting Interim Final Rule (IFR) became codified under Title 6, Part 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and introduced a uniform process for assessing our nation's chemical facilities against Risk-Based Performance Standards.

To implement CFATS, DHS devised a Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT) so that nearly 50K organizations that manufacture, use, store or distribute any COI can register in the system's on-line "Top Screen" process, except for organizations governed under the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

Upon reviewing "Top Screen" entries, organizations are ranked according to 4 tiers, with the highest being Tier 1 for companies possessing the highest risk. Upon receiving their initial tier notification, organizations complete a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) so that DHS can conduct further assessments and assign a final tier classification.

Companies then prepare a Site Security Plan (SSP) documenting how they will satisfy the 18 standards identified in the IFR. Upon approval of the SSP by DHS, DHS issues an operating permit to the organization and thereafter conducts periodic site audits and inspections.

On 12/18/14, President Obama signed into law the "Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014" (the "CFATS Act of 2014"), which recodified and reauthorized the CFATS program through CY2018 for the nation's 4,569 chemical facilities regulated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Initially authorized by Congress in CY2007, the program uses a dynamic multi-tiered risk assessment process and requires facilities identified as high-risk to meet and maintain performance-based security standards appropriate to the facilities and the risks they pose. DHS chemical security inspectors work in all 50 states to help ensure facilities have security measures in place to meet CFATS requirements.

Further to the above, the DHS has routinely published updates to regulations contained in Title 6, Part 27 of the CFR, addressing the basic tenets of this promise.

This promise was fulfilled.
HS-39 The Promise: "...will expand the U.S. government's bioforensics program for tracking the source of any biological weapon so that the U.S. will be able to rapidly identify any adversary who uses a biological weapon and respond surely and swiftly."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: Obama's New Plan to Confront 21st Century Threats, 07/16/08
Status:The nation's bioforensics capabilities were expanded by the opening of the Department of Homeland Security's Directorate for Science and Technology's $143M National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick, MD in 03/09. NBACC's mission is to provide the scientific basis for the characterization of biological threats and bioforensic analysis to support attribution of their planned or actual use. NBACC components include the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center (NBTCC). Its core competencies include: Aerobiology; Biocontainment Operations; Bioforensics; Genomics and Bioinformatics; and broad capabilities in Bacteriology, Virology, and Toxinology Operations.

Although the contractor-operated NBACC was planned and funded long before President Obama entered presidential politics in 02/07, where President Obama comes into the picture is the extent to which he has supported the NBACC's 150 employees and their work. The financial crisis of CY2008 caused the NBACC's budget to be reduced from $32.9M in FY2009 to $30.0M in FY2010. For the following years, NBACC's budget authority was steadily increased as follows:

In 09/15, the Obama Administration provided additional NBACC funding in the form of a 10-year, $481M contract to Battelle National Laboratories.

As of end-CY2016, funding for a new $1.25B National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) has included federal, state and City of Manhattan, KS contributions. With the final federal commitment of $300M in FY2015 for a total of $938M in federal appropriations, NBAF laboratory facilities construction is well under way for completion in 12/20 and an anticipated Initial Operating Capability in 05/21. The NBAF will replace the antiquated Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York State.

This promise was fulfilled.
HS-40 The Promise: "Fully implement the Lugar-Obama legislation to help our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Secure Nuclear Weapons Materials in Four Years and End Nuclear Smuggling, undated.
Status:The "Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction Act" was introduced by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to expand U.S. cooperation to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles and to expand the State Department's ability to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction worldwide.

The basic provisions of the Lugar-Obama Initiative were incorporated in the "Department of State Authorities Act of 2006" (H.R. 6060) signed into law by President George W. Bush on 01/11/07.

The Lugar-Obama Initiative strengthened the ability of America's allies to detect and interdict illegal shipments of weapons and materials before these nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction reached terrorists.

Since becoming President, Obama has gone several steps further than those mandated by the Lugar-Obama initiative of CY2007. For example, his FY2011 budget proposal for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for preventing proliferation was $2.7B, a 25.8% increase over FY2010. Highlights of this proposal were: (1) $590M for International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation, including $265 for Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs; (2) $558.8 (up 67%) for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials; (3) $1B to work with Russia to permanently eliminate 68 metric tons of surplus weapons plutonium; (4) $351.5M (up 11%) for nonproliferation-related research and development; and (5) $155M to strengthen global nuclear safeguards and nuclear controls to verify arms control agreements.

It should be noted, however, that on 12/16/14, largely due to increased diplomatic hostilities between the USA and Russia fed by Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea in 03/14, Russia informed the Obama Administration that they were cancelling previous agreements whereby they would accept U.S. assistance in protecting their stockpiles of about 700 metric tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and 130 metric tons of military-grade plutonium from being stolen or sold on the black market.

Nonetheless, this promise was fulfilled.
HS-41 The Promise: "...if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden."
When/Where: Second Presidential Debate, Nashville, TN, 10/02/08
Status:Osama bin Laden was eliminated by U.S. Navy SEALS Team Six on 05/02/11.

This promise was fulfilled.
HS-42 The Promise: "We will crush al-Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority."
When/Where: Second Presidential Debate, Nashville, TN, 10/02/08
Status:The elimination of the titular head of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, on 05/02/11 was not viewed as the crushing of Al-Queda as a terrorist organization.

When Al-Qaeda emerged as a radically ideological organization, it was known to have four main branches: Al-Qaeda Central (Pakistan), Al-Qaida Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qaeda Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa, and Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers - Iraq (AQIZ).

Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's principal deputy and chief strategist was confirmed as bin Laden's successor on 06/16/11.

Jihadist terrorism is believed to extend far beyond Al-Qaeda. Countries like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have done their best to neutralize jihadist franchise groups, but these groups simply relocate and re-affirm their intent to destroy the United States and its allies. Taking advantage of the turbulence created by pro-democracy movements in Yemen during most of CY2011 and CY2012, for example, AQAP seized significant amounts of land and power around Zinjibar and other areas of southern Yemen.

Neutralizing Al-Qaeda on a worldwide basis would go a long way toward ensuring the security of the United States and the rest of the world. But we have seen no progress on a global scale under Obama Administration leadership or influence to "crush" this organization. Rather, Al-Qaeda as an organization has survived Osama bin Laden's elimination, the elimination of AQAP's radical Yemeni-American cleric leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, and the elimination of Al-Qaeda's #2, Abu Yahya al-Libi.

In fact, more than three years into President Obama's first term in office, the State Department released its "Country Reports on Terrorism 2011" on 07/31/12 that reflected the growing strength of Al-Qaeda affiliates AQAP, AQIM and AQIZ and the expansion of Al-Qaeda resources in countries such as Syria -- largely due to increased funding assistance for training from Iran.

As of the start of President Obama's second term in office, the Al-Qaeda core group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri continued to operate in the Pakistani-Afghani theater.
- AQIM was operating in Algeria and Mali, bringing their threat closer to Europe. French forces tried to neutralize this threat with limited U.S. assistance.
- AQIZ was reportedly stronger than it was when U.S. troops disbanded from Iraq. They are reportedly effective in both Iraq and Syria.
- AQAP was still effective as a terrorist force.
- AQIS (Al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent) - This was a new Al-Qaeda element, the formation of which was announced by leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in CY2014. AQIS was believed to be headquartered in Pakistan with an operational responsibility that included Pakistan, India and the rest of southern Asia.

The closure of 22 U.S. Embassies/Consulates in the Middle East on 08/04/13 in reaction to a specific and credible Al-Qaeda threat was further proof that the Obama Administration was unable to "crush" that terrorist organization. In 01/14, two key cities in Iraq's Anbar Province (Fallujah and Ramadi), fell to Al-Qaeda militants.

In sum, as of end-CY2016, AQAP, AQIM, AQIZ, AQIS and Shabaab, formal branches of Al-Qaeda, had made their allegiance to Zawahiri evident. Jabhat Fath al Sham (formerly known as Al Nusrah) and other organizations continued to serve Al-Qaeda's agenda as well. Thus, Al-Qaeda elements were believed to be thriving in varying degrees in Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Mali, Somalia and elsewhere.

As late as 11/16, New York, Texas and Virginia were declared to be possible targets for some type of terrorist attack prior to the 11/08/16 general elections, although no specific locations were identified by intelligence information sources. There was reportedly pressure on Al-Qaeda and its affiliates to regain relevance with their mission. As of end-CY2016, Al-Qaeda had not been crushed.

This promise was not fulfilled.