Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), appearing Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that he believes Americans would be made safer if Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents would physically confront non-criminals over their web surfing activities, especially if that person is on a watch list and has been looking at “Islamist” sites online.
Explaining that there were warning signs known to various U.S. law enforcement agencies that one of the accused Boston bombers may have been a threat, Graham said the attack was pulled off because of “a failure to share information and missing warning signs — we’re going back to the pre-9/11 stovepiping.”
He added that if someone federal agencies had received tips about “goes on the Internet for the whole world to see, to interact with radical Islamic websites, how do we miss that?”
“So, we’re going to have to up our game,” Graham continued. “When one of these guys goes into the system and then leaves the country, we need to make sure we know where they’re going and interview them. And when somebody in a database like this begins to openly interact with radical Islamist websites, an FBI agent should knock on his door and say, ‘You told us before you wanted to be an Olympic boxer, that you love this country. What the hell is going on here? We’re watching.’”
Graham’s comments illustrate not just the astonishing level of monitoring foreign nationals within the U.S. can be subjected to, but also the type of policing preferred by one of the Senate’s foremost advocates of drone bombing and the system of military justice set up by the Bush administration for terror war prisoners.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon attack, Graham has been adamantly calling for a more militarized response to domestic terrorism incidents, joining with fellow Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to urge fellow lawmakers to expand the definition of terrorism so that anyone with a connection to “radical Islam” would automatically be classified as an “enemy combatant” with practically no legal rights.
Similarly, Graham has emerged as one of the Senate’s loudest voices on the Boston bombing, calling for the Obama administration to send the surviving suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to a military prison despite any evidence that he or his brother were linked to a terrorist organization.
Former CIA Deputy Director Phillip Mudd, appearing on Fox News last week, took a position contrary to Graham’s, saying that Tsarnaev should be charged as a murderer instead of a terrorist. “This looks more to me like Columbine than it does al Qaeda,” he said. “Two kids who radicalized between themselves in a closed circle go out and commit murder. I would charge these guys as murders, not terrorists.”
Considering the militarized response to the Boston bombings, which involved massive surveillance, aerial drones with heat detection sensors and door-to-door searches that virtually shut the city down, it’s hard to imagine what Graham’s vision for a more overwhelming response would actually look like on the ground.
Still, it should be noted that authorities later credited the media for Tsarnaev’s capture, saying the turning point came when photos of the suspects were widely publicized on the Internet. The Obama administration has said that Tsarnaev will not be charged as an enemy combatant.
This video is from “Face the Nation,” aired Sunday, April 28, 2013.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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