Homeland Security

Guantanamo Bay closure is ill-advised policy (Rep. Charlie Dent)

Ever since January, when President Obama announced his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay Terrorist Detention Center, I have been vocal in my concerns about a potential plan to transfer or release detainees to the United States. As a Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, this strikes me as ill-advised.

The prisoners we are talking about are people like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks – dangerous killers who do not know the bounds of decency or law. They are not ordinary criminals; they are declared enemies of the United States who were engaging in direct action against us.

In March, the President acknowledged the difficulty in determining the level of danger posed by certain prisoners. To that end, I expected the Administration’s assurance that they have a plan to keep such truly dangerous people from threatening the security of our communities and overall national security if and when these detainees reach the United States. But a plan isn’t forthcoming.

In May, I pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for answers regarding the transfer and perhaps even release of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Secretary Napolitano indicated that she would work toward holding classified briefing in the future, but one has yet to be scheduled.

Just yesterday, I spoke with Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Lute about the risks associated with transferring or releasing terrorists into the United States given the Department’s acknowledged concern about sleeper cells within our country. I still have not received specifics.

Since February, many of my fellow Committee members have requested Chairman Bennie Thompson grant us permission to visit Guantanamo Bay on a bipartisan Committee delegation to observe the facility for ourselves. The Defense Department has granted us permission to go – but the Majority has not.

For now, I remain convinced that Guantanamo Bay is better suited to hold these detainees than any facility, even a military base, in the United States. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to add facilities at Guantanamo Bay specifically to handle these detainees. It’s surrounded by minefields and protected by the best security force in the world, the United States Marine Corps.

I, for one, sleep well at night knowing that these dangerous terrorists are detained at Guantanamo Bay instead of somewhere in the United States.

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Fairness in Representation Act will ensure fair congressional apportionment (Rep. Virginia Foxx)

This week I introduced the Fairness in Representation Act, legislation that requires the Census Bureau to determine the number of illegal immigrants in the United States.

The decennial census is not currently required to collect data regarding the legal status of immigrants in the U.S. This means that states with high numbers of illegal immigrants stand to gain additional seats in Congress in the once-every-10-years process of reapportionment.  This also means that the law-abiding residents of states with low numbers of illegal immigrants stand to lose seats to those states with high numbers of illegal immigrants.

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House Dems Vote to Allow Gitmo Transfers to U.S. (Rep. Jerry Lewis)

The U.S. House and Senate met yesterday to negotiate the final conference report on the fiscal year 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Even though both the House and Senate have previously overwhelmingly voted to prevent the transfer and release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S., the conference report contains language allowing detainee transfers for the purpose of prosecution in U.S. criminal courts.

Consistent with previous votes taken by the House and Senate, my colleague, Homeland Appropriations Ranking Republican Hal Rogers, offered a motion to prohibit any Guantanamo detainee from being transferred onto U.S. soil for any reason, but House Democrats struck down the motion on a party line vote.

The Democrats in the conference committee have defied the will of Congress and the American people and have voted to allow terrorist detainees to be brought onto American soil at taxpayer expense. Instead of containing these dangerous terrorists – who were caught on the battlefield as prisoners of war and who pose risks to our national security – House Democrats have voted to treat these people as common criminals to be housed in U.S. prisons. Guantanamo detainees are dangerous enemies of the state, and we should not put the safety, security, and the peace of mind of the American people at risk by allowing them into our communities.

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10 percent of borders are under control, and DHS has no plans to expand control

Eight years after the attacks of 9/11 and four years after the 9/11 Commission cited America’s porous borders as a serious risk to national security, the Department of Homeland Security does not seem remotely concerned that it has just 894 miles of border “under effective control”. That’s 894 miles out of 8,607 miles of land and coastline that DHS is responsible for controlling.

What about the other 7,713 miles of land and sea borders? DHS doesn’t seem too worried. Their stated goal for FY 2010 is to have the same 894 miles “under effective control” one year from now.

DHS’s seeming nonchalance about gaining control over the other 90 percent of our borders stands in jarring contrast to the security challenges facing the United States. Several terrorist plots exposed over the past month underscore the continued determination of our enemies to deliver a blow on U.S. soil. Meanwhile the chaos and violence in Mexico, which has claimed 11,000 lives over the past three years, continues to worsen and could easily spill across our southern border.

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It's time to make E-Verify permanent (Rep. Paul Broun)

Last week, another extension was needed for the E-Verify program to remain effective. The E-Verify (formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program) is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration.  The system allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.  The Basic Pilot program began in November 1997 and now has been extended several times.

Following the latest extension, there is no better time to strengthen the electronic employment verification system and finally make it permanent.

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Extend educational options to veterans and military personnel (Rep. Joe Sestak)

This week, I have introduced legislation that would allow all currently-enlisted service personnel to count training courses from the military as credit for equivalent coursework at schools across the country.

The Armed Forces Education Parity Act would allow enlisted members of the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard to participate in higher education programs at the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF), which is the only program that is currently federally accredited to award an associate degree in exchange for the successful completion of a student’s military training.  Since it issued its first degree in 1977, the CCAF has awarded more than 308,000 associate degrees in the applied sciences. The school is the largest multi-campus community colleges in the world, having partnered with 90 Air Force affiliated schools, 82 Education Services Offices globally, and more than 1,500 civilian academic institutions, to serve over 335,000 registered students.

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Policy change wrongly limits Gitmo transparency (Sen. Jim Inhofe)

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo) is a state-of-the-art prison that provides a safe, secure and humane location to hold detainees away from population centers. It provides the maximum security required to prevent escape, as well as multiple levels of confinement opportunities based on the compliance of the detainee.  There has never been a documented case of torture at Gitmo, and even officials in the Obama administration who have visited the site give the prison a glowing report. The current treatment and oversight exceed those at any maximum-security prison in the world. There is no superior alternative to this prison for these individuals, and yet the President is obsessed with closing the facility.

Recent media reports from journalists that routinely cover Gitmo indicate that there may have been a change in the media policy for those reporting on the terrorist detention camp.

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JUSTICE: The remedy for government surveillance

As the end of the year approaches, Congress is facing a looming deadline: three sections of the infamous USA Patriot Act are due to sunset on December 31. Since it was rushed through Congress just 45 days after September 11, the Patriot Act has paved the way for the expansion of government-sponsored surveillance including the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to allow dragnet collection of Americans’ communications. Over the last eight years, numerous expansions of executive authority have worked in tandem to infringe upon Americans’ rights.

As the ACLU has testified last week, we’re pushing Congress to undertake a comprehensive reform of the Patriot Act and urging both chambers to revisit other surveillance laws now while they consider the three expiring provisions. There are currently two bills pending in the Senate to address the expiring Patriot Act provisions: the JUSTICE Act, introduced by Senators Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Durbin (D-Ill.) and the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.).

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Eight years later, America remembers and honors those lost on September 11th (Rep. Bill Shuster)

Eight years ago today, America witnessed an atrocity of immense proportions. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were murdered by terrorists who espouse a corrupt ideology of hate and intolerance.  The September 11th attacks shook America and the world to its core, but we persevered.  We regrouped, mourned our losses and took action to right the wrongs that were perpetrated against us.

Today is a day of remembrance.  Eight years on, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the sacrifices borne by police, firefighters and regular citizens that September morning and the immeasurable acts of heroism to rescue those in need at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

 Nor can we forget the forty brave Americans who sacrificed their own lives to prevent another catastrophic attack against what we believe today to have been Flight 93’s target; the U.S. Capitol.  I was in the Capitol that morning, along with hundreds of my colleagues and tourists.  We would have been in mortal danger if not for the passengers and crew of Flight 93.

 The actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 hit home for me and many of my constituents.  The flight crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania which is part of my home district.  For eight years, I along with my fellow members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and the families of Flight 93 have been working hard to complete the permanent memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 in Shanksville.  I am pleased to say that the memorial is moving forward with a completion date targeted for the 10th anniversary of the attacks.  

 We have not had an attack on U.S. soil since our troops took the fight to al-Qaeda.  This is due to the efforts of our military, intelligence services and first responders to safeguard our nation.  They have succeeded in making America safer, but we cannot take this safety for granted. We have come a long way since the pre-9/11 security mindset but our enemy is not static. The threats we face are ever-changing and the terrorists will adapt to our methods and strategies.

 Our enemy continues to plan and wait for an opening to strike.  Congress must continue to understand that the threat of terrorism remains real and we must be prepared to fund and support those agencies integral to our security.

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Eighth anniversary of 9/11 calls for vigilance

The events of September 11, 2009 opened America’s eyes to the ruthlessness that militant Islamism can inspire.  Yet eight years later our leaders and therefore our nation still struggles with the real threat that looms before us.  The parsing of words in recent months of whether we are in a “War on Terror” or an “Overseas Contingency Operation” or even the Obama Administrations decision to designate 9/11 as a “Day of Service,” demonstrate that our leadership is missing the point on what and who the true threat is to America.

To lay it out in no uncertain terms, Political Islam has one goal, the dominance of the Islamist version of Islam over every aspect of life.  Their belief in a theocratic form of government that stifles individual liberty is at complete odds with every principle that built America.

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