Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken additional measures to address the threat of US-bound foreign fighters, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) said much more “can be done to ensure other countries are providing US intelligence with pertinent counterterrorism information.”
Vice chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Miller made the statement after DHS’s recent announcement that it will be making changes to its Visa Waiver Program to improve our ability to identify and stop foreign fighters attempting to enter the United States.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Today reported, Adil Batarfi, one of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) senior commanders, issued a threat against America and the West if they continue to blasphemy Islam.
“Over the past year, tens of thousands of young men and women from across the globe have been recruited by terrorist organizations, like ISIL, that aspire to attack Americans here on US soil,” Miller said. And, “Many of these recruits hold passports from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada and other Western nations that participate in our Visa Waiver Program, making them just one flight away from the United States.
DHS’s “announced that it will begin implementing new measures aimed at reducing the threat posed by foreign fighters attempting to enter the US including, requiring the use of e-passports for all Visa Waiver Program travelers to increase fraud prevention, increasing the presence of federal air marshals on US-bound flights, requiring our allies in the Visa Wavier Program to begin screening travelers in and out of Europe against INTERPOL’s lost and stolen passport database and improving the reporting of foreign fighters between multilateral security organizations,” Miller pointed out.
“Additionally, DHS announced its intention to increase screening for refugees and foreigners seeking asylum in the US, which I strongly support. In fact, earlier this year, my colleagues on [the Homeland Security Committee] and I wrote to the National Security Advisor expressing our concern with US screening procedures for the tens of thousands of refugees the Department of State is bringing here to the US from Syria – home to the largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in world history.”
“I commend DHS for taking these steps to address the very real threat foreign fighters pose to our homeland. However, I do believe that more should be done,” Miller stated.
“Over the past year,” she said, “I have repeatedly expressed concern over the grave threat they pose to our security here at home. In March, my Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security conducted a hearing to examine US efforts to combat terrorist travel, specifically efforts to stop terrorists from exploiting weaknesses with our Visa Waiver Program.”
Continuing, Miller noted that, “Last Congress, and again this Congress, I introduced legislation, the Visa Waiver Improvement Act, that would incentivize our partners in the Visa Waiver Program to provide the US with the intelligence needed to combat terror threats by authorizing DHS to suspend their participation in the program if they fail to do so. If we do not have good intelligence on the travel of these fighters, or if our allies are not appropriately sharing information, US citizens could be at risk, which is why DHS must have the authority provided by my bill to suspend their participation. Earlier this summer, my legislation was passed by the full committee, and it is my hope that it will soon be considered by the full House. We have an obligation to ensure our agencies have every tool necessary to safeguard the Homeland.”
Key provisions of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (HR 158) would:
- Allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend participation of countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if they do not share terrorism and foreign traveler data with the United States;
- Clarify that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a counterterrorism tool and requires DHS to consider including additional information pertaining to terrorism threats to better screen foreign travelers;
- Require an annual threat assessment conducted by the Director of National Intelligence and DHS to assess information sharing between VWP countries and the United States;
- Require an annual intelligence assessment conducted by the Director of National Intelligence and DHS to assess airport, passport and travel document standards; and
- Direct DHS to report, within 30 days, on what additional data might be necessary to improve ESTA as a counterterrorism tool to screen travelers