NSA James Jones: Obama’s Decisions Make U.S. More Secure

May 27, 2009 10:11pm

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports: The debate on whether America’s been made less safe by the Obama administration’s decision to close Guantanamo and end the use enhanced interrogation techniques went another round tonight.  This time it was National Security Advisor James Jones who countered former Vice President Cheney’s arguments that ending the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies have made America less safe.

In remarks to the Atlantic Council, Jones said America is not only safe under the Obama administration, but will become increasingly secure under his leadership.  Jones’ remarks were his first public remarks since the former general became National Security Advisor.

Jones said, "In my view, I firmly believe that the United States is not only safe but it will be more secure and the American people are increasingly safer because of the president’s leadership that he has displayed consistently over the last four months, both at home and abroad."   "He has said clearly and unequivocally that we are at war with terrorism and terrorism can take many facets." 

He explained the US was safer because of the decision to close the detention facility, increased defense spending, the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the responsible pullout of troops from Iraq.

Speaking of the "false choice" between security and ideals, Jones said Guantanamo had created more terrorists than it had housed.  He never mentioned Cheney by name other than addresing him as the Vice-President during the Q&A that followed.  Speaking of Cheney’s arguments he said, "no administration is going to suggest that their performance had made the country less safe." He added "I think that the former vice president knows full well that perfection is an impossible standard," because sometimes the only thing the US can do is "keep threats at bay and as far away from our shores as possible."

Jones also touched on current events such as the North Korean nuclear test which he called a "pretty serious moment." But he’s been impressed by the responses of Russia, China, and India to the test which indicate an international consensus is building that "North Korea and Iran should not be permitted to have such weapons."   He said the nuclear test and the recent missile test do not pose an imminent threat because North Korea has a long way to go before it can weaponize that technology.   However, he’s concerned that proliferation of that technology does pose an imminent threat.  To that end how to deal with North Korea will be a main topic of discussion at President Obama’s upcoming summit with Russian President Medvedev.

He’s encouraged by the Pakistani Army’s offensives to take on their insurgents and thinks it should be about a year to gauge how the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is doing. Regarding changes he’s made to the NSC, Jones said he wanted to make it more agile and proactive by looking at situations that might develop six to eight months out.  He said the President doesn’t get involved in every decision as issues are thoroughly debated as they work their way up through working groups and sometimes to the principals.  But when he does preside at meetings, Jones described an actively engaged President.  "Nobody gets out unchallenged,” and he joked "there’s no sleeping" as the President likes to hear dialogue and opposing views. "Nobody walks away from the table thinking that they have not been heard,” he said. Jones indicated media predictions that Obama’s "team of rivals" wouldn’t work together haven’t panned out as his greatest satisfaction has been seeing the "level of collegiality" that’s developed among them.  But Jones said the same can’t be said for their underlings as apparently "the team of rivals exists at other levels."

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