Ahead of the Curve on Yemen

For Immediate Release

Senator Russ Feingold
Contact: 

Zach Lowe (202) 224-8657

Ahead of the Curve on Yemen

WASHINGTON - In
the year's following 9/11, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has consistently advocated
for a global approach to defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates and opposed
efforts such as the war in Iraq, and most recently, the military escalation in
Afghanistan, which undermine our global fight against terrorism.  As part
of this effort, and as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and
Intelligence Committees, Feingold has repeatedly called for a strategy to deny
al Qaeda safe havens around the world, including Yemen.  This timeline
represents Feingold's post-9/11 efforts to focus on Yemen and address the
conditions there that threaten the national security of the United
States. 

  • October 9, 2002 - During a speech
    from the Senate floor in opposition to the authorization of use of force in
    Iraq, Feingold says that invading Iraq could be counterproductive in our fight
    against terrorism and points to terrorism in Yemen as an example of where our
    focus should be:

"An invasion of Iraq must
stand on its own, not just because it is different than the fight against the
perpetrators of 9/11 but because it may not be consistent with, and may even be
harmful to, the top national security issue of this country...the fight
against terrorism and the perpetrators of the crimes of 9/11. I ask: Is this
war against terrorism going so terribly well when we see the possible explosion
of the French tanker in Yemen?...
Will the invasion of Iraq encourage our
allies and Islamic friends to help us in the fight against terrorism or just
make them extremely nervous?"

  • May 13, 2003 - Shortly after President
    Bush's infamous appearance aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, Feingold delivered a
    speech
    from the Senate floor calling for less rhetoric about going after
    terrorists and more information about the escape of 10 Yemeni prisoners
    involved in the attack on the USS Cole. During the speech, Feingold said:

"The President reminded us
on the USS Lincoln that he has pledged that terrorists who attacked America
‘would not escape the patient justice of the United States'...
But how many people noticed when...10 men escaped from a prison in
Yemen...10 men who apparently were being held on charges of involvement in
the terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors, including
one from my home State of Wisconsin?...This escape occurred, apparently,
just as our brave troops were entering Baghdad - at least in part in the name
of stopping the threat of terrorism. But no one seems to be discussing at all
this potentially dangerous lapse in Yemen."

  • July 23, 2003 - During a Senate Judiciary
    Committee hearing on FBI oversight, Feingold asks FBI Director Robert Mueller
    what steps the FBI had taken to question the suspected USS Cole bombers who
    later escaped. After receiving some information from Mueller, Feingold
    tells him, "I've tried every way I know to get
    an answer, and it just strikes me as mystifying. That when we knew that al
    Qaeda operatives were in jail in Yemen, there is just a paucity of information about what we were
    doing to make sure they'd stay there."
  • July 29, 2003 - During a Senate
    Foreign Relations Committee hearing
    , Senator Feingold questions Deputy
    Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz if he is sure "we have our eye on
    the ball"
    when U.S. forces were moving toward Baghdad on the same day
    as the men responsible for the attack on the USS Cole were escaping from a
    Yemeni prison.
  • July 17, 2003 - Feingold introduces an
    amendment to a defense spending bill to require the Bush administration to
    report to Congress on our government's efforts to investigate the escape
    of al Qaeda members responsible for the attack on the USS Cole from a Yemeni
    prison. In remarks about the escape, Feingold says, "We cannot
    afford to be easily distracted, incapable of focusing on a global effort to
    stop terrorists because of our intense focus on other issues with only a
    nebulous connection to this most important priority of stopping international
    terrorist networks... I am troubled that the same administration that
    was recklessly threading together any and all justifications for a war with
    Iraq a few months ago may have at the same time been complacent about the
    status of the USS Cole attackers."
  • March 31, 2004 - In a speech
    from the Senate floor on the need to better focus the fight against terrorism,
    Feingold is critical of the lack of answers from the Bush administration on the
    escape of the USS Cole bombers. In the speech, Feingold said the answers
    received from the administration "were of a deeply troubling ‘no one is minding the store' variety" and states, "We must
    give these issues the focus they deserve and devote resources and support to
    monitoring these situations closely and acting to protect our interests."
  • October 6, 2004 - In a statement
    in support of the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, Feingold warns
    against ‘geographic stovepiping' of intelligence and
    counterterrorism efforts that hamper better coordination and good policy,
    saying, "...getting counter-terrorism right... in the Horn of
    Africa requires an understanding of Yemen as well as Kenya. But the
    policymakers who specialize in these places don't necessarily work
    together."
  • February 6, 2006 - Following the escape of
    Jamal al-Badawi, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole,
    from a Yemeni prison along with 13 members of al Qaeda - his second
    escape from Yemeni custody - Feingold writes to Secretary
    of State Condoleezza Rice and questions the administration's reliance on
    Yemen as a capable partner in fighting al Qaeda. Feingold demands more
    information from the administration on the suspects including al-Badawi and the
    extent to which the U.S. monitored these detainees.
  • October 26,
    2007
    - In reacting to the
    release of Jamal al-Badawi, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the
    USS Cole, Feingold blasts the decision by the Yemeni government to release him,
    calls on the Bush administration to explain what it will do to bring him to
    justice, and calls on the candidates running for president
    of the United States to "commit to refocusing our national security
    where it belongs, on combating al-Badawi and others in al Qaeda and associated
    terrorist groups."
  • May 1, 2008 - Feingold and
    Republican Senator and fellow Intelligence Committee member Chuck Hagel introduce
    legislation
    to improve and reform how the U.S. government collects
    information on emerging threats, including terrorist safe havens around the
    world with the establishment of a commission to review and reform our
    intelligence capabilities. The legislation is endorsed by a host of
    national security and foreign policy experts.
  • May 7, 2008 - In a statement on the
    seven and one-half year-old investigation into the attack on the USS Cole,
    Feingold raises questions about the Yemeni government's helpfulness in
    the fight against al Qaeda after letting the investigation into the bombing
    languish and allowing those involved in the attack walk free. In his statement,
    Feingold said, "Our reliance on the government of Yemen to detain and
    prosecute these known members of al Qaeda - and their inability or
    unwillingness to do so - calls into question the partnerships and
    relationships we have secured in our efforts to meet the number one threat we
    face."
  • May 2008: The Senate Intelligence Committee,
    on a bipartisan basis, approves the Feingold-Hagel bill to improve and reform
    how the U.S. government collects information on emerging threats, including
    terrorist safe havens around the world. The legislation is approved as an
    amendment to the FY2009 Intelligence Authorization bill. Upon passage,
    Senators Feingold and Hagel cite the Acting Director of the National
    Counterterrorism Center's testimony that diplomatic reporting, a key
    theme of the legislation, is "'absolutely critical' for
    understanding conditions that can result in the emergence of new terrorist safe
    havens." The legislation is also introduced as a separate bill.
  • June 15, 2008 - In an oped in the Miami
    Herald co-written with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Feingold writes,
    "On the map of the world, it's those hidden corners, about which we know
    so little, where some of the most dangerous threats against the United States
    may be brewing. Unfortunately, our government is still not doing enough to
    gather intelligence and other information in those hidden places. There are far
    too many gaps on the map that need to be filled in; far too many places where
    what we don't know could hurt us."
  • Late 2008 - An official trip Feingold
    planned to make to Yemen is canceled due to security concerns.
  • March 10, 2009 - During the keynote
    address at a conference on the future of Somalia at the Center for Strategic
    and International Studies, Feingold links the situation in the troubled nation
    with instability in Yemen, saying:

"It is impossible to
separate the situation in Somalia from wider regional tensions, especially the
historic tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the instability in Yemen,
to name but a
few. Renewed engagement in Somalia requires renewed engagement with the
wider region. This has been missing over recent years and it is an
essential component of any effective strategy toward Somalia... What I
said in 2007 remains true today: strengthening our diplomatic and intelligence
capacities is essential if we are to effectively pursue strategic objectives in
Somalia."

  • April 14, 2009 - During an interview on
    MSNBC on the need to address piracy off the coast of Somalia, Feingold says, "...there
    is an enormous growing crisis in places like
    Yemen and
    Somalia that if we ignore them, it will simply become the next avenue for al
    Qaeda and other groups that want to do us harm."
  • April 30, 2009 - In a statement on the
    State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, Feingold said:

"...the report
provides important reminders of the expanding threat from al Qaeda affiliates
and other terrorist groups, particularly in Yemen, North Africa and the Horn of
Africa"
and "this kind of clear-headed analysis is critical if
we are to go beyond a short-term, tactical approach and develop comprehensive
strategies to eliminate terrorist safe havens and the conditions that allow
terrorist groups to operate and recruit..."

  • July 2009: The Senate Intelligence
    Committee, on a bipartisan basis, approves Senator Feingold's reform
    legislation as part of the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization bill. The
    legislation, which builds on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, would establish
    a commission to focus on the critical reform of integrating the country's
    intelligence capabilities with the open gathering and reporting of information
    by other elements of the United States Government, particularly the State
    Department, thereby strengthening our overall collection, reporting and
    analytical capabilities. The bill passes the full Senate on September 16,
    2009.
  • August 6th, 2009 - In a statement, Senator
    Feingold raises concerns about al Qaeda safe havens around the world, and Yemen
    in particular. In the statement, Feingold says, "The threats to
    our national security in Yemen are serious and are getting worse"
    and
    raises concerns about the capacity of Yemen's justice and security
    systems to hold Guantanamo detainees. Feingold offers policy
    recommendations
    , saying "to effectively fight the threat from
    al-Qaida and its affiliates, we have to change the way our government is
    structured and how it operates." The recommendations begin with
    obtaining better intelligence and include
    :

o   Full integration
of our intelligence community with all the ways in which our government,
particularly the State Department, openly collects, reports, and analyzes
information. This integration, which was the goal of the legislation he
introduced with Senator Hagel, is a critical
component of strategic counterterrorism and without it, we will never
understand the conditions around the world - most of them apparent to
experienced diplomats - that allow al Qaeda affiliates to operate, nor will we
be able to respond effectively.

o   The integration
of clandestine intelligence community activities and open information gathering
must include the allocation of real resources to the right people.  Funding
must be allocated based on interagency strategies, not driven by the equities
and influence of individual agencies, rather than interagency strategies. And
while Congress should do its part, real reform must be internalized by the
executive branch.

o   Establishment of
new embassy posts - Whole countries or regions being off limits to our
diplomats presents a national security problem. In some cases, we can and
should establish new embassy posts.  In the areas that security concerns
make this prohibitive, we should develop policies that focus on helping to
re-establish security, for the sake of the local populations as well as for our
own interests.

o   Strong, sustained
policies aimed directly at resolving conflicts that allow al Qaeda affiliates
to operate and recruit. Policy needs to be driven by the real national security
interests we have in these countries and regions, and our policies need to be
supported by all elements of the U.S. Government, including a real recognition
that, sometimes, policies that promote economic development and the rule of law
really are critical to our counterterrorism efforts, and they need real
resources and support from the whole of our government.

  • August 29, 2009 - In an oped in the Wall
    Street Journal calling for a timetable to end the war in Afghanistan, Feingold
    writes, "we've become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that
    may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates, not just in
    Pakistan, but in Yemen, the Horn of Africa and other terrorist
    sanctuaries."
  • November 17, 2009 - Feingold chairs a
    hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on
    counterterrorism priorities and strategy for the Sahel region of Africa.
    During his opening statement, Feingold said:

"The administration is
right to focus attention on the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, but we cannot lose
sight of other places where al Qaeda is seeking to gain ground.  As we
have seen in Somalia and Yemen, weak states, chronic instability, ungoverned
spaces, and unresolved local tensions can create almost ideal safe havens in
which terrorists can recruit and operate.
  Several parts of the Sahel
region include that same mix of ingredients, and the danger they pose not just
to regional security but to our own national security is real."

  • December 2, 2009 - In a letter to
    President Barack Obama detailing his opposition to the president's plan
    to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Senator Feingold writes,
    "Sending more troops to Afghanistan is unlikely to help, and could hurt,
    our efforts to address Al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan. Moreover,
    al Qaeda and its affiliates are located in Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and
    other places around the world. Rather than investing so many of our
    resources in Afghanistan, we should pursue a comprehensive, global
    counterterrorism strategy."
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