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. Otto

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

    Because they all can see the Taliban from their front window.

    May 9, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. once upon a horse

    @ abe.....

    I have to agree with you there. The right seems to just want some kind of attack here so they can say "I told you so". If that were not the case why is it that so far with the 2 foiled plots and the tragic Ft. Hood shooting they try to blame him for it? They always want to turn a blind eye to when the most horrific terrorist attack on American soil happened and no way can we blame Bush for that, but you can bet if God forbid something like that happens under Obama's watch from Rush to Cheney and all the righties in between will be pointing at Obama blaming him. I think our current president is doing well in keeping us safe, but there are some that will always slip through the cracks.

    May 9, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. DennisK

    Nice to see a member of the GOP giving a sober assessment of the challenge we face without resorting to blame. I assume he realizes that this type of approach puts him at risk with the Tea Party crowd, so as a Democrat I appreciate his honesty all the more. I'd like to see Sen. Shelby's demeanor adapted by more politicians from both sides of the aisle.

    May 9, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Liz the First

    There they go again! the republican'ts need to just change their name to the Terrorist party. they are attempting to rule by fear and intimidation, gee, just like the terrorists!!! the majority of American people are over these tactics, it's just the reactive, lizard-brained, non-thinking republican base this morally bankrupt tactic still works on. and lest we forget, George Bush let 9/11 happen! most likely due to pure incompetence, but very possibly by design because it played right into his desire to justify an attack on Saddam Hussein.

    May 9, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. JohnB

    You could wall off the US from the rest of the world, and still some extremists would find a way to attack. There are no perfect solutions either to this problem of terrorists. Radicals there will always be. This bill to take citizenship away from any American is in itself a radical and dangerous undertaking, which I hope fails.

    May 9, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. chad

    sen. shelby is completely on point. he is being real. ANYONE could be a terrorist and do what the attempted times square bomber did, and even succeed.

    i applaud sen. shelby for this sound, realistic statement, and sen. nelson.

    May 9, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. RinMaine

    Yes, we have been lucky. With no support from the Republicans or the Tea Party, all of them disloyal to the country, and to Christianity, we have managed to avoid tragic results.

    May 9, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Joe

    Gee, now that a Republican conservative has admitted that we can't ultimately stop all terrorists, how will they blame it on Obama when it happens?

    May 9, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Jim in Idaho

    I'm guessing that had the bomb actually gone off, Shelby would not have been so kind. He and the rest of the GOP would have been demanding Obama's head for some intelligence failure. Shelby will probably find himself in hot water with his party for even making this rather rational statement.

    May 9, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. Joe

    And we can't call it a terrorrist attack unless it happens.

    May 9, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Joan

    A few weeks ago some pretty smart pundits were discussing the reasons why these extremists are targeting certain countries, especially the United States. Look back at history and see which Muslim countries used to be allies of the States. Why did it change? Check out the events which have formed their attitudes especially the Gulf War and the desire to control their oil resources. It is humanly impossible to wipe out every terrorist using guns and violence because that just fuels the hatred but with consistent, determined and intelligent plans to undermine their strength and limit their spread you just may have a chance. It is going to take time but it is in everyone's best interests if this hatred and violence are brought under control.

    May 9, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. RH

    Finally, someone who makes a reasonable amount of sense. Every time a terrorist attack fails, we attempt to put some sort of safeguard in place to prevent that type of attack from happening again. The terrorists may want many of us dead to further their cause, but they aren't stupid. They know that we are checking shoes and putting in body scanners to detect explosives, so they are finding new ways to attack us. Every failed terrorist attack means another restriction on the rights of all Americans in the name of our protection. Every successful terrorist attack means more Americans senselessly die. Either way, the situation does not look good for the American people. If they aren't successful at physically destroying us, at least they can have us live in a land where our rights are as restricted as theirs.

    May 9, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. Gil

    But when an attack occurs, if during Obama's term, who will be the first to cry foul? The Party of NO! Yet, how quickly they forget and blame others when 9/11 happened on Gw bushwhackers watch! They even have to lie about it!

    May 9, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Ken in NC

    Senator Shelby seems to be telling people that sooner or later a lone wolf will get through and it makes no difference if it is on a Democratic or Republican watch. We all have to be on watch for unusual situations.These terrorist are not interested in killing Republicans or maybe Democrats. Their only goal is to kill Americans and as such it should be OUR GOALS as Americans, not Republican goals or Democratic goals, to foil as many of them as possible. And when one of them does slip through it should not be a time for one party to blame another. What we should spend our time doing is finding the means they used to slip through and hit us and then eleminate that means.

    That is what WE, AMERICANS, need to be doing.

    May 9, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. Gil

    We have become a country of wars and not words! The Gulf War, The Afghan War, the Iraq War all have helped to create these terrorists when we kill civilians almost daily and then cover it up, lie about it or give the comforting words, "We are Sorry" so often. I would become a terrorist too!

    May 9, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. T Pipe

    While it may be true that you cannot stop all terrorist attacks, it is just as true that reaching out to these twisted individuals is not the answer either. Our President has offered olive branches and has now come up missing a hand. No blame to be placed on him but two attacks in less than 6 months? I hope that he is wise enough to keep his other hand in is pocket.

    May 9, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. CAW in MD

    Yes, it is always nice to see politicians with a dose of reality. So since we've started down that path, let's see if we can keep the reality ball rolling. Start with this - most Muslims also deplore what Al Qaida and their extremist cohorts are doing, but the policies that have been stated and pursued by the United States since 9/11 do not give them any room to provide support (material or moral) to help out. How can we as a nation stay diligent for the bad actors, but provide space for the majority of Muslims to help us with combating this problem? I'd love to see a politician take a reality-based approach to that issue...

    May 9, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. g ontario

    limbaugh,hannity,oreilly,beck,palin, work so hard at keeping america devided sometime i wonder which terriorist group pays them

    May 9, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. ib

    abe; you and some of the other far left people have not a clue to what you are saying. I know of no one right or left that are praying for another attack on this country. If you and others think that you must be in far left looney tune country.

    May 9, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Jim Smith

    Please, Join Our Facebook Group No More Republican Terrorists. We are tired of the GOP and Fox news using Fear to coierce the weak minded into complacency! We must act now to save our children from being infected by thier fear mongering! Please, for the sake of our children

    May 9, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. TOM

    True that we cannot stop all terrorist attack. Would like to see this administration stop just one. Remember when the underwear bomber was stopped by the people sitting next to him and Napolitano said, "The system worked?"

    May 9, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. Brian from Washington

    Barack Obama has kept us safe for over 15 months, while we attacked by Al Qaeda after George Bush had only been in office 8 months!

    May 9, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  23. jilli

    He's correct, we cannot prevent all terrorist attacks. Now that Mr. Shelby has touched base with reality, perhaps the other pandering whiners from the g-no-p will stop with the shamelss political grandstanding and work as one country, not political parties.

    Our track record has pretty good since 9/11. Good police work – fbi, police, emergency personnel. The suspect was apprehended in 53 hours. That's pretty darned good.

    Time to look forward, and quit cowering in fear, and quit with the ridiculous chest pounding, enough beltway bravado. It's a time for pragmatism, not theatrics. I appreciate the tone Obama has set. Steady and competent – no hair-on-fire overreactions. He and his administration have done a pretty fine job.

    May 9, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. John

    We can't prevent every terrorism attack, Republican says.

    True but that won't prevent the GOP and its wingnuts from blaming terrorism on Obama.

    May 9, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  25. Discernment


    If stupid people like Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, Bachmann, and Beck believe all types of terrorist attempts can be blocked; than Israel Defense Department would like U.S. Conservative Hypocrites to step up and explain it.

    Israel has been fighting terrorism for 60+ years and they lead the world in this area; however, unfortunately for Israel every so often a terrorist attempt breaks through. So maybe Sarah Palin can tell Israel what they are doing wrong as they advise President Obama.

    May 9, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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