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tv   Politics Public Policy Today  CSPAN  March 9, 2015 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT

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mayor's challenge for bike and pedestrian safety. and there's a number of -- i'm going to speak to this in broad terms since i don't have any of the details. you can find them on the website. there's a number of bike safety -- bike and pedestrian safety challenges going on across the country. and the idea is to select a community and, in fact, to your point, do a deeper dive into a particular safety challenge. whether it be in a very busy intersection where you're trying to access say, a major transportation -- in our case a major transit station. or it could be a corridor where there's been a high incident of bike accidents in the past or whatnot. and begin to work with the community, so fhwa or fta would be sort of a lead agency. but coordinating with the local community to identify the nature of the problem and the array of
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solutions that could be brought to bear. and i know a key point of all that is the coordination between the various entities that are involved to bring it together. one of the reasons why, again the safety management system approach, i think, is going to be so valuable for our transit agencies in terms of safety is that you'll need to ask the question. you know for my system how important is the connection with pedestrian interface. do i have a number of -- is this a centerpiece, say, for my new bike network i'm building in my community because i'm actually encouraging lots of people to come to my station on bikes. therefore, who would i work with at the public works department in the jurisdiction where i am to ensure that the right, you know lighting or fixtures or something are in place. so, i think all of that is to say we're recognizing it's a very dynamic and very sort of
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case-specific area, like so much of what we need to do. it's not a blanket, here is the format i need to fill out to make these things work. so, you know, i think you just highlighted in your question the actual challenge we're facing is that as much of this as might be a technological or engineering fix coordination among agencies that oversee all these parts is as much of that solution as any of it. >> in the end, it's about the people, right? >> in the end, it's about the people. bring down injuries and fatalities in any way we possibly can. >> nau. sir? >> david walcock, boston, mass.
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a question for administrator feinberg. we were talking a lot about funding, moving forward. last week from the house, i believe it was, the passenger rail reformed investment act of 2014 emerged after once again a fight over what happens with amtrak. we have some major investment needs in the northeast corridor but we also have many areas such as the midwest. we heard a gentleman earlier about the cal high speed rail, southeast high speed rail. tremendous amount of high speed rail investment and passenger investment rail that's wanted. how are we going to move forward if we continue to have these debates over whether amtrak continues to exist or not? >> well, so i think first of all it was a good sign that the bill passed last week with such an overwhelming margin. by such an overwhelming margin, i can't tell you when we'll stop having the fight over whether amtrak should exist or not. it might not be in our lifetimes.
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hopefully it will be. look, i think increasingly it's -- look it is increasingly an argument that is losing steam. so even in a moment where we've got republican control of both houses and increasing tea party presence, this is not an argument that i think most people think you know, suddenly we're going to be without amtrak in two years. so i think it's -- i think more and more people understand and recognize the importance of connecting all these places and that rail is to integral to that amtrak is to integral to that. look, i think amtrak is sometimes guilty of bringing a little attention on itself right? and i've been very frank with them. and i think others have been, too. it is a wonderful company a wonderful entity. they provide a service that is irreplaceable. that said, it's important to be
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n my opinion, really transparent. talk about where the money's going. talk about how you're going to reinvest. talk about how you're going to perform the service up and down the east coast and across the country. i think they're getting better at that all the time. they work really closely with us. we urge transparency. we've gone to the hill with them and talked about how we think it's really important to be transparent. so, i think we'll have some moments when people who, you know, might not be huge fans of amtrak in the first place see numbers they don't like or see parts of amtrak, divisions of amtrak different business entities losing money. i think it's important to have a really transparent and realistic conversation about it because ultimately amtrak provides a service that i think is incredibly important to the country. so, kind of a long answer. >> thank you. >> good afternoon. >> good afternoon. >> i'm valerie mccall, i'm the vice chair of apta and chair of the transit board members committee. but also in my day job, i am the
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chief of government in international affairs for the city of cleveland, ohio, so i didn't want to sit up here and not say, thank you for the pilot program on local hiring rule-making. as you all know, i spent a lot of time up in d.o.t. in conversations over the last ten years about that. sometimes when we have projects and we have local laws that have local hiring practices, we cannot implement this. so i wanted to stand up and actually say, thank you for that. and, of course, we'll be submitting some comments. >> thank you so much. >> thanks. >> coming back to the theme about it being about the people, obviously, apta has a continuing interest in working to improve coordinated human services transportation and it involves a whole myriad of interests and overlapping programs. we all talk about project development streamlining but here's maybe another area where we could have some realignment
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and simplification. what in your view could be done to bring more federal agencies to the table to work in a more coordinated partnership? >> well, the reason we're having -- and i have to give kudos to my staff, henry buchanan smith and her team at fta for pushing towards this ride to wellness summit we're having on wednesday is you're exactly right, we have been charging up the hill of better coordinating, as i like to say, across our cylinders of excellence. available resources we have. and we see a new opportunity for conversation because the affordable care act created access to health insurance for, you know hundreds of thousands
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of families and individuals that continues to grow. but if they can't get to the services that the insurance is providing, then obviously there's obviously a huge gap in achieving the goal that we want to achieve. so it's our hope that the health care industry sees a vested interest in becoming an active part of this dialogue along with transit providers and along with the federal agencies that are bringing forward much of the regulatory and implementation framework to say you know, we have to get beyond our past, which actually -- i mean, there was a presentation i heard just recently that made the observation that when you're dealing with the taxpayer dollar there's an incredible attention to trying to avoid in any way waste, fraud and abuse.
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that's just a basic tenet in protecting taxpayer dollars. sometimes, in carrying that out you can make the strictures so rigid that then you can't recognize an environment that's changed to serve the very people these programs are being set up to help. and so the beginning of it is maybe sitting down and having a very lucid and comprehensive discussion about that changed environment and the needs that it creates and say what tools do we have? maybe we have all the tools, we're just not putting them together right. we're not putting them together in the right way. that's where we're going to start. i think it's incredibly important the folks we're bringing together come to it with the idea they can be invested in the solution. and that this isn't some top-down thing the federal agencies are trying to impose. this is really about all of us
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recognizing that we're not serving the client base that needs our help and that we actually are here to serve. we can do better. let's talk about the ways to make that happen. >> terrific. thank you. do we have any more questions from our audience? >> we've exhausted everyone. >> i see somebody approaching the microphone. let's give her a minute. >> good afternoon. my name is wendy. i'm actually a doc, so i'm a physician out of texas, so since you gave me such a great lead-in. i'm part of an acl, actable care organization for quality alliance. we have a regional geographic scope. i'm here as a guest of d.a.r.t. my question for you is this, if health care can come together and we can get creative in how we serve the populations, both in getting them to the clinics
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proceed actively and decreasing expense, where do we start? my question to you is, having those conversations is a a wonderful idea. very interested in doing that but how do you get started? for the state of texas, as an example, where would we start? >> you know we're asking that same question and we recognize -- you hear this theme over and over but you hear it because it's so true over and over again. it's not going to be the same starting place and ending place for the communities in texas as it may be for cal, as it may be for boston. one of the things we have also launched is we have provided funding for some pilot programs and i'm just looking to henrique ka to make sure i don't butcher that. pilot programs oriented around communities that they themselves are pulling together the cadre
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of interests they need to assemble -- to tackle this problem. we're providing funding to actually let the communities themselves get into this definition space of, you know, what's our clients what's the problem, what are we trying to achieve, what resources do we already have versus what we might need. and we want to essentially fund those conversations. we -- how much money? >> we're putting out about $300,000 through our national center for mobility management. that opportunity is currently on their website. [ inaudible ] so we think it's the perfect place to start. >> absolutely for your community.
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and hopefully with a federal partnership we'll be able to leverage resources -- so i'll give you my card and make sure -- [ inaudible ] >> that would be great. thank you. >> just keep tabs on the fta website after the summit which again i'm really excited. that's going to be on wednesday. we'll be posting summaries of what's happening, next steps that will be coming up because this is an initiative under the secretary's larger ladder portfolio we'll be pursuing for the next several months, certainly. >> sir, your question? >> todd lang. i wanted to see if you had any update on the timing for the transit asset management and safety regulations and then comment on the delicate dance that needs to occur after that with the states, npos and transit providers.
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>> as much as i gave my colleague over here from l.a., i cannot give you a timeline. i can say that both transit asset management and rule-making are top priority for fta. they're just so fundamental to -- you know, on nir face the new responsibilities given to us under mapp21 but the industry really needs it and we work very closely with them. working hard. we'll get it out as soon as we can. the point you made about the interaction i think is very important because we've made the case for some time that our transit agencies need to be very much engaged with the metropolitan planning process. some of them are.
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some of them quite not as much. secretary fox has made it another important part of his objectives is to strengthen the -- well, to strengthen the regional planning process generally. but also to ensure that transit and all other parties are clearly on the table. so, it really points to getting the notice of proposed rule-making out on our joint planning rule. that actually is -- i know that that's undergoing comment now the comments closed on the npr for the joint policy rule-making, if i'm remembering correctly. and so that's moving ahead you know like a gazelle on the savannah through the rule-making process. that's been trucking along. that's going to be a very
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important part, you know you know, once that rule make is out for the types of discussions we're going to have to be having. thanks. yes, sir? >> if a major rail passenger project receiving federal funds about to go to construction and political changes delay it for four years and the next administration -- >> i have no idea what you're talking about. >> what happens to those federal funds? are they still available? does it start back from square zero? what are the rules? >> so, don't be so pessimistic, unless -- you're probably trying to get the money, though so you're interested. so, we're doing our best to make sure that everything that can possibly be obligated is obligated, which is our job to do. there's a deadline on that. we're not sort of scooting things under -- across the border. we have a deadline for obligation. and so we will be oblg gating
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those funds. i can't speak to what could possibly happen later, but i think the closer you get to building these projects and having them completed, i think the more people are invested in them and the more people are excited that they'll come to fruition. so, i'm hopeful that regardless of what happens we'll be in good shape. >> all right. last call for questions. you've been a wonderful audience. and please join me in thanking acting administrator mcmillan and feinberg on behalf of apta and all our memberships. we appreciate your candor and the time you've dedicated to come here and show us how the federal government can partner with us for a better tomorrow so that our postcards will be ones of positive messages and sent. so, thank you so much. appreciate it. and to our audience and our viewers, we please encourage you
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to join us for a view from the hill session at 3:45 to hear directly from congressional staffers on the industry and inside perspective of upcoming legislation. so, that is at 3:45, view from the hill.
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as they wrap up the transportation conference, if you missed any of today's discussions, can you find them online in their entirety at just look for the video library. more live coverage today as well from the national league of cities annual city conference on our companion network c-span. about 2,000 officials and delegates from across the country are gathering to meet with federal officials and cabinet secretaries, including interior secretary sally jewell and homeland secretary jeh johnson and hearing a panel with transportation secretary anthony fox, energy secretary and epa
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administrator jenny mccarthy. our live coverage is set to begin 3:30 eastern time over on c-span. tonight on "the communicators," founder and ceo of mediacom communications corporation on the challenges facing media companies and the fallout from the latest fcc decision affecting the internet. >> i have no doubt this will increase rates of consumers if it stays on board. why is that? they're going to impose on us all kinds of regulatory fees, additional rental fees taxes at the local level. i think the utilities, the regulatory utilities in the states where we operate are going to get into the act. i haven't found one government that doesn't want to raise more money, all right? and it's going to give an opportunity to raise more money. >> tonight at 8 p.m. eastern on "the communicators" on c-span2. with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the
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senate on c-span2 here on c-span3 we complement that coverage by showing you the most relevant congressional hearings and public affairs events. and then on weekends, c-span3 is the home to american history tv with programs that tell our nation's story. including six unique series. the civil wars 150th anniversary, visiting battlefields and key events. american artifacts touring museums and historic sites to reveal what artifacts reveal about america's past. history bookshelf. the presidency looking at the policies and legacies of our nation's commanders in chief. lectures in history, with top college professors delving into america's past. and our new series real america, featuring archival government and educational films from the 1930s through the '70s. c-span3, created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. watch us in hd, "like" us on facebook and follow us on twitter. next a look at homegrown and
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foreign fighters. officials from the fbi, homeland security department and national counterterrorism center testified before a house committee last month on efforts to address foreign and domestic terror threats to the united states. texas republican michael mccaul chairs the committee. mississippi democrat bennie thompson is the ranking member. the hearing ran about 2 1/2 hours.
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the committee on homeland security will come to order. committee is meeting today to hear testimony on violent islamist extremism, and the threat of foreign fighters and homegrown terror. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. today at the first hearing of the house committee on homeland security in the 114th congress, i'd like to take a moment of silence to remember all those who lost their lives at the hands of isis, especially americans james foley, steven sotloff and most recently kayla mueller. these victims are the reason why we are here today. we must keep these barbaric terrorists out of the homeland to protect the american people.
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this hearing will also assess the urgent and growing threat of terrorist recruiting and inspiring americans. we need to accurately define the threat. and that is violent islamist extremism. and recognize that it is spreading like wildfire around the globe. these fanatics want nothing less than destruction of our way of life, and now their ability to match words with deeds is growing at an astonishing rate. in recent years, their safe havens have proliferated and their ranks have swelled. in many ways, we are no longer talking about terrorist groups. we are talking about terrorist armies. isis now controls a territory the size of belgium, governs millions of people, draws on billions of dollars in revenue, and commands tens of thousands of foot soldiers. and they are brutal. their latest act of barbarism
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was on full display with a horrific murder of the jordanian pilot. this evolving islamic terrorist landscape has given rise to the dual threats of foreign fighters, returning to the united states and home grown terrorism. the recent terror attack in paris and other attacks and plots in belgium, germany, the uk, australia, canada, and here in the united states, are proof that the threat has surged and that the enemy is dead set on attacking the west. this map behind me shows a surge in isis linked terrorist plots over the last year alone. as mr. rasmussen notes in his testimony, more than 20,000 fighters from over 90 countries have made their way to the battlefield to join al qaeda, isis and other extremist groups, making this the largest
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convergence of islamist terrorists in world history. that number continues to grow despite months of air strikes. up to 5,000 of these fighters are westerners, many of whom are able to travel into the united states without obtaining a visa. and more than 150 american citizens have attempted to or succeeded in getting to the battlefield, and we know that some of them have already returned to our shores. you can see this flow depicted in the graphic behind me. but extremists do not need to travel overseas in order to become a threat to our homeland. though hollywood-like prop gone propaganda video and social media and through that means islamist terror groups are inciting their followers and potential recruits to wage war at home.
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both isis and yemen-based al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, have called for westerners, including americans to wage individual jihad in their home countries, and it's working. isis social media also gives step-by-step instructions on how to get to the fight and how to return. following the attacks in paris last month, our european partners have been busy uncovering new terrorist cells and disrupting imminent plots. also just recently here at home, the fbi arrested an ohio-based isis sympathizer who was intending to attack the united states capitol with pipe bombs. i'm worried about our ability to combat this threat abroad, but also here at home. i wrote to the president recently and raised concerns that we still have no lead agency in charge of countering domestic radicalization, and no line item for it in the budgets,
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of key departments and agencies. i'm also concerned that the few programs we do have in place are far too small to confront a threat that has grown so quickly. today i hope to hear how the administration assesses the danger posed by foreign fighters, particularly westerners, and the threat of homegrown terrorism here in the united states. more importantly, i hope we will hear about how the administration is responding, and how plans to ramp up its response to those challenges. this morning, i would like to welcome all of our witnesses, but especially mr. rasmussen, with the national counterterrorism center, in his first appearance before congress after being confirmed as director. and we look forward to his testimony. as part of our committee's focus on this critical national security issue, the ranking member and myself are establishing a task force on combatting terrorist and foreign fighter travel.
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the six-month task force will review u.s. government efforts focusing on dhs to disrupt terrorist travel into our country, and to combat the foreign fighter threat. it will ultimately provide recommendations to the committee on how we can improve u.s. security against these dangers. i must say i'm very disappointed that the state department chose not to send a witness here today. the threats we are discussing are serious. and the state department plays a key role in combatting them. i recently sent a letter to the white house expressing my concerns over the department's desire to resettle tens of thousands of syrian refugees here in the united states. i am worried that isis could exploit this effort in order to deploy operatives to america, via a federally funded jihadi pipeline.
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before closing, i'd like to again reiterate what i said at our organizational meeting last month, mr. thompson, we look forward to working with you to accomplish our shared goal of protecting the homeland. and with that the chair now recognizes the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. for your comments, as well as for holding today's hearing. i'd like to also welcome director rasmussen for his first appearance before this committee as the director of the national counterterrorism center. as well i'd also thank the rest of the panel for testifying about the federal government's effort to identify and deter foreign fighters and the government's efforts to counter violent extremism. i'd like to express my condolences at the beginning to the family of the 26-year-old kayla mueller, an american aid worker who was taken hostage by the islamic state of iraq.
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u.s. officials have confirmed she was killed by the terrorist group. mr. chairman, ms. mueller's death and other recent terrorist attacks across the world over the past few months have magnified the nature of the evolving threat from the terrorist groups and state actors. the heinous actions by isil, including the beheading of a japanese journalist, and the terrorist group's burning of a jordanian pilot further illustrates the abhorrent nature of this terrorist group. last month, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff indicated that the radical ideology of isil is caused other terrorist groups to rebrand themselves and emulate isil. top u.s. officials have made public statements that foreign fighters linked to isil may pose a direct threat to this country. moreover, those inspired by the
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ideology of isil, al qaeda and other groups are of concern. as we look to these threats, we cannot take a myopic view. each attack from terrorist groups have re-emphasized the global reach of terrorist activity. for instance, there was a crippling cyber attack in november on sony pictures entertainment network. in december, in sydney, australia, we witnessed a terrorist attack on a cafe where at the end of a 16-hour standoff, two innocent people lay dead. then in january in paris, there was a series of execution-style murders of 12 members "charlie hebdo's" creative team. al qaeda in the arabian peninsula has taken credit for this attack. this serves as a reminder that the terrorist threats we face are evolving quickly. this committee's responsibility is to hold hearings, and receive classified information that lets us know the nature of the threats, and how the federal
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government is dealing with the threat. in spite of this, mr. chairman, the republican majority continues to play political games with funding the department of homeland security. mr. chairman, i, too, feel that it is meaningless to have a strategy if the ends are not paired with the means to achieve them. it is my hope that you will make the point to your colleagues, and leadership, who are holding the funding for key agency and the federal government that americans look to to detect, deter and respond to a terrorist hostages. unfortunately, the department of homeland security is operating under the threat of a shutdown, and it is only funded by a continuing resolution for the next 17 days. it is important that my republican colleagues act responsibly, stop playing
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politics, and pass a clean dhs funding bill. without a fully funded department of homeland security, some of our key methods of identifying terrorists and preventing terrorist travel will be at risk. are we really ready to stand before the american people? those who trust and value that we recognize their needs, and declare for the sake of partisanship we're going to make our nation more vulnerable by not funding dhs. mr. chairman, i hope not. we have significant challenges before us. you've outlined in your testimony those challenges. but if we don't have a fully funded department, one that can't operate on continuing resolution, we put this country, its people, at risk. and so whatever it takes for us
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to deal with this threat, first of all, we have a department that has the resources to address the threat. so i look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. but i also look forward to an effort where we can get the department of homeland security treated like every other department of government, having a budget that carries us till the end of the fiscal year. with that i yield back. >> i thank the ranking member. pleased to have three distinguished witnesses before us today to discuss this important topic. first, the honorable francis taylor. became the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the u.s. department of homeland security in april 2014. he's held a variety of senior level positions over his 35-year career in government service. most recently undersecretary taylor served as the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security and director of foreign missions. thank you, sir, for being here
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today. next we have the honorable nicholas rasmussen, sworn in as director of the national counterterrorism center in december of 2014. he previously served as nctc's deputy director since june of 2012, prior to returning to nctc he served with the national security council staff as special assistant to the president, and senior director for counterterrorism. thank you, sir. and last but not least, michael steinbach, appointed as the assistant director of the fbi's counterterrorism division by director comey in july of 2014. he joined the fbi in 1995, held a variety of positions at fbi headquarters in the field and overseas during his ten-year career with the bureau. most recently served as deputy assistant director of the counterterrorism position. the witnesses' full statements
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will appear in the record. the chair now recognizes undersecretary taylor for his opening statement. >> chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, and distinguished members of the committee, i'm pleased to be here today with my colleagues from the fbi and nctc to discuss the foreign fighter threat and our current efforts to disrupt terrorist travel. i would be remiss if i did not highlight one of the biggest threats to the security of our homeland, the lack of a funding for the department of homeland security. given the myriad of threats facing the homeland, it is imperative that congress pass a full year dhs appropriations bill for 2015. as long as the department operates under a cr there's a whole series of activities vital to homeland security and public safety that the department just cannot do. the men and women of dhs need a partner in congress to fund their efforts.
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time is running out, and i urge congress to pass a full-year appropriations bill for this department as soon as possible. the foreign fighter threat continues to be a security threat to the united states and our allies. events in australia, canada, and most recently in france and belgium underscore that the foreign fighter threat is no longer a problem restricted to foreign conflict zones such as northern syria and western iraq. at present we are unaware of any specific, credible, or imminent threat to the homeland. however, recent events have demonstrated the need for increased vigilance both at home and abroad. that said the foreign fighter threat is constantly evolving. as well as developing new tactics in recruitment that we have not previously seen before. the islamic state of iraq commonly referred to as isil exhibits a very sophisticated propaganda capability.
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isil's use of multimedia content has enhanced the appeal of its terrorist organization. this propaganda encourages supporters to carry out attacks, and such attacks could be conducted without specific direction from isil. with little or no warning. to address this very threat, counterviolence extremism in the homeland, and to guard against the domestic lone offender secretary johnson has directed the dhs to build on our partnerships with our state, local, and local law enforcement partners in ways that enhance its community relationships and builds resilience to violent extremism. the secretary recently appointed a cve coordinator to oversee the various cve programs and efforts across our department. additionally, since september 2014, secretary johnson has
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personally participated in direct engagement efforts with critical stakeholders in chicago, columbus, ohio, minneapolis, los angeles, and boston. to discuss how dhs can best support local efforts to counter violent extremism and address the foreign terrorist fighters. dhs cve efforts are designed to share information with communities and local officials to raise vigilance on behavioral indicators that may link to radicalization to violence. the dhs program also focuses on empowering communities, and local law enforcement to develop intervention and prevention efforts at the local level. the white house plans to host a cve summit on february 18th, 2015, it will focus on both domestic and international cve efforts. prior to the summit, dhs will
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host an event for domestic stakeholders on february 17th at the white house, while a second affiliated event specifically for international partners will be hosted by the dpepartment of state on february 19th. let me now turn to the specific efforts dhs is undertaking to identify, address, and minimize the foreign fighter threat to the united states and to our allies. beginning in july 2014, dhs required enhanced screening and -- screening at selected overseas airports with direct flights to the united states. weeks later dhs added additional airports to this list with the united kingdom and other countries following similar enhancements to their required aviation security operations. tsa has been directed by secretary johnson also conducting an immediate short-term review to determine
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if additional security convenienting measures are necessary at both domestic, and overseas last point of departure airports. dhs is also exploring the possibility of expanding preclearance operation at foreign airports with flights to the united states. currently cvp has preclearance operations at 15 airports in six countries. and where appropriate cvp intends to enter into negotiations to expand air preclearance operations at new locations. the department continues to work closely with our european partners through the useu name record agreement -- passenger name records information to dhs by airlines that are subject to the eu data protection laws. in addition, dhs uses close partnerships with countries in the visa waiver program, and the
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five country ministerial to improve respective abilities to identify illicit travel. just this past november the secretary increased the data fields that are collected from visa waiver country -- countries where visa -- where visa's not required for entry into the united states, and to provide additional passport data, contact information, and other potential names or aliases in the travel applications submitted under the electronic system for travel authorization before they can travel to the u.s. dhs is increasing efforts to track those who enter and leave syria and may later seek to travel to the united states without a state department issued visa. the terrorist threat is dynamic, and those who operate individual as a part of terrorist organizations will continue to challenge our security measures and our safety.
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mr. chairman, i'd like to end my statement there and i look forward to the questions from the committee. >> i thank the secretary. the chair now recognizes director rasmussen for his opening statement. >> thank you, chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, and members of the committee. i really do appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the threat posed by foreign fighters and homegrown terror and our efforts as a government to counter it. as frank taylor said, i'm also pleased to join my colleagues and close partners from homeland security and the federal bureau of investigation. we work closely and cooperatively every day as a part of a true community of counterterrorism professionals and i'm really grateful for that partnership that we share. this morning i will briefly describe the threat we face from foreign fighters, highlight the role that extremist use of social media has played in that process, and conclude with efforts nctc and our partners across the federal government are taking to counter that threat. and i'll begin with the foreign fighter picture. as you know, one of the most
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pressing concerns for the intelligence community is the ongoing throw of foreign fighters to syria, importantly the threat they could pose upon return to their home -- country of home origin. the battlefields in iraq and syria clearly provide foreign fighters with combat experience, with training in weapons and explosives, and with access to terror networks that may be ultimately planning targets -- attacks which target the west. the rate of foreign fighter travel that we've seen in recent years is unprecedented. it exceeds the rate of travel and travelers who went to afghanistan, pakistan, iraq, yemen or somalia, other prominent conflict zones, but it exceeds the rate of travel to those conflict zones that we've seen at any point in the last 20 years. the united states and our allies are increasingly concerned with the more than 20,000 foreign fighters we assess have traveled to syria from over 90 different countries of origin. we assess that at least 3,400 of these fighters are from western countries, and that number includes also over 150 u.s. persons who've either traveled to the conflict zone or
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attempted to do so. and that's something we can speak about in more detail later in the session. i want to be cautious here that because it's very difficult to be precise with these numbers because they come from a wide variety of sources that vary in quality. i'd rather focus on the trend lines which are clear, and which are concerning. in addition to the foreign fighters who've already traveled it is clear that the number of those seeking to go to iraq and syria is going up. and furthermore, the majority of those who are getting there, getting to the conflict zone right now, are fighting or looking to fight for isil on the battlefield in syria and iraq. it's also a complicating factor that the individuals drawn to fight in foreign conflict zones do not fit any one stereotype or profile. they come from various backgrounds, which highlights the need for comprehensive messaging strategies and early engagement with a variety of communities in order to dissuade vulnerable individuals from trying to travel to conflict zones.
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the volume and diversity of recruits flowing to and from the conflict makes disruption particularly challenging. there is no single pipeline for foreign fighter travel into and out of syria. violent extremists take different routes, including land, air and sea. most routes do involve transit through turkey because of its geographic proximity to the syrian border areas where most of these groups operate. now this sense of shared threat has prompted even closer cooperation across u.s. federal agencies, and importantly with our international partners, particularly in europe. this is resulting in the development of stricter counterterrorism laws overseas, increased efforts at border security among our european partners, and importantly, more willingness to share threat information among partner nations. and while these good efforts are under way and are making progress, significant work remains, particularly in ensuring that our foreign partners are able and willing to identify and stop foreign fighters when they transit their borders. both to prevent those fighters from entering and then to stop
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fighters from leaving their home countries to travel abroad. now i'll turn quickly to the use of social media by extremists and especially by isil and the way in which this group uses social media to attract a diverse set of aspiring foreign fighters. now, the chairman and the ranking member both mentioned in their opening remarks the brutal behavior that we've seen of isil in recent weeks. the world witnessed the brutal burning of a jordanian pilot held hostage by the group and we've seen the cruel beheadings of u.s. and japanese hostages. isil's media capabilities are robust and effective. moreover, their ability to generate timely propaganda continues to grow. i would argue that isil has proven far more adept than core al qaeda ever was or more adept than any of core of al qaeda's affiliate groups, more adept at using these new social media tools to reach a broader audience. just since january 1 of this year more than 250 official isil products have been published online.
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and the group has shown the capacity to use these products to speak to a full spectrum of potential audiences. local sunni arab populations inside iraq and syria who they're trying to co-opt and countries. and even populations around the world, including english speaking audiences here and across the globe. as you'd expect, isil uses the most popular of social media platforms to disseminate this messaging. youtube, facebook, twitter. and they know how to ensure that once their media releases are posted that they reach far and wide almost instantaneously with reposting, and regeneration of follow-on links and translations into an ever-growing number of additional languages. now in terms of content we've all seen that it includes these horrible, horrific images in which hostages have been on the battlefield have been executed in summary fashion. but we've also seen social media images of a bucolic family friendly welcoming light under isil's rule in their self-declared caliphate.
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as isil tries to paint a picture to entice disenfranchised individuals seeking ideological, religious or personal fulfillment, and not just a battlefield or a martyrdom experience. isil also generates releases that cater to a younger population very familiar with popular culture. these releases often reference western branding including popular video games. in an attempt to appeal to thrill seekers and youth looking for fulfillment. now the threat we face is not just from foreign fighters or terrorist groups including isil and al qaeda. individual inspired by these and other groups are simply by extremist propaganda can be motivated to action, and as frank said that can come with little or no warning. many of these so-called home-grown violent extremists are lone actors who can potentially operate undetected and who can plan and execute a simple attack without providing us warning. as a community we closely monitor violent extremist activity including when that activity appears and occurs in the united states. and we're looking for signs that last year's attacks in canada, and elsewhere, may embolden
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other hbes to conduct additional attacks. we believe isil's red rick may have played a role in this attacks, particularly in target selection in terms of targeting government officials or military personnel. we are working with our partners across multiple disciplines in the community to increase our knowledge of foreign fighters to counter extremism. nctc has taken a broad centerwide effort to track foreign fighters traveling to syria. we work in the first instance to resolve specific identities of these potential fighters to uncover any potential derogatory information that we have in intelligence community holdings. we're also working closely with foreign partners to combat threats emanating from syria. we're looking hard to develop investigative leads for our partner agencies to pursue. including identifying foreign fighters entering syria, who may have potential access or connections to individuals in the homeland so that they can be watch listed. in the growing number of individuals going abroad as foreign fighters only emphasizes the importance of prevention.
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any hope of enduring security or defeating organizations like isil rests in our ability to diminish their appeal and dissuade individuals from joining them in the first place. to this end we continue to refine and expand the preventive side of terrorism and counterterrorism. we've seen a steady proliferation of more pro-active and more engaged community awareness efforts across the united states with the goal of giving communities information and tools they need to identify extremism in their midst, and to do something about it before it manifests in violence. my organization, nctc, in direct and daily collaboration with dhs, the justice department, and fbi, has led the creation of cve tools to build community resilience across the country. in working closely with these partners we're doing this work all across the country, and i'd like to point to just one quick example. you'll recall the case last year in which three young teenage girls allegedly attempted to travel from denver to syria by way of frankfurt, germany, where their travel was disrupted by law enforcement. now in the aftermath of that incident we, working to the with
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dhs, fbi and the department of justice, sent our officers on multiple occasions to meet and talk to the greater denver community to raise awareness among community and law enforcement partners about the terrorist recruitment threat. we developed a briefing, working with our partners, that is now tailored to address the specific effort to identify -- to identify and recruit foreign fighters for syria and iraq. we've received a very strong demand signal for more such outreach from communities like denver. we continue to try to expand our tool kit of cve related tools. with our dhs colleagues we have created and we regularly deliver a community resilience exercise program, a tabletop exercise that brings together law enforcement, community leaders to run through a hypothetical scenario and talk about response. and we realized we can't institutionalize a prevention approach without scaling up these efforts and that goes to something you said in your open ing statement senator mccaul. we're working to try to create more programs to train individuals to ensure that communities across the country
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are able to lead cve approaches locally in their own communities. and this approach syncs up nicely with the efforts of the white house, nctc, dhs, and fbi and doj to facilitate the local development and implementation of intervention frameworks in cities all across the country. i'll stop there, mr. chairman. thank you. >> mr. ranking member. thank you. >> we just have many members here to ask questions and there will be plenty of time to talk about that but we appreciate you being here today. thank you director. chair now recognizes assistant director steinbach for his opening statement. good morning, chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the dynamic threat of foreign fighters traveling in support of the islamic state of iraq, commonly known as isil. and the continued threat to the united states posed by home-grown violent extremists. these threats remain among the highest priorities for the fbi, and the intelligence community
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as a whole. however, it is a blending of the home-grown violent extremism with foreign fighter ideology which is today's latest adaptation of the threat. conflicts in syria and iraq are currently the most attractive overseas theaters for western-based extremists who want to engage in violence. we estimate upwards of 150 americans have traveled or attempted to travel to syria to join extremist groups. while this number is small in comparison to the number of european travelers, we must also consider the influence groups like isil have on individuals located in the united states who are inspired to commit acts of violence. it is this influence which i refer to as the blended threat. isil has proven ruthless in its campaign, in its violent campaign to rule, and has become yet the latest terror group attracting like-minded western extremists. yet from a homeland perspective, it is isil's widespread reach through the internet, and social media, which is the most
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concerning as isil has proven dangerously competent like no other group before it at employing such tools in furtherance of its nefarious strategy. isil uses high-quality traditional media platforms, as well as a multitude of social media campaigns, to propagate its extremist ideas. like al qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations, isil has effectively used the internet to communicate to both radicalize and recruit, unlike other groups, isil has gone one step further, and demonstrates an effectiveness to spot and assess potential recruits. social media in particular has provided isil with the technical platform for widespread recruitment, operational direction, and consequently has helped bridge the gap between foreign fighters and home grown extremists. as a communication tool the internet remains a critical mode for terror groups to exploit. one recent example just occurred this past week. a group of five individuals was
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arrested for knowingly and willingly conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organizations active in syria and iraq. much of their conspiracy occurred via the internet. following on other groups doctrines, isil, too has advocated for lone attacks. last month isil released a video via social media reiterating the group's encouragement of lone wolf offender attacks in western countries. specifically advocating for attacks against soldiers, law enforcement, and intelligence members. several incidents have occurred in the united states and europe over the past few months which indicate this call to arms has resonated amongst isil, supporters, and sympathizers. in one case an ohio-based man was arrested in january after he obtained a weapon and stated his intent to conduct an attack on the u.s. capitol in washington, d.c.
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the individual posted statements, video and other content in getting his support for isil and he planned his attack based on his support. like wise in australia, canada, france reflect the power of this radicalized message and reemphasize our need to remain vigilant since these are just as feasible in the united states. we should also understand community and world events as viewed through the eyes of the committed individual may trigger action. as we have seen with highly publicized events such as the attack on military personnel at the tomb of the unknown soldier in canada and the hostage situation at the cafe in australia, these acts of terror will attract media attention and may -- international media attention and may inspire copycat attacks. isil is not the only high profile terrorist organization of concern.
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al qaeda and the arabian peninsula poses a threat to the homeland and u.s. interests abroad. their online mag sign "inspire" advocates for lone wolves to conduct attacks on western targets by utilizing simple and inexpensive tactics and methods. on december 24, 2014 aqap released the 13th edition of the magazine which provides instructions for building and deploying a ied. lastly, social media has allowed groups such as isil to use the internet even more effectively at spotting and assessing potential recruits. with the widespread distribution of social media, terrorists can identify sympathetic individuals of all ages in the united states, spot, assess, recruit and radicalize. either to travel or conduct the homeland attack. the foreign terrorist has direct access into the united states like never before. as a result, it's imperative that the fbi and all law enforcement organizations understand the latest communication tools and are equipped to identify and prevent terror attacks in the homeland.
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we live in a technologically driven society and just as private industry adapted to modern forms of communication, so have the terrorists. unfortunately changing forms of communication on the internet and through social media are quickly outpacing laws and technology designed to allow for the lawful intercept of communication content. this real and growing gap the fbi refers to as going dark must be urgently addressed as the risks associated with going dark are grave in criminal matters as well as national security matters. we must continue to build partnerships and work with internet providers and social media companies to ensure appropriate, lawful collection is possible. most companies not required by statute to development lawful intercept. as a result, services are developed and deployed without any ability for law enforcement to collect. the fbi in partnership with the department of homeland security is utilizing all investigative techniques and methods to combat
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the threat these individuals pose to the united states. in conjunction with our domestic and foreign partners, we collect and analyze intelligence as it pertains to on going threats posed by isil and other foreign terrorist organization. in partnership with our many federal, state and local agencies assigned to the joint terrorism task forces around the country, we remain vigilant to ensure the safety of the american public. be assured the fbi continues to pursue increases efficiencies and information sharing processes to stay ahead of the threat to the homeland. chairman, ranking member thompson and committee members, i thank you for this opportunity to testify concerning the foreign fighter threat and home grown violent extremist threat pose to the homeland. i'm happy to answer any questions at this time. >> thank you, director. the chair recognizes himself for five minutes. the american people have seen americans, the american journalists beheaded by the
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executioner, isis executioner. it was a wake-up call for the united states. kati mueller who was just recently executed. and the jordanian pilot unof the most horrific videos i've ever seen and a very sophisticated hollywood movie production style, lit on flames. they are barbarians. and i think the barbarians are at the gate. we want to keep them outside the gate of the united states. i'm concerned that some have already returned. so my first question is, we know there are 50,000 isis strong. we know that foreign fighters have gone from 15,000 to 20,000. we know that 5,000 of these foreign fighters have western passports that could get them entrance into the united states. and as the director mentioned,
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there are hundreds of americans who have traveled to the region to fight with isis. we know that some of them have returned. that's a classified number. but my first question is for those who have returned to the united states, what assurance can you give the american people, what confidence do we have first that we know all the people who have joined the fight and returned? and what are we doing about it to ensure they do not attack here in the united states? director rasmussen? >> i'll start but i'll ask mike to pitch in on the bureau's efforts here. in talking about the numbers, mr. chairman, you're right to raise questions about our overall level of confidence. as i tried to say in my remarks, we know what we know, but that comes from a wide variety of sources. we have always assessed that there is likely more information
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out there that we have not yet been able to collect either from our foreign partners or from our other intelligence means, and that it's possible that there are greater numbers of foreign fighters. and potentially even greater numbers of individuals from western countries and the united states who have traveled to the conflict zones. i'll let mike speak to the question of what we can say about individuals who traveled to the conflict zone and come back, but it is obviously the highest possible priority for the intelligence. community to track their movements. >> mr. steinback? >> certainly, i would not be truthful if i told you we know about all the returnees. we know what we no. there's a number we don't know about. the numbers of foreign fighters that have returned from syria, from the conflict zone, every single one of those has predicated an fbi investigation run on the joint terrific task force. regardless of the information or intelligence that we started
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with, we build the ka is to disrupt. whether that disrupts is in the form of deportation, whether that disrupts in the form of prosecution. every single one of those known foreign fighters is an fbi investigation and we seek to determine the root cause of their travel, what they did in syria and ultimately if it was in support of a foreign terrorist organization such as isil. we look for prosecution or some other disruption. >> in my briefings in having served as a federal prosecutor as well, certainly understand that. i want to commend the fbi for its efforts in this very difficult task to monitor. and you're right, you don't know what you don't know. i don't think our human intelligence on the ground in syria is sufficient to properly identify these individuals. and hopefully the administration will move forward to do that. general taylor travel. homeland security, a lot of it is about travel.
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keeping people off airplanes. whether it be al nusra, khorasan group, aqap, or these foreign fighters in syria with isis off airplanes. there's been some concern that our european partners have not been fully cooperative. a good example is the brothers in the paris attacks. went to yemen, were on a no-fly list, we share that information with them. i don't know what they're doing with that. i'm concerned about turkey in terms of their cooperation because let's face it, these foreign fighters are like a highway going through in and out of turkey as demonstrated by the female terrorist in the grocery store who left paris, went to istanbul and into turkey. what are we doing to ramp up these efforts with our european partners and with turkey? >> thank you, mr. chairman. certainly as you indicate, one of our major ongoing concerns is foreign terrorist fighter on an airline coming to the u.s.
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from the last point of departure airport. and as i indicated in my remarks, we have taken action since july to ramp up security of our aircraft at those locations around europe and in the middle east and elsewhere where we assess there's a potential for those individuals to try to exploit airplane travel to to get to the u.s. in addition the secretary has directed additional requirements under the visa waiver program to strengthen the amount of data that we have to assess against the -- our community records within both dhs and within the intelligence communities so that we can spot and assess -- spot individuals who may be involved in nefarious activity. i would say we're all concerned that we only know what we know. and ramping up our work with our
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european partners and other partners around the world has certainly increased since the attacks in paris. i was just in london last week with the five-country ministerial. there is a clear-eyed understanding that sharing of information on these individuals across all of our five partners is critical to the ability to detect. we now have -- and i'd ask nick to speak a little bit to it within nctc, the capacity to begin to track these individuals that we're getting data on from across the world that gives us a better confidence that if someone were to try to circumvent our security systems, we would at least be able to know who they were and what they were trying to accomplish. that's not a perfect system yet, we continue to add it to it today. i just saw a report this morning
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so it continues to grow, but the cooperation with our european partners has been significantly enhanced in the course of the last six months. >> i think since paris it's been enhanced. i know if state department was here, they could answer the coordination and cooperation with these databases. no-fly list. terrorist watch list. we've had a difficult time having them recognize that in europe. canada with some privacy concerns as well. i hope that we can work that out so that we have a free exchange of intelligence and information to keep these terrorists off airplanes, stop the travel and stop them from coming to the united states. fy my time is just about expired. one last question. i'm very concerned and i sent a letter to susan rice about these refugees both in syria and turkey. i've been over there and i have seen them. most of them are women and children, but there are male
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actors that concern me. i think it would be a mistake to bring in. the refugees that could potentially be radicalized. we're not only trying to keep these guys foreign fighters out, but under this it would be a federally sanctioned welcome party, if you will, to potential terrorists in the united states. can the three of you, and i know this is a very maybe awkward question to does you, but all three of you, do you agree with that policy we should bring in these refugees into the united states? >> sir, i'm not in a position to agree with the policy that's really under the auspices of the secretary of state and his response -- >> do you think it would pose a threat or danger to americans? >> we are concerned about any group of people coming to the united states who may be coming to the united states for nefarious purposes. therefore, under our
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cis responsibilities, want to make sure that if we are asked to vet individuals from any part of the world to come to the united states, that we have applied the most rigorous screening that's available within the u.s. government. i think we have learned that lesson in the past and so any task we're given from a departmental point of view with our intelligence community partners will be as thorough as we can make it to make sure. >> my time. very succinctly, would that bringing syrian refugees pose a greater risk to americans? >> it's clearly a population of concern. as undersecretary taylor said what we want to be able to do is apply the full weight of u.s. intelligence community holdings to the vetting and screening process so that we can unearth any information that we may have in our holdings that gives us concern about particular individuals. >> you said we don't know what
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we don't know. >> yeah, i'm concerned. we'll have to take a look at those lists and go through all the intelligence holdings and be very careful to try and identify connections to foreign terrorist groups. >> thank you. the chair recognizes the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. following on the chairman's questioning, is it our procedure for anyone coming to this country that we provide a thorough vetting of that individual or those individuals before they are allowed to come? >> yes, sir, it is. >> is that your understanding? >> yes, national counterterrorism center provides the information that allows the screening agencies to decide and make the decisions on entry or exit. >> you have to have information
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to vet so the concern in syria is we don't have systems in place on the ground to collect information to vet. that would be the concern is we would be vetting databases don't hold the information on those individuals. that's the concern. >> thank you. this is to general taylor and to you, director steinbeck. the national security released a report finding that u.s. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are currently operating without an enterprise wide concept at the federal level. this inhibits the federal government's ability to conduct domestic intelligence activities in support of counterterrorism. do you agree with that assumption? this is a concern given the fact that there could be potential home-grown violent extremists in the united states. do you agree with that assumption? >> sir, i have had a
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conversation with the then-leadership. we don't agree with that assumption. we believe the enterprise partnership that we have with the fbi is as strong and effective as it can be today. especially adding the information that's available through the nctc. so no, we do not agree. things can be better. we work at making it better every day, but the lack of an enterprise approach i don't think is a fair assessment of where we are today. >> director steinbeck? >> that strategy piece is outdated. it was a good attempt, but they looked at information that was four or five years old, so no, i don't agree. updated information, had they looked at what's going on now, they would have likely come to a different conclusion. >> have you shared that with the business executives? >> yes, we have. >> thank you.
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general taylor, you have outlined in quite detail what the impact of not being funded after february 27 would be. we're talking about the threat to foreign fighters and home-grown terror. can you, in short order, indicate to this committee what kinds of impact without money the department would be faced? >> certainly, sir. not a total list, but for example, nearly $2.6 billion in funding from new grants including $103 billion in homeland security grants and $680 million in foreign fighters assistance grants cannot be approved and disseminated under the current continuing resolution. $90 million in new upgrades for remote and mobile video
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surveillance along the rio grande valley to enhance our detection capability there. $142 million in secret service protective activities as we get to the election cycle. there's a long list of things we're precluded from doing and investing in without a full funding bill from the congress. >> one of the things that a lot of us are confronted with as well as our constituents is we all have federal buildings in our communities. after the situation in paris, the secretary the facilities. would the lack of money for the department create a security risk at some of those buildings? >> sir, i can't speak specifically -- we are continuing to enhance our security efforts at facilities
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across the country. federal facilities that we're charged with protecting. the specifics on whether or not fps would be able to continue that, i would have to take that as a question and get back to you. >> i think we need to hear since we have quite a few of those facilities. >> yes, sir. >> i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas, mr. smith. >> i'll yield my time to my colleague from texas, mr. herd. >> i'd like to thank the gentleman from texas and you here today, i appreciate you all coming here. i know the difficulty of the task that you're charged with having spent nine years an an undercover officer in the cia chasing al qaeda and taliban in places like that. organizations like that. i know the difficulty and i know that the people in your -- the men and women in your organizations are operating as if it's september 12th, 2001. please, when you go back to your organizations, thank them for all their hard work op behalf of us.
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when i was in pakistan, afghanistan, the bad guys would push their message through night letters. at night they would drop letters on people's door steps. now they have social media and all three of y'all have highlighted that in your testimony and in the documents that you submitted. my question is, what efforts -- who is coordinating the effort to counter that ideology on social media and these other elements? 20% of any counterinsurgency is cutting off the head of the snake. 80% is addressing the concerns. who is leading that? what are you guys doing in each one of your agencies to counter that? >> i'll start and welcome help from my partners up here. in terms of the isil strategy that the president has laid out for our effort to degrade and defeat isil, state department has our lead for our overseas environment to counter violent extremism.
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i would certainly defer to them to kind of describe the whole range of activities which have included a number of overseas summit meetings and other gatherings designed to coordinate particularly inside the region, inside the middle east to make sure that our partners in the coalition are doing their part to counter the narrative. here at home, we have, as i described in my testimony, i think we have an effective partnership among the four agencies and departments with responsibility for countering violent extremism. dhs, the fbi, department of justice and nctc, we work together almost seamlessly on a ranch ofrange of different cbe initiatives leveraging the capabilities that each of our departments have. and i say that because the law enforcement community that has the reach into local law enforcement. so fbi has that advantage. homeland security has the reach into a network of community organizations and other homeland
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security oriented populations in our major metropolitan areas that gives them reach into. nctc tries to provide analytic support and content generation to help us with this effort at outreach in the domestic environment. it really is -- i rarely would say this -- we are as seamless as we could possibly be in terms of our work together. the question is scale. are we doing enough of it, do we have enough reach into all of the parts of the country where this is a potential problem. i would not argue to you that we're there yet on that score. the president's cbe summit will give us a chance to give that an important boost. >> let me add just one note of context. a part of this message has to be pushed down at the local level just like parents have to watch their children on the internet, social media for pedophiles and financial criminals. we have it to have that same message. you have to have interaction.
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if you look at the case in denver that was highlighted, if you look at other cases, we see a lack of understanding by parents and guardians to what's going on. if you look at other cases, we see a lack of understanding by parents and guardians to what's going on. that tool needs to be monitored. it's a powerful tool. it provides quite a bit of reach. that's a part of it at the local level. >> thank you. next question is two parts. again, when i was in. the intelligence community and operating an alias, i frequently traveled to a lot of countries. i would go somewhere else because it was a lot easier. the concept of broken travel. what are you doing in order to monitor the broken travel of folks that may end up going to syria but don't go directly there? drive in. the other issue is what new intelligence capabilities do we need in syria in order for you all to better do your job back here. >> let me speak first, sir, to the nature of how we monitor broken travel. it is a concern.
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people can book a flight to an end destination and stop at an end point and go other places. we understand that phenomenon. we're able to use our travel data to better spot those instances when they occur. as i mentioned earlier, taking that information and bouncing it against the other holdings within the community to better understand the phenomenon, it's not perfect yet. it continues to refine, but it is an issue that we now understand -- understand how that works and use our travel security tools to mop tore it most effectively. >> you raise a good point about the challenge of collecting intelligence in syria right now. without going into too much detail, it's a challenging collection environment for all of our agencies because we are not present on the ground there. not in a traditional way. we don't have the footprint we'd
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have in many places around the world with the military and intelligence presence on the ground. and so we're forced to be more creative, more innovative, more entrepreneurial in trying to close that gap. all of the intelligence agencies have prioritized this at the absolute top of our priority. list in terms of devoting resource, energy and effort to do so. i would not argue that we have closed the gap in terms of our understanding of what's going on in the ground in syria. in many cases the information we have about foreign fighters traveling it to the conflict zone stops when they get will. we don't have nearly enough insight into what happens when they are on the ground in syria. that's a gap we're trying to close. >> i want to thank our witnesses for your testimony today.
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i'd like to turn to discussion that we have been involved with this morning about tracking those individuals who have been in the conflict zone in iraq or syria fighting with isis who have western passports. it's my understanding that we have somewhat our arms around being able to track those with u.s. passports, but as we have alluded to this morning, we're talking about maybe a hundred or so people with u.s. passports. but it could be in the thousands for people with western passports that are fighting in syria and yet those individuals that could travel potentially then back to european countries and could come to the united states particularly those from
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visa waiver countries and what i'm hearing, what i have heard in past testimony that it's difficult because there are certain governments particularly in the eu that are reluctant to share threat information on the citizens due to privacy concerns. i was just in munich this past weekend at the security conference. met with britain's secretary of defense and he confirmed that that is a concern not so much for the uk because their privacy laws are different so that kind of information sharing is not restricted from great britain, but more an issue with continental european countries. so has this been the experience of nctc and what are we doing to close that gap? that's a significant blind spot for us. >> in talking about sharing of information, particularly from our european partners, i think it's useful to think of it
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happening in two different ways. one is kind of structured sharing of travel information of the sort that under secretary taylor mentioned before. we want that kind of sharing from our european partners because it would help with our screening. the other kind of sharing that's worth mentioning and where we have seen a fairly dramatic improvement with our european partners over the last couple years is intelligence service to intelligence service sharing on individuals of specific terrorism concern. and we have been on a bit of an partnership we need to work together on this threat. we're well past that now. any capital you go to or partner in europe you engage with jumps into that conversation right away and is quite open in sharing what they know, including often about their own citizens. what that allows us to do is potentially populate our
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terrorist identities database environment with information about specific individuals that can aid our screening process. so i don't want to to paint an entirely dire picture of our european partners working this area because i would argue it has been in intelligence channels almost unprecedentedly a good news story. much room for improvement and europe is certainly not a mono monolith. i did want to distinguish between the two types of sharing because there's a bulk data sharing discussion that is sometimes more difficult for our european partners. then there's more. granule specific sharing on individuals who we have intelligence reporting where there are quite responsive. >> what i want to get to is the question should we be insisting trying to work with nato partners your feen partners
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european partners to change their privacy laws or can congress play a role in helping to ease privacy concerns. for example, do you believe thatlaws or can congress play a role in helping to ease privacy concerns. for example, do you believe thatcan congress play a role in helping to ease privacy concerns. for example, do you believe thatongress play a role in helping to ease privacy concerns. for example, do you believe that the judicial redress announced last week is part of the review would help alleviate these challenges? >> sir, i would say that the privacy concerns in europe are significant and not just in this area of sharing terrorism information but in all aspects of how private information is shared for business, for government and elsewhere. the chairman referred to it earlier. there are now new laws and several countries particularly in the five i's about enhancing that sharing. there's a discussion at the eu this week about eu pnr which we are encouraged by, and hope that the european parliament will move forward to pass a
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europeanwide pnr requirement that allows for that data to be collected across europe and shared across the eu. we think that will be a big step. but we also think that if that doesn't work, then we can work bilaterally with individual countries to share data. the important thing for us is using every tool in our toolkit to get the information shared between us and our partners and back and forth. there's not one set of processes that are going to do that, but we're going to use every tool in the tool kit to make sure those relationships work and work effectively. >> i would add one thing to your point on engaging european legislatures or parliaments. anything we can collectively do to send the message if information is shared with us, we use it for purposes that we have asked for it and we handle it responsibly, and in accordance with the terms on which it's given to us.
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if that can provide reassurance to european partners and increase the flow of information, then all to the good. >> i appreciate your answer. i would say i still think this is -- until we get this seamless and we're getting all the information that we need it is a blind spot and i think it is a problem and i think we need to work on this. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> the gentleman from south carolina is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for a very timely hearing. i would ask we schedule a classified hearing briefing with some of these intelligence community to get a little different intake or input. >> it's a good idea. >> thank you. so director rasmussen, al qaeda they're still alive and well. right? they are still a threat to freedom, global freedom? >> yes, sir, they pose a significant terrorist threat. >> i would say al qaeda, isis, al qaeda in all of its elements, aqap boko haram, al shabaab, all these terrorist groups are
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still active. right? >> yes, sir. >> so we shouldn't take our eye off the ball with just focusing on isis and think of this globally and not get the 50 shades of terrorism. talk about terrorism about terrorism. these groups are a threat all over the globe so let me lay out a scenario that actually happened. back in late may to europe right before we arrived in brussels a foreign fighter had traveled to syria about a year, i believe, maybe 18 months radicalized, came back through turkey, through germany into brussels, shot up a jewish museum. killed three people, fourth one was wounded. i don't know if that person died or not. i don't remember that. that was right before we arrived. it was very real to the belgians. it was very real to the french because this foreign fighter fled out of belgium through france and was captured in mar
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marseilles, trying to catch a boat or plane to north africa. had he gotten out of europe, he would have disappeared. this was a foreign fighter that took advantage of that region with the open borders in europe. from what i remember from talking with the folks at that time in europe is that germany information about this individual who traveled through germany but failed to share it in a timely manner with either the bull janelgian or french authorities. and so i'm concerned, mr. chairman, you brought up the point of the visa waiver, i'm afraid of the whole region and the open borders and those foreign fighters to fly into this country. most are concerned about the open borders and the ability to get back to europe, travel to the south of france and hop over from portugal or spain and disappear. or maybe rejoin the fight with boko haram or travel and get back to the middle east and continue these evil acts.
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and so in a post-snowden environment where i believe the reason germany was slow to inform the french or the belgians was because of intelligence sharing and what was being revealed at the time about the united states spying on chancellor merkel. so in the post-snowden environment, let me ask you, are we commune cateicateing with our allies in the region, our global allies in this war on terror and how do you see this information being hampered in the post-snowden area? earth one. let's talk to mr. taylor first. >> sir i think our communication is robust with our allies across the world on this particular i u. it's not perfect. certainly the challenges within the zone in terms of free travel once an individual gets in and is able to move is understood by the eu. hence the discussions about pnr and other sorts of data
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exchanged between those countries to better remedy that particular circumstance that you described. it's not perfect yet, but i think they recognize the security deficit that's created with the kind of cross-border movement that is allowed within that zone at this point in time and are looking at ways in which this he can remedy that. but i would tell you that the bilateral and multi-lateral engagement on the issue of foreign fighters and sharing of day it is daily and consistent and robust. >> mr. rasmussen, in 41 seconds. >> you're right to point to an overlay or overhang from the period of disclosures that included the snowden disclosures. but i would argue since that period, we have seen an increased sense of shared threat among our european partners precisely because of the attacks like the brussels attack and certainly what we saw in paris
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and in belgium again recently. so that i would argue there is a bit of a pendulum swing to this process that is for the moment trending in a direction of more sharing and willingness to share information. but again, i would argue in intelligence channels, that's not an immediate thing that just happened in the last two weeks since paris. that's been a pretty consistent refrain over the past couple years. the politics of this issue are very different for some of our european partners. but as professional intelligence organizations working with each other, i would argue a lot goes on that we can be comfortable and is useful to us. >> i thank the gentleman. my time has expired but communication is key in this realm. you have acknowledged that. mr. chairman, i appreciate the lenience and i yield back. >> thank the gentleman for his insight as always. gentleman from new york. mr. hill gins. higgins. >> thank you, mr. chairman.higgins. >> thank you, mr. chairman.higgins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. just on two aspects of this. one is the nature of terrorist
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attacks have changed profoundly. al qaeda and al qaeda in the arabian peninsula has relied traditionally on complex plots involving explosions in airliners. now in september of 2014 an isis leader told would-be recruits not to bother coming to iraq or syria but to launch attacks in their home countries. isis has called for attacks on soft targets in the west by any means available, including using a car to drive at pedestrians. the other issue is technology. as mr. steinbeck has said, technology moves faster than legislation. a lot faster. you characterize the fbi as labeling this "going dark." it's increasingly difficult to monitor the communications within terrorist networks. proliferation of often
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encrypted, covert coded information to prevent unauthorized use from skype to gaming forums to other new technology has made surveillance tremendous technologically demanding, in some cases virtually impossible. moreover, apple's late aes mobile operating system came with a default encryption and google's android is soon to follow.operating system came with a default encryption and google's android is soon to follow. encrypted, coded information to prevent unauthorized use from skype to gaming forums to other new technology has made surveillance tremendous technologically demanding, in some cases virtually impossible. the latest operating system came with a default encryption and google's android is soon to follow. companies do not have access to passwords and thus can't capture their messages. now from a consumer standpoint, that's a very good thing. but those who are malicious, the malignancy of terror, it takes away a major tool that law
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enforcement uses to thwart terrorist activity in its planning stages. so could you comment on that and what it is, if anything, we can be doing? there was a time where publicly owned telephone companies were all too willing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies for wiretaps and those kinds of things. that's no longer the case. this poses a major, major challenge to western law enforcement officials. >> sir, i agree with you, the threat is diffuse, it's evolving. so i think sometimes we focus on the other end too much versus the threat. whether it's a complex attack such as paris, or a more simple use of a vehicle as we saw? jerusalem. we need to focus on the threat and the commonality in many of these threat streams is the internet, social media. it needs to start with an education. there's probably a little bit of
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a backlash from snowden, but there is also the tv version of it, what they think is doable and how simple it is. and the reality of lawful intercept, there is a very structured process in place that's reviewed by a judicial -- either on the criminal side or in the fisa -- in the court. there needs to be an education piece that we're not looking to snoop where we shouldn't be allowed to snoop. we have to have the lawful ability to intercept. whether you're talking about an ongoing criminal matter, a dangerous criminal matter or you're talking about a terrorist communicating oert or overseas or in the united states. it needs to start with a public message for all of us to explain exactly what it is.the united states. it needs to start with a public message for all of us to explain exactly what it is. then we need to go back and provide legislative tools much like there were with chalia, that applied not just to a small
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number of providers, but apply to the majority of those providers who serve as communication platforms. i think that's an issue that needs to be resolved and head-on immediately. i know from the fbi's perspective we are engaging with the international association of chiefs of police the major sheriffs and the chiefs to explain our position and show them very much that we're not crying wolf. this is a problem and in a closed session we can show you the numbers of how we are going dark. but wolf. it is a this is a problem in a closed grave concern and your point is right on. without that laufl toolwful tool, we risk an attack. >> thank you for raising that important issue. i think it's going to provide a mode of communication for not only criminals, but potential terrorists to to communicate without any ability of us to intercept that. the chair recognizes the gentleman from pennsylvania. mr. perry. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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mr. taylor, a man named a jihadist as i would characterize him named abu salaa from florida was allowed back flu the country and wandered around here for about six months in between visits to syria. . now he eventually met his demise at his own hand as a suicide bomber in syria but as far as i know, we didn't even know -- the united states didn't even know that he had made two previous trips. so this individual is obviously somebody that we would be interested in and poses a threat to our security. how did your agency, what did we miss? how did we miss it? >> you're correct that this individual who later committed a suicide attack in syria did return to the united states from syria without our knowledge and i think without -- was not under an fbi investigation.
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was only after his suicide attack that we learned of his activity. i think that incident really re-enforced our understanding of the need to have better intelligence on what was going on in syria. >> i agree with you. just how did we miss him? what has changed? what have you done in your agency to make sure that doesn't happen again. how did we miss him, what has changed? >> what has changed is a better champs of how they move, where they move. in terms of sharing intelligence understanding the intelligence is coming out in the communications, patterns that are going on that perhaps weren't as robust. >> any concrete steps that you can describe right now that you have changed based on missing him and to make sure it doesn't happen again? >> i think i would share that with the fbi in terms of what the fbi has done in addition to what dhs has done? >> what have you done? >> sir, we have extensively changed our methodology for
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tracking travel to these sorts of location across the world to the u.s. and out of the u.s. to these sorts of locations. and in working with our intelligence partners across the world to better identify the linkages between potential americans and others -- >> with all due respect, in the interest of time, is that information classified? >> yes, sir. >> can we set something up off-site that i can get that information from you? i appreciate it. moving on, i'm just curious to get an understanding of how you characterize this threat. by what name does your agency refer to as a global jihadi movement. that's what i describe it as. we're talking about foreign fighters. but the larger picture. just trying to get a mind's eye from your view of it from an agency perspective. how do you describe that threat? >> we describe it as radical extremism. >> global extremism.
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>> sir, i don't care what you call it. it's a threat to u.s. citizens here around abroad. so people trying to conduct violent attacks whether it's global extremism, al qaeda, aqap. it's a threat. i don't care about labeling. i worry about their intent. >> well i appreciate that, sir, and i agree with you but you can't fix a problem if you refuse or are unwilling to label it. i think it's more than just global extremism. there's a particular global extremism and that's why i characterize it as jihadi. the fact that none of you want to say -- you know characterize it, that concerns me because that's not identifying the problem. but moving on yet again in the interest of time, the uae saudi arabia and egypt considered the muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization. i'm wandering in the interest of pursuing foreign fighters if that comes into your consideration, radicalization and how it's per traited in this country. do you look at those organizations or that particular organization or another one, for that matter.
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those folks wandered around this country with impunity and may or may not be involved in radicalization based on the fact that some nations have considered them a terrorist organization, does that work into your calculation into determining radicalization? do you have any knowledge of radicalization or participation by any -- either of those two organizations? >> if you're asking if i consider the muslim brotherhood a concern, i do. if you look for the founding of it, where it began what it stood for, absolutely. at the core there are concerns about their ideology and their radicalization. >> all right. so do you do investigations -- have any investigations led you to those organizations at all? regarding radicalization of -- >> absolutely. there are historical investigations that at the root the individual was radicalized by muslim brotherhood entities. we don't focus on the group. the individual has to have an
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intent. and that's where we focus the effort. where the radicalization comes from is important for us but it is not where i can hang my hat and it is certainly not what i can build a case on. >> appreciate it. mr. chairman, i yield. >> yeah. just to the gentleman's point, with deference to these individuals in their reports, they refer to it as sunni extremism. i believe it is radical islamist extremism. that's it the enemy. it's important to define that. it defies me why the administration won't call it that but i will support these three witnesses who in their reporting i think called the threat what it is. the chair recognizes the gentleman from massachusetts. mr. keating. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general taylor thank you for your service and -- i want to go back to your very first remarks that you began this hearing with. you were talking about your concerns with the budget in homeland security. there's a dangerous game of chicken that's going on right
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now where in reaction to the president's immigration efforts, the reaction has been threatened withholding of the very funding that protects our homeland security. i don't think in the minds of the public they think there will be an absolute cutting of those funds because that would be so radical a reaction. i don't think they think that is feasible. however, my point is the reaction from going from these stop-gap budgets continuing resolutions, from month to month, backwards then forwards that presents real limits on what you can do itself. so i want you to focus on the fact that -- forget about for a second the threat of just the cutting off of those funds. right now the way you're functioning is a threat to your ability to deal with our security. could you talk to that important point? >> certainly, sir. secretary johnson has spoken to
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that point. as we've spoken during our testimony today, that the threat that we face is evolving and changing. he needs the flexibility to adjust tactics and techniques as this threat evolves under the current issues with the continuing resolution. he does not have that flexibility. i would add one other thing. before this committee and before the authorizing committees or the intelligence committees as i came on board, one of the major issues discussed was the issue of morale. we have 220,000 employees in our department who every day come to work to try to secure this country. and it sends a terrible signal in my view, to them and their responsibility when the congress is not fully funded the effort that they are charged with accomplishing. so not only from an ability to react to the changing nature of
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the threat, we have a challenge in our department in ensuring our people understand that we support them and that they are going to -- that they're going to get -- >> i don't want to lose you're limited in what you're doing right now, because of the stopgap or continuing resolution. it keeps going on. along those lines, one of the programs that i'm interested in particularly the director talked about in general was a program with los angeles minneapolis, boston, some of the money going to fund that, joint with homeland and with the justice department in general. and it's the effort dealing with the national strategy on local partners to prevent violent extremism.
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to me, that's a critical point going-forward too, i see it in my home state in boston, in our ability to deal with that, director could you comment on that and any other witnesses? >> the three cities that you mentioned, sir are pilot cities in an effort to try to test and see what we're doing in an effort to counterbalance extremism in our communities here in the united states. is a workable solution working with state and local partners and is scalable -- the three pilot cities are going to be featured at the upcoming summit that the white house is convene convening in just a couple weeks. and there will be an off yous opportunity there to show other communities the benefits of participating in an effort to pull all of the different tools of the community together not just the tools, this has to be a
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locally led initiative, but enabled it and with content help generated by the federal government. >> this committee has done much work. in continuing with the boston marathon effect. the state and county resources and assets there, that's why it's important. one other point with the passenger name record information. i mean, it's been 2013 and the european parliament that that has lang wished, it's great to hear a cooperation with the u.s. and our allies going great. they're not talking to each other. and without that, we have a problem. can you see any changes or recommend any changes, should this stalemate continue with the visa waiver program? >> you mean the stalemate within -- >> european union and parliament. >> of course, the waiver program
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agreements are within individual countries. and we're looking to strengthen within that bilateral relationship, the exchange of information under the visa waiver program so we'd love to see the european parliament come through and decide to do this across europe, that will not dissuade us from engageing bilaterally on the information exchanges we think we need to -- >> i agree with you, but i want to hear your comments in that regard, there has been some discussion on changing that. but i think really we compromise our security in doing that. i yield back. >> let me just add. the gentleman mentioned boston. we have the watertown police to receive the presidential medal of valor for public safety. i can't think of an organization more deserving than the watertown police and the heroic efforts on that fateful day. with that, the chair now recognizes the gentleman from
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florida, mr. claussen. >> thank you all for coming today, and i also pass along my best to the folks that work with you all. they have a real tough job. democracy is messy on capitol hill. and circumstances are difficult. and so my full respect and appreciation for what you all do. when i think about terrorists coming out of a dangerous part of the world like this and what's going on over there. i always think to turkey. you mentioned it earlier in your comments. on the one hand, turkey has a proud history. have you how many thousands of tourists going to the gnc every year. and a member of nato so you would think on the one hand these folks ought to be motivated to get things under control here and with respect
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to the highway of tourists. on the other hand i read about hostage exchanges with isis. there's been a long history as you know with the kurd ss and also it almost feels like a.m. biv lens with respect to the violence on the border with the war going on. it doesn't feel to me like we can solve this problem over there, and also over here without ping down where turkey really is. and i don't know where they are. and if we can't get an ally who's a member of nato to help us in the region i'm not sure what we could expect from anybody else. so i'm be fuddled on where this is going and how we could have ever had success without turkey. i'm really interested in what you have to say about that. >> i think you're absolutely right, sir. succession in the counter campaign or in any effort we're
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engaged in to try to stem the flow of foreign fighters requires a functioning effective partnership with the turks across the whole range of issues. intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy, all of that. it's also true that turkey will look at its interests through the prism of their own sense of self-interest and how they prioritize particular requests that we made for cooperation doesn't always align with our prioritization. that's just a simple fact. we have a complicated ongoing discussion with the turks, all of the turkish government elements about the specific ways in which turkey can contribute to the coalition. i wish my state department partners were here today to talk you through all the different ways in which you're doing that it's a mixed story, there are areas where we receive profoundly effective cooperation from our turkish partners and it's tremendously useful. from our perspective, there's
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more to the relationship that we could get more than we need from the relationship to effectively address our concern s s. >> and how do we take the next step? is that purely a state department issue at this point? >> certainly state department has the lead, but our department has been engaged with the turks on very specific boarder security and other discussions to try to push forward more cooperation in that regard, and that's continuing. the turks will be here for the summit, those engagements will continue. but as the director mentioned, it's a challenge at this point but we see lights of cooperation beginning to flow in ways that we i think will want to explore
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going-forward with them. >> we will push this in the foreign affairs committee as well. if we speak about a broad coalition to take on terrorism, we don't have a fully committed turkey on one book end and the other end is syria. what are we really doing here. i'll appreciate you all's comments, and i think until you get fool cooperation from the turks, it's going to be a real uphill battle in my view. i yield back. >> i think the gentleman on this important point could be of real help with the situation, i think we need pressure toward that end. the gentle lady from new york, and miss rice is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i'm not sure who can answer this. all of you or one of you. can you expand on the enhancements that have been made or are going to be made on the
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system for the visa waiver countries to better secure obviously our nation's homeland and to what extent or where do you get the funding to ensure that whatever enhancements need to be made can be paid for? >> yes, ma'am. in october, we added six additional data elements, that were required for all -- i don't have the specific ones. i can get them to you that would broaden the data elements that have to be filled in in an application that comes to us before the travel is accomplished, that has allowed us to do more thorough screenings against our databases of those people who would come in from visa waiver countries. we're considering additional adjustments, both bilaterally and across the entire program that are now being discussed in
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our department to continue to strengthen the security of the visa waiver program. and not to -- to give us better confidence, more confidence on the hill and elsewhere, the security of that program is as effective as it can be. >> and in terms of oversight, how is it that we ensure that every country that's part of the visa waiver program is actually keeping up with the standards we need in order for us to get the information we need? >> well, we do biannual reviews on the ground in those countries of every visa waiver country. one of the things we're discussing is whether we should do that annually, as opposed to biannually, there are other things we're discussing to strengthen our confidence that what we believe is happening in those countries is indeed happening. there will be more to come on that in the future as those


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