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House Acts to Address Threat of Islamist Jihad, But Other Bills Languish

The House “has done and continues to … address the persistent threat we face from radical Islamist terrorists” by passing “dozens of bills aimed at bolstering our efforts to fight terror at home and abroad, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) pointed out last week.

“We cannot allow these heinous attacks on our homeland to become the new normal, and we must be clear: our enemy is radical Islamist terrorism, and our war against these fanatics knows no boundaries,” McCaul stated, stressing, “We will not cower in the face of this evil. We must act. Here at home, the House will continue working to block all terrorist pathways into our country, keep extremists from recruiting our people, and make sure our frontline defenders are prepared to fight terror when it hits our city streets. America must lead the world in taking the fight to our enemies—wherever they emerge.”

Meanwhile, other counterterrorism legislation in both the House and Senate languish.

Counterterrorism bills passed by the House:

HR 158, Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), enhances securityof the Visa Waiver Program to improve intelligence information sharing and to keep terrorists from entering the United States undetected.

HR 3503, Department of Homeland Security Support to Fusion Centers Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), would require an assessment of intelligence fusion centers nationwide and would increase accountability in the system for granting security clearances to state and local law enforcement.

HR 3598, Fusion Center Enhancement Act, introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), streamlines and enhances information sharing and counterterrorism cooperation with state and local law enforcement nationwide and bolsters fusion centers.

HR 4038, American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), would put in place the most robust national-security vetting process in history for any refugee population and it gives the American people the assurances needed that we will do everything possible to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores.

HR 4239, Tracking Foreign Fighters in Terrorist Safe Havens Act, introduced by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), would require the intelligence community to enhance its tracking of foreign fighter flows to and from terrorist safe havens abroad.

HR 4240, No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), would require a comprehensive review of the Terrorist Screening Database to ensure past weaknesses have been addressed to identify other vulnerabilities which should be mitigated.

HR 4314, Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY), would accelerate the transfer of certain border security systems to foreign partner governments and ramp up U.S. efforts to enhance counterterrorism screening abroad—to keep terrorists from reaching America’s shores.

HR 4401, Amplifying Local Efforts to Root out Terror (ALERT) Act, introduced by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), “scales-up” efforts to counter terrorist recruitment nationwide by allowing the government to better use existing fusion centers for outreach.

HR 4402, Foreign Fighter Review Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), requires top-to-bottom Administration review of instances where Americans became foreign fighters with requirements to identify and close security gaps.

HR 4403, Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act, introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), authorizes the development of open-source software based on certain systems of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to facilitate the vetting of travelers against terrorist watch lists and law enforcement databases, enhances border management, and improves targeting and analysis.

HR 4404, Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act, introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), requires the government to conduct an exercise related to terrorist and foreign fighter travel to find and eliminate vulnerabilities in America’s defenses against terrorist infiltration.

HR 4407, Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), establishes the primary advisory board in the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and integrate departmental intelligence, activities, and policy related to counterterrorism.

HR 4408, National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), requires a US national strategy on combating terrorist travel—for the first time in a decade—and requires future administrations to put forward regular action plans for fixing US vulnerabilities to terrorist infiltration.

HR 4509, State and High-Risk Area Working Group Act, introduced by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), better integrates state and local law enforcement and first responders into decision-making about state, regionaland local homeland security plans.

HR 4698, Securing Aviation from Foreign Entry Points and Guarding Airports Through Enhanced Security Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), enhances aviation by requiring airport security assessments and a security coordination enhancement plan.

HR 4820, Combating Terrorist Recruitment Act, introduced by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the testimonials of former or estranged violent extremists or their associates in order to counter terrorist recruitment.

HR 5056, Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-MA), requires TSA to update risk assessments at airports—specifically along airport perimeters and points of access to secure areas—and report to Congress strategic plans to increase security measures.

HR 5460, First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act, introduced by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), establish a review process to review applications for certain grants to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed any applicable national voluntary consensus standards.

HR 5471, Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), combines three previously passed Homeland Security Committee counterterrorism bills to ramp up efforts to stop Islamist terrorist groups from radicalizing Americans and to combat their propaganda.

HR 5859, Community Counterterrorism Preparedness Act, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), provides assistance to first responders across the country and authorizes grants to first responders so they can receive training and conduct exercises to best position them to prevent active shooters and other threats.

HR 5943, Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act, introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), clarify certain allowable uses of funds for public transportation security assistance grants and establish periods of performance for such grants.

Pending legislation introduced by Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fully digitize its fingerprint records to ensure biometric checks run as part of the citizenship application process correctly identify people who have been ordered removed from the country and prevent them from obtaining citizenship.

DHS’s Inspector General found the government had mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants from “special interest” countries of concern to national security. These illegals are also known as "Special Interest Aliens."

Also pending is HR 6087, IDENT Fingerprint Digitization Completion Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ). The legislation would further require completion of the digitization of all remaining paper-based fingerprint records for inclusion in DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).

Another pending bill is HR 5253, Strong Visa Integrity Secures America Act, introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). It would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 along with the Immigration and Nationality Act to improve visa security and visa applicant vetting. It would also enhance Visa screening procedures at US Embassy posts overseas and authorize DHS to assign counterterrorism personnel to 50 US Embassy posts around the world to vet and screen all visa applicants against the appropriate criminal, national security and terrorism databases maintained by the federal government. The bill would also require Customs and Border Protection to utilize facial recognition and other biometric technology when available to screen Visa Waiver Program travelers at airports.

Dozens of counterterrorism bills that have yet to go nowhere include Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) Terrorist Deportation Act (HR 6175), which would make any non-citizen on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSD) ineligible for travel to the United States, revoke the visa of any such person already here and provide for expedited deportation proceedings.

Duncan’s office said, “These are the individuals that homeland security professionals have already determined based on intelligence are the most likely to be involved in terrorist activity.”

“It’s wrong to respond to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Fort Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, Little Rock, San Bernardino, Orlando, St. Cloud and Chelsea by punishing innocent, law-abiding Americans,” Duncan said.  “My bill will refocus the debate on the real homeland security issue of Islamic Terrorism rather than the false narrative of gun control. It is also important to remember that radical Islamic terrorists will use any and every tool at their disposal to kill those who oppose their beliefs; whether it is an airplane, a boat, truck, pressure-cooker, knife or a gun. Any government official who focuses on the method more than the terrorists themselves is making a disastrous mistake. That is exactly what seems to be happening in government today, but I am hopeful that this legislation will correct that problem.”

Duncan said, “This legislation respects due process, while reducing the number of people residing in the United States who appear on a terror watch list, thus freeing up limited law enforcement resources to pursue other cases. This has become of particular importance in recent months as there have been multiple acts of terrorism committed by people who had been previously investigated by the FBI for ties to terrorism. Freeing up law enforcement resources by reducing the number of people residing in the United States who are suspected of terrorism will keep America safer.”

“This is the better way – rather than harming the 2nd Amendment rights of American citizens, [to] ensure that non-citizens suspected of terrorist ties are removed from the country. We know that more than 90 percent of the folks on this list aren’t American persons at all. This will take a concrete step towards making America safe again,” Duncan argued in support of his bill.

Counterterrorism legislation that’s been introduced by both Democrats and Republicans which no action has been taken, include:

  • S 3393, No Explosives or Arms for Terrorists and Criminals Act.
  • S 3351, Keep Terrorists Off the Battlefield Act.
  • HR 5308, Terrorist Asset Seizure Reform Act of 2016
  • HR 594, Keep Taxpayer Dollars Safe from Terrorists Act of 2016
  • S 3286, Keeping Aircraft Away from Terrorists Act of 2016
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