May 9th, 2010
11:50 AM ET
8 years ago

We can't prevent every terrorism attack, Republican says

Washington (CNN) – Reflecting on the recent failed terrorism attack on Times Square, a Republican senator said Sunday that the United States may not be able to prevent every scheme designed to do harm.

“We can do everything we can to protect – but there will be some things that will slip up on us, no matter what,” Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Shelby noted that the recent Times Square plot and last year’s failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day had something in common - they were both carried out in the main by a single person. Those types of one-person operations make intelligence gathering and detection that much harder, he said.

“So if they keep doing this and they fan out all over the country, we’re going to have deep, deep challenges ahead in terms terrorism work,” Shelby told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Later in the interview, Shelby said that law enforcement officials were lucky when it came to the botched Times Square plot. “It’s been said before: Luck shouldn’t be our policy,” said Shelby, “We’ve got to be more diligent. We’ve got to do more training. We’ve got to realize that individuals are dangerous by themselves especially when they’ve had training.”

Shelby added, “Something’s going to happen and we’re not going to be so fortunate. So we’ve got to be more diligent. We’ve got to recognize that it’s not just big groups or lots of people on one hit day. It’s individuals, spread all over the country.”

Joining Shelby Sunday on the broadcast, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said government cannot deal on its own with the apparent trend of radicalization of young men who later attempt to carry out attacks on the United States.

“We’re going to have to have clerics who understand true Islam [to] help us in preaching what is the accurate teachings of the Koran because when these guys are told to go blow themselves up and go blow innocent civilians up, that’s not what the Koran teaches,” said Nelson.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Ruth

    Only dreamers like Limbaugh, Hannity, Oreilly, Beck and Palin would believe you can stop ALL terrorist attacks.

    May 9, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    There right practice makes perfect . people learn from there mistakes sooner or later our lucks is going to run out its past time to profile all the accused were caught after the deed was done .

    May 9, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  3. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    What comes to mind is 9-11, the anthrax letters, the shoe bomber, the DC sniper, but that was forgivable because Bush was keeping us safe? There were over 100 terrorist attacks on the U.S. through Bush's first term.

    May 9, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  4. abe

    We all know the right prays every day for another major terrorist attack so they can blame Obama and assume iron fisted control over all Americans.

    May 9, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. Joe Magaratz

    At last...a Republican who makes sense. (Remembered though that he was a Democrat before he changed).

    May 9, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. Brad

    Looks like Senator Shelby had a momentary lapse into reality when he acknowledged that every possible terrorist attack can probably not be prevented. Unlike most other Republican politicians and observers at least Shelby is being momentarily honest on this subject.

    May 9, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Maria H-Miami

    We need to recognize that these terrorists are twisted, demented people who will use the Koran, Bible, Atheist, color, race, land, money, customs, clothing, makeup, food, education, etc... anything as an excuse to commit a crime.

    Criminals will also twist anything and everything to excuse their crime.

    Terrorists won't stop anymore than a criminal will stop which is why our jails are packed with thieves, rapists, murders, child molesters, etc...

    May 9, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. Joe Magaratz

    One more thought (or a few more)....for those who say we can eliminate the possibility of future attacks...

    Bring all the overseas troops home and station them throughout the continental U S on a 24/7/365(6) cycle. Just leave enough troops over there to secure the oil fields and let the civilians fend for themselves.

    May 9, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. Self-Deploration

    Donald Trump once said that in order to be successful is not out of luck, it takes extreme skill. I believe the same goes for Terrorism.

    Some luck has to lie in between but it takes a man of courage and perseverance to overcome such obstacles not because fate alone guides him but because he has ths strength and fortitude to look for it.

    May 9, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. dave

    "Only dreamers like...Palin would believe you can stop ALL terrorist attacks." Sort of like Sarah Palin's assumption that as a mother she can prevent her teenage daughter from getting pregnant. Oh...I forgot, that happened.

    There's no way our intelligence community can, or should, monitor all 350 million Americans, plus all the thousands of terrorists and disgruntled individuals outside the US trying to do us harm. I'm amazed that we've been so lucky so far (with the exception of 9-1-1 and the embassy bombings overseas).

    It's going to happen here, sooner or later, regardless of who is in the White House. Over time, we'll continue to lose our ability to go about our business the way we have in the past. Israel had to start limiting access to shopping malls (one entrance only) to thwart bombs being set off in shopping bags. You already have to go through metal detectors to get into most major office buildings. We've lost so much freedom in an effort to be "safe." There is no real safe anymore.

    Sigh...and I remember the 60s when all we had to worry about was the cold war with Russia.

    May 9, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. Death Panel Sarah

    Bill Nelson has it right....As long as there are clerics telling impressionable minds that it is OK to kill, we will never see the end of this.
    The reptilicons can 'bug' our phones, but they cannot police our thoughts......yet(but they would like to)!!!

    May 9, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. IKHAN

    If Lieberman sponsored bill of stripping citizenship goes thru then this plot would tantamount to a success for those who plotted.
    Isn't this what the terrorists aim for , spreading fear, paranoia & forcing us to take steps which are against what we stand for?

    May 9, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. Independent in NY

    Refreshing to hear non-hysteric and truthful comments coming from either side these days without the oh-so tired partisan distortions and politrickery. Some of you could learn a thing or two from this article.

    The enemy is not the "other" party, and if you can't figure that out, do us all a fovor and sew your stupid lips closed.

    May 9, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Peter Q. Wolfe

    This seems like common sense to me just that the insecurity shouldn't leave to complacency. Taking away freedoms in the name of security hides an agenda of some sort. You can't control people and tragedies at times can't be prevented.

    May 9, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Wanderer

    People who can think know there is no way to prevent something bad happen no matter what. It’s the law of Creation and Destruction. Sen. Richard Shelby’s statement is not news. However, we can do everything not only for protection but also preventing thing gets worse. Violence or inciting violence is no doubt will make everything get from worse to worst. Therefore, starting a war is absolutely an unmistakable mistake. Whoever starts a war or violence is the one to blame. Former president Bush is NOT the only one to blame. We need to go back to the history in order to understand the original root causes of the present violence.

    May 9, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. KBurgoyne

    I want to thank Sen. Shelby for having a responsible discussion of the issue and not going into the tired old "it's all Obama's fault" political rant.

    May 9, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Linda

    I'm wondering how many of those militia groups in the US who are american terrorists are looking for ways to stop the U.S. government and the Obama adminstation.

    May 9, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. Four and The Door

    Obama & Janet Napolitano's system of homeland terror defense at first seemed irresponsible: presume that the bomb after ignition will fail to fully ignite and then take the suspect into custody. I was proven wrong. It worked again in Times Square. Now I feel safe at home.

    May 9, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. bill

    Shelby states the obvious. What he doesn't say is that we've been lucky since Sept. 10, 2001. There were lots of close calls during the Bush Presidency. Shelby just mentions the ones during the Obama administration. How subtle of him.

    May 9, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    No, the government alone can't stop terrorist attacks but we need to be aware of our surroundings and not profile a person just because they don't look like us.

    May 9, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Robrob

    A well thought out, cognizant and realistic statement – I think I'd vote for him. Are you sure he's a Republican?

    May 9, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Mike in Texas

    How long have we fought the war on "drugs" and the war on "terror". Just like the ESPN announce who said. You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him. The fight will be endless. As long as there is a supply and demand on both drugs and terrorists, it will continue.

    At least Shelby is getting it. No one can protect us from everything 24/7.

    May 9, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Observer

    Bush's supporters NEVER think of that when they praise him for the lack of attacks AFTER 9/11.

    May 9, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. Marsha Rovai


    Wonderful program today. You are again one of my favorite CNN reporters. I am so happy that you are again the type of reporter that makes the guest squirm a little regardless of party affiliation. That is the only way to get past the double speak, "when I said what I said I didn't say it". Unfortunately after winning a seat in our government (and sometimes during the campaign) our Representatives learn the two step avoidance shuffle! Thank You.

    May 9, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  25. reggie from LA

    Thank you Senator Shelby...for the voice of reason. Being vulnerable to sneaky attacks is not new, but somehow has taken on a political complexion. Preventive measures put in place haven't always been acceptable to a lot of idealist big mouths (who usually do nothing for our country anyhow), but this is a form of warfare/law enforcement that is reshaping the landscape of our defensive postures. I appreciate the realistic, non-partisan view you have taken for this. Hope it won't cause you any angst with RNC fearmongers.

    May 9, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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