President Trump has both a challenge and an opportunity with his search for a new FBI director.
The challenge is to find someone who inspires confidence and who will be an independent voice of national law enforcement. The opportunity is to put behind him the contentiousness of James Comey, the previous director, restore the credibility and effectiveness of the FBI, and return it to its primary mission of fighting domestic crime as well as international terrorism.
If the president wants to set the FBI on a new course, he should look beyond the current controversy swirling around his decision to fire Comey and set the FBI firmly on a course that will have a real impact on the lives of the vast majority of Americans.
Today we are in the midst of a national epidemic of drug abuse and gang violence that is claiming the lives of thousands of Americans every year. Here on Long Island, this scourge is taking the form of particularly violent gang warfare being waged by vicious gangs like M13. This crisis knows no geographic bounds. Murders, assaults and overdoses are piling up in cities like Chicago and St. Louis, in small towns from Appalachia to New England, and in suburban communities everywhere.
Gang violence is being fueled by an unprecedented level of drug trafficking and abuse that should be the focus of a nationally directed effort to root it out. The FBI can and should be at the center of this battle. And we should not just accept that this campaign will fall short like other earlier “wars” on drugs.
This time, the full law-enforcement resources at all levels of government should be brought to the fight. It’s a fight that should start at our borders, with an all-out effort to stem the massive flow of narcotics into the country. It’s a fight that must address the insatiable demand for these drugs, which grew with the over-prescription of painkillers like OxyContin, from which many users graduated to heroin. And it’s a fight against the vicious gang members who are pushing drugs and terrorizing once peaceful communities.
Elected leaders must mount a concerted battle to take back our streets and neighborhoods from these young thugs. That should start with the president filling the FBI director’s position with someone who has led difficult fights against crime; who understands law enforcement from the ground up; and who has a proven public safety management record. I believe that no one being considered for the position better fits this bill than former New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, a decorated former Marine with a proven track record of successfully fighting crime.
In two separate tours directing the nation’s largest police force — including during the dark days after the 9/11 attacks — Kelly distinguished himself with leadership skills that dramatically reduced crime in some of New York’s most troubled neighborhoods. This set the stage for an unprecedented and lasting overall reduction in violent crime that directly contributed to New York City’s current resurgence. As a senator, I was proud to introduce Kelly to the Senate committee that unanimously approved his nomination as commissioner of Customs, a position in which he led the fight to secure our borders and stem the flow of drugs.
It’s time for the FBI to refocus on the real threats to our domestic peace and tranquility. Frankly, those threats are not coming from foreign intelligence agencies, or from any state actors. They come from dangerous enemies within — gangs and drugs — that threaten Americans where it matters most, right here at home.
Ray Kelly is the kind of leader this country needs running the FBI: above reproach and political partisanship.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.