US Legislation to counter violent extremism by involving foreign governments

Newsroom24x7 Staff

More than 35,000 foreigners from 120 countries have traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS, and many of these fighters are now looking to return to their homes and to the United States to carry out attacks. -US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce

violent extremismWashington DC: Earlier this week, on Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed the Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act (H.R. 4403) to improve the vetting of travelers against terrorist watch lists and law enforcement databases, enhance border management, and improve targeting and analysis.

H.R. 4403 will authorize the US Secretaries of the Department of State and Homeland Security to develop open-source software platforms to vet travelers against terrorist watch lists and law enforcement databases. It permits the open-source software to be shared with foreign governments and multilateral organizations, like INTERPOL.

The latest legislation H.R. 4403 is a significant step forward to block the movement of suspected terrorists across countries. It comes after five Syrians using fake passports had traveled freely through Argentina and Costa Rica before being apprehended by Honduran authorities. Others from Pakistan and Afghanistan also have attempted to enter the U.S. through its Southwest border as was reported last November.

Following the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, reports surfaced that one of the individuals under investigation for participating in the attacks had spent time in Latin America. We also learned that five Syrians using fake passports had traveled freely through Argentina and Costa Rica before being apprehended by Honduran authorities. Others from Pakistan and Afghanistan have attempted to enter the U.S. through our Southwest border as was reported last November. Interpol has stated that only 5,600 out of 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters thought to be operating worldwide have been identified by law enforcement agencies. Rep. Jeff Duncan

Speaking on the House floor in support of the bipartisan legislation, introduced by Texas Rep. Will Hurd, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce made the following remarks:

“The global threat of terrorism has never been as high as it is today. In just the last 12 months, we’ve seen terrorists strike in my home state of California, and in France, Belgium, Turkey, India, Tunisia, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq – to name a few. No country is immune. The ideology of violent extremism knows no boundaries – allowing individuals to become radicalized by terrorists overseas without leaving their neighborhood.

I just returned from Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia, where I heard first-hand about the foreign fighter threat. More than 35,000 foreigners from 120 countries have traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS, and many of these fighters are now looking to return to their homes and to the United States to carry out attacks.

That is why information sharing between countries is more critical than ever.

The bipartisan Task Force’s report highlighted the lack of any comprehensive, global database of foreign fighters and suspected terrorists. In its absence, the U.S. and other countries rely on a patchwork system for exchanging extremist identities, which is weak and increases the odds that foreign fighters and suspected terrorists will be able to cross borders undetected.

H.R. 4403 will authorize the Secretaries of the Department of State and Homeland Security to develop open-source software platforms to vet travelers against terrorist watch lists and law enforcement databases. It permits the open-source software to be shared with foreign governments and multilateral organizations, like INTERPOL.

Chairman of House subcommittee Ed RoyceIleana Ros-Lehtinen, on a March 22 hearing on Middle East and North Africa had said: “Hezbollah isn’t just a threat to our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel, it is a growing threat to the region and to our own national security interests. The terror group – an Iranian proxy – has been helping keep Assad in power in Syria and prolonging the conflict there, while simultaneously building up its missile stockpile that it has targeted for attacks on Israel. There’s no doubt that, in the wake of the sanctions relief for Iran as part of the JCPOA, Iran will only increase its support for the terror group, making it an even greater menace. This threat Hezbollah poses to the region has also led the GCC and Arab League to designate it as a terrorist organization.

The issue of terrorists crossing borders the chairman of the US House subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Rep. Jeff Duncan earlier gave a broad insight regarding the magnitude of the problem and how it affects directly different countries by making the following observation:

“Following the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, reports surfaced that one of the individuals under investigation for participating in the attacks had spent time in Latin America. We also learned that five Syrians using fake passports had traveled freely through Argentina and Costa Rica before being apprehended by Honduran authorities. Others from Pakistan and Afghanistan have attempted to enter the U.S. through our Southwest border as was reported last November. Interpol has stated that only 5,600 out of 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters thought to be operating worldwide have been identified by law enforcement agencies. In view of this, I believe it is critical that we examine potential threats to the U.S. and the region from border security vulnerabilities and work to strengthen our security cooperation with our neighbors.”
On a recent hearing by the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on FY 2017 Budget Priorities for South Asia: Recovery, Development, and Engagement, Chairman Matt Salmon has been quoted as saying that South Asia, with over 1.5 billion people, has enormous potential, but the region also faces major development challenges and threats from violent extremism, weak governance, and corruption. This hearing will discuss ways to improve and streamline the US efforts in South Asia.
On the March 23 hearing by the House subcommittee on the US “Administration’s Plan to Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: At What Foreign Policy and National Security Cost?” the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce remarked: “According to the Obama administration’s own figures, more than 30 percent of detainees released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay have returned to terrorist activities. Those that remain are among the most hardened and highly trained terrorists in the world – and they are committed to killing Americans. This hearing will allow members to question officials from Departments of State and Defense on the president’s plan to close the prison by bringing some of these terrorists to U.S. soil, and releasing others to countries that are ill-equipped to stop them from returning to the battlefield.”

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