Paris Terrorist Attack Draws Questions About Obama Policies

THE HILL
Thursday, January 8, 2015

Paris Terrorist Attack Draws Questions About Obama Policies

by Justin Sink

The attack prompted condemnation, but criticism of some policies.

President Obama and top lawmakers condemned the shocking assault Wednesday on the Paris newsroom of a satirical newspaper that left 12 people dead.

The attack prompted calls for unity with France, but also questions about the Obama administration’s foreign policy and budget priorities.

“The fact that this was an attack on journalists, attack on our free press, underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Obama said in a statement.

The attack targeted Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for controversial cartoons that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons had drawn condemnation and threats from Muslims.

Some Republican lawmakers seized on the violence to question the Obama administration’s efforts to end interrogation tactics dubbed by the president as torture and to close the prison facility at Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued poor policy choices and budget cuts had left national security at risk.

“I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” he said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and others used the Paris attack to question Obama’s pledge to close Gitmo prison.

“What we’ve heard is that they’ve gone back to their homes,” Ayotte told Fox News. “So this is a real risk of people who we had captured getting back in the fight against not only our troops, our allies, and that’s real American lives at risk.”

Other lawmakers suggested that the president’s recent executive action on immigration, which will allow deferred deportations and work permits for millions of illegal immigrants, could distract the Department of Homeland Security from its essential counterterrorism responsibilities.

While the majority of the government is funded through the end of the fiscal year, the spending bill passed by lawmakers late last year only pays for the department’s operations through February. Republicans hope to use that as leverage to get Obama to roll back his executive actions.

There were also suggestions that the attack could strengthen the president’s hand entering that debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that the department would be funded, and other Republicans, including Graham and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), said Congress should not risk a shutdown of the department over immigration.

King told CNN: “We have to make it clear that Homeland Security — at a time we saw this massive attack in Paris — that we can’t be cutting funding or programs which would protect Americans from a terrorist attack.”

—Kristina Wong contributed.

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