Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Monday that Pakistan needs to answer for how Osama bin Laden was able to live in a mansion there but noted their greatest fear is that a “lone wolf” in the United States will be prompted to seek revenge for the terrorist leader’s death at the hands of Navy Seals on Sunday.
Lieberman noted that Pakistan’s government had for years insisted that bin Laden was not in the country. Pakistani officials need to “prove to us that they didn’t know that Osama bin Laden was there,” he said.
Collins added that it was difficult to understand how compound where bin Laden was killed could have been built without elements of the government knowing about it. “This tells us once again that unfortunately Pakistan, at times, is playing a double game, and that’s very troubling to me,” she said.
She suggested that more strings could be attached to U.S. funding of the Pakistani military in order to keep the pressure on to aid in the war against terrorism.
Lieberman said the public should be alert to a potential retaliatory attack, particularly from a terrorist who operates alone.
“Those are the most difficult cases to see and to stop,” Lieberman said.
Collins and Lieberman said the operation that led to bin Laden’s death showed the success of reforms Congress has made over the past 10 years to improve intelligence-sharing between agencies.
“I think it shows how far we have come in the last decade,” Collins said. “But we must not rest, because the risk is still out there.”
Collins was alerted to bin Laden’s death by the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael E. Leiter, shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday. “That center did not even exist” until it was established by a 2004 law written to address intelligence gaps revealed by the success of the 9/11 attacks, she noted.
She also noted that the Homeland Security Department sent out an alert to local law enforcement Sunday night to be vigilant for possible attacks — a step that would not have taken place before 9/11, she said.
Lieberman said the fact that the intelligence leading to the successful raid reportedly originated with a detainee in Guantánamo Bay shows that detainees should be treated as prisoners of war, not as criminals. The Obama administration recently abandoned its plan to try suspected 9/11 terrorists in federal courts.
Lieberman also argued that the death of bin Laden should not be used as an excuse to quickly withdraw from Afghanistan.
“We would repeat the mistake we made once before,” he said.
Lieberman also said that bin Laden’s death should serve as a warning to the Taliban and other terrorist leaders who remain at large.
As for the question of whether the United States should release photos of bin Laden’s body, Lieberman said it is a tough issue but that it may be necessary if al-Qaida members do not acknowledge his death.