America is better prepared after September 11- but much more needs to be done

This week across our nation, America will pause to remember the victims and heroes from the September 11 attack, which occurred four years ago. While our nation was transformed by that cowardly attack, it also showed great strength and true democracy as we worked together to make America safer. On this anniversary of September 11, we also must pause to remember the victims and heroes of Hurricane Katrina, which left a wide swath of devastation across the Gulf Coast states.

After the September 11 attack, our nation responded by spending billions of dollars to help make America safer, and to prevent another terrorist hijacking. An entire cabinet level agency, the Department of Homeland Security, was created to deal with this new terrorist threat. So far, the U.S. has not experienced another terror attack, in part because of the rapid and aggressive response to this new threat. We have learned from the September 11 tragedy and are better prepared, but there is still much more that needs to be done.

We are at war with an unconventional enemy who can blend in anywhere in the world, and we must evolve to meet this changing threat. Terrorists are looking for new opportunities to hurt us. Our nation's aggressive response to air attacks on hijacked jets in the aftermath of September 11 must now be shifted to secure America's biggest vulnerability, our borders.

Thousands of special interest aliens (illegal immigrants from terror-related countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and even Iraq) have been apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this year, and this number continues to climb. In fact, the Al-Jeezera Arabic television station recently tried to film a documentary on the ease of crossing the border illegally. This film could have served as a powerful tool for terrorists trying to sneak across our borders. I was able to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to squash this television show, but the issue remains.

As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I am working on a plan to address this growing problem. Currently, we have a patchwork of border protection that is lead by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This agency is plagued by equipment and funding shortfalls that continue to make its job more difficult. Yet in my opinion one major flaw in this operation is strategy. I am proposing a new comprehensive, aggressive and proactive border strategy called the "Red Zone Defense."

Instead of waiting in a designated spot on the border - hoping to catch immigrants trying to cross, our agents must have access to state-of-the-art technology that tracks these immigrants BEFORE they cross. These new tools will allow the Border Patrol to see into Mexico and be more effective in their apprehension and prevention activities. This technology is currently being used with success in Afghanistan and Iraq to track insurgents before they engage in cross border operations. Along with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and drones, we need aerostat balloons equipped with infrared technology to see into Mexico looking for illegal aliens before they get to the border. This capability will provide a constant stream of real time intelligence, which will allow us to shift our man power to interdict these people and reduce cross border incidents.

This September 11, we remember not only the heroes and victims of that attack four years ago, but the many good men and women who are working hard today to protect our nation from the threat of another terrorist attack. One of the most important ways we can honor those who died during the attack, is to work to make our nation safer. We have faced great challenges before, and just like the September 11 tragedy, we are seeing our country pull together again to provide help and assistance to Katrina's victims. These events will continue to resonate throughout our great nation, but we will persevere. By coming together and working together, we remind the world why America is such a special place.

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www.house.gov/renzi

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