No American ever wants to relive the attacks of September 11th. This is particularly true on Long Island where hundreds of our friends and neighbors were murdered on that horrific day. As the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and as a Member of the Intelligence Committee, I know that the New York–Long Island region remains the number one terrorist target in the country.
The threat of homegrown terrorism and Islamic radicalization, as evidenced by the terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Times Square, and Boston, is the most prolific threat facing the Homeland. In the 112th Congress, in my capacity as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I held a series of hearings examining the extent of this threat. The first hearing focused on the radicalization in the Muslim-American Community and that community’s response. This hearing was followed by three subsequent ones dealing with the threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons, Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim-American Community by Al-Shabaab, and a joint-hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee regarding the threat to military communities inside the U.S. as well as the threat from radicalized Muslims within our military.
With the multiplication of al-Qaeda-affiliated and jihadist groups worldwide, the threat of radicalization has worsened. We know that at least 100 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join an Islamist extremist group, like the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). At least one American has died as a suicide bomber. Moner Mohammed Abusalha, a 22-year-old born and raised in Florida, reportedly traveled to Syria in late 2013, spent two months in a training camp operated by al Nusrah Front in Aleppo, and blew himself up in an attack in Syria on May, 25, 2014. That is why I held a Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearing to examine efforts to detect and deter terrorist travel. I have cosponsored legislation to improve the Department of Homeland Security Visa Waiver Program to better protect against the evolving threats posed by foreign fighters.
As the diaspora of fighters and ideology spreads, there will be long-term consequences and a direct threat the West and the U.S., as demonstrated by recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ottawa and Sydney. The war against Islamic terrorism must involve multilayered approaches so that we can stay ahead of our enemy. That is why I have supported the PATRIOT Act and the right of our government to intercept terrorist phone calls being made into the United States from overseas. I have worked hard to pass legislation securing our ports, our chemical plants, and our airports. I have also reached across the aisle to pass legislation protecting our rail and transportation systems.
As the nation looks to tackle immigration reform, it is imperative that we gain operational control of the border. Right now the Obama Administration claims it has achieved "effective control" of approximately 936 miles of border. This is not true. Even though Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act, which I authored, only 36 miles of double-layer fencing and 299 miles of vehicle barriers have been built along the southwest border. The administration says it has no plans for additional fence construction. This is not acceptable. I have cosponsored the Border Security Results Act to implement a 5-year strategy to gain operational control of our borders and oppose any immigration reform legislation that does not first secure our border.
Finally, I have also continued my efforts to ensure that New York City and Long Island receive the Homeland Security funding needed to protect among other things our subway and commuter lines, and our ports and highways. I am particularly concerned that the next terrorist attack against New York City will be launched from the suburbs such as what happened in London and Madrid. That is why New York’s Securing the Cities (STC) Initiative, which would establish a radiation detector system throughout the region, is so vital. While it was wrong for the Obama Administration to eliminate funding for this program in its first two years (I had to fight to make sure STC received funding), I am pleased to report that money for this region was included in the President’s last four budgets for this program. In addition, I have also previously sponsored legislation (H.R. 2611) which passed the House and would implement a unified strategy and provide the technology for defending New York City, Long Island, and the surrounding areas against radiological and nuclear threats.