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Rep. Ray Lahood on Intelligence, Security, and Energy

by Robert McMahon, Editor CFR.org
September 3, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS — Rep. Ray Lahood (R-IL) is one of the country’s most prominent Arab-American lawmakers and is ranking Republican on the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel. Now preparing to step down after 14 years in Congress, Lahood spoke with CFR.org on the sidelines of the GOP convention about some foreign policy developments and priorities. Here are excerpts:

On 9/11: “It created a whole new paradigm of thinking and a whole new way of scholars thinking about it, and certainly a whole new way of Congress thinking about everything–whether its food safety, water safety, whether its terrorism, whether its laws to increase FBI agents and the whole issue of the CIA and their involvement. It changed everyone’s thinking. It was so dramatic that I think in our haste to enact legislation we may have made some mistakes along the way, although in the reenactment of the Patriot Act we tried to correct some of those.”

On national security challenges: “I think whoever gets elected we’re going to have far less involvement in Iraq and a lot more involvement in Afghanistan. I also believe that whoever’s elected needs to continue to pay attention to keeping America safe. I think the American people over the time since 9/11 have been a little complacent about the fact that our country has been safe. People have sort of forgotten that the further away we get from 9/11, the further away we get from any attack on the United States, I think people are complacent. Whoever is elected needs to figure out a game plan for keeping America safe, whether that means continued vigilance from the FBI, continued vigilance from the CIA and other intelligence-gathering capability to watch our borders, whatever it takes, but I think that’s where you’ll see the focus. [The priorities are] Afghanistan, Pakistan, al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and keeping America safe, homeland security.”

On energy security: “I think the American people are going to require Congress in a bipartisan way to solve this energy thing and it’s not just going to be drilling. It’s going to be getting the car manufacturers to make higher mileage cars, and to think outside of the box about the kind of cars we drive today and the kind of trucks we drive today. It’s solar, it’s nuclear, it’s wind, it’s a combination of all kinds of things that in a comprehensive way really looks at this problem that we have and right now the American people are telling every member of Congress ‘you all need to do something to help us.’ Drilling is just one aspect of it. We need a real comprehensive long-term approach to our energy. We’re hooked on oil and almost all of our oil comes from somewhere else.”

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