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Eric S.
Democrat CA 15

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  • Tracking Foreign Fighters in Terrorist Safe Havens Act

    by Representative Eric Swalwell

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    SWALWELL of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    First, let me express my thanks to Mr. LoBiondo, my colleague on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chairman of its CIA Subcommittee.

    I serve as the subcommittee's ranking member. I appreciate the bipartisan way that the chairman of the whole committee and our ranking member, Mr. Schiff, as well as the way that Mr. LoBiondo and I have approached this critical issue of foreign fighter flow.

    ISIS is one of the greatest threats facing the United States today. Defeating ISIS means that the United States and its allies must be more coordinated in our efforts to scrub ISIS from this Earth and to protect Americans at home than ISIS is in attacking us. This will require a multifaceted approach, involving both foreign policy and the way that our intelligence community tracks ISIS here at home.

    The threat posed by foreign fighters who travel to and from a foreign zone or a terrorist safe haven and then return to wreak havoc in the West is both real and persistent.

    The challenge is that, when these foreign fighters go to these countries, if they are not killed on the battlefield, oftentimes they learn even better training and are able to return either to Western Europe or other parts of the world or even the United States with improved training and an increased hatred for innocent people. That leaves us very vulnerable.

    {time} 1200 To help confront this threat, the Tracking Foreign Fighters in Terrorist Safe Havens Act builds on important provisions in the 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act which require a report on foreign fighter flows into and out of Syria and Iraq. This would expand the scope of that report.

    This bill broadens this requirement by calling on the Director of National Intelligence to report regularly on foreign fighter travel to and from any foreign safe haven or terrorist safe haven. If we do not know who is going to fight in these hot zones, we will have an incomplete picture of our own vulnerabilities.

    And, these reports have to be specific. They must include, for example, the foreign fighters' countries of origin, the number of foreign fighters who have traveled to or departed each safe haven, and the number of those whose whereabouts remain unknown.

    Importantly, to the extent a report is submitted in a classified form, it must also include an unclassified summary of the report's contents. I appreciate the chairman agreeing to my request to include this unclassified requirement.

    Increased transparency and public awareness is very important in the fight against terrorism. These broad, comprehensive reports will allow us to better understand the foreign fighter threat and, in turn, help all of us better protect our national security.

    Let me again thank Mr. LoBiondo. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of the Tracking Foreign Fighters in Terrorist Safe Havens Act.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

    Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Arizona (Ms. McSally).

    Ms. McSALLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 4239, the Tracking Foreign Fighters in Terrorist Safe Havens Act. This legislation fulfills a recommendation of the Committee on Homeland Security's Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, of which I was proud to be a member. In fact, our chairman, Mr. Katko, and another member, Mr. Hurd, are with us today to speak on this important legislation.

    Our bipartisan task force investigated America's security vulnerabilities for 6 months. We produced a final report in September that made 32 key findings and over 50 recommendations to make Americans safer. Today's bill, which I cosponsored, is the direct result of one of these recommendations.

    We know that ISIS is adept at propaganda and has used social media extensively to attract fighters to their cause. At least 30,000 people from 100 different countries have traveled to Iraq and Syria, including 250 Americans. But their calls to action now extend past Syria and Iraq. In fact, our Task Force found ISIS now has a direct presence, affiliates, or groups pledging support in at least 19 countries.

    In my 26 years in uniform, including six deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan and a final assignment at U.S. Africa Command, we watched foreign fighters flow to safe havens in Africa and the Middle East to get training and join the Islamic extremist fight. ISIS has accelerated this dangerous dynamic and is expanding, despite the President declaring otherwise. So our efforts to track these fighters should not be limited to Iraq and Syria. That is why our Task Force recommended that the intelligence community regularly track and update Congress on foreign fighter flows to all terrorist sanctuaries, which is what this bill requires.

    The administration's response to ISIS can only be described as anemic. We must take decisive action to defeat the ISIS threat and protect Americans.

    I am pleased that, in the last month, the House has taken action on several of our Task Force's recommendations. It is obvious that more work remains. And if the President won't act, the House will.

    I urge all Members to join me in supporting H.R. 4239.

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