The top Democrat and Republican leaders on the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday asked Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan for an update on his department’s efforts to combat domestic terrorism in the wake of two deadly mass shooting incidents last weekend.
Pointing to the weekend attacks and other mass shooting incidents this year, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) noted in a letter to the DHS Chief that “These acts of mass violence remind us once again of the serious threat our nation faces from domestic terrorists.”
Thompson and Rogers also highlighted recent congressional testimony by FBI Director Christopher Wray that the FBI had made more arrests for domestic terrorism in the first three quarters of the government’s fiscal year 2019 than it had in all of FY ’18.
McAleenan on Tuesday after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, appeared on CBS This Morning and said his department needs to invest more in its countering domestic terrorism program.
The Aug. 8 letter from Thompson and Rogers said, “We are committed to ensuring DHS has the resources necessary to do so but would like to have a better understanding of how the Department is utilizing its existing tools and authorities to respond to attacks like the ones we have seen in recent days.”
Specifically, the congressmen want to know in the past few months if DHS has established a Counterterrorism Advisory Board that coordinates efforts across the department “to facilitate a cohesive and coordinated response” to better work with the FBI and other partners to stop terrorist attacks.
Given the recent attacks, Thompson and Rogers also want to know if the DHS Intelligence and Analysis Office is creating new intelligence products for state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and if DHS is sharing new information on the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) with its federal, state and local partners. The HSIN is used by DHS and its partners to share sensitive but unclassified information.
The congressmen also want to know whether exercises have been scheduled to work with communities to help them understand “violent extremist recruitment tactics” and to prevent threats from extremists at the local level.
The letter also asks McAleenan if DHS last weekend reached out to its field personnel or state and regional fusion centers and if the department is aware of any outreach performed by fusion centers near El Paso and Dayton.
In September, the committee will host a hearing on global threats in which McAleenan, Wray and Joseph Maguire, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will testify about growing domestic threats in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Thompson issued an action plan for domestic terrorism that includes demanding monthly meetings from Wray on the domestic terrorism threat, a meeting next Wednesday with McAleenan in Mississippi to discuss domestic terrorism as part of the launching of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Communities, and visits and stakeholder roundtables in communities affected by domestic terrorist attacks.
In September, the House will also consider the Domestic and International Terrorism DATA Act (H.R. 3106), which establishes within DHS a National Center for the Study of Domestic Terrorism to research current trends in domestic terrorism and require a report on domestic terrorism.