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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

The Way Forward on National Security

September 7, 2016
In The News

As part of its effort to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the Administration recently announced it had transferred fifteen more detainees, the largest single transfer since 2009 and another example of how out of touch the Administration’s national security policy is from reality. Just last year, the Director of National Intelligence released a report that found many of the transferred detainees were confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorism, an unacceptable finding. The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to protect Americans, which is why I strongly oppose any efforts that could compromise our national security, including these transfers. With today’s increased security risks from terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I have been working in Congress to prioritize our safety at home and abroad, identify and close potential gaps in our security, and ensure our digital security keeps pace with the world’s technological advancements.

The Administration’s actions against ISIS are not working, largely due to the absence of a comprehensive strategy. But the House has taken several steps to address this void. I’ve supported measures to cut off terrorists’ access to financing, to empower local security forces on the ground so they can rollback ISIS in Iraq, to support increased military cooperation with our allies in the region who are fighting ISIS, and to require the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to retake the ISIS stronghold in a key area of Iraq. Further, I voted for legislation that would reject the Administration’s idea to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, as any plan to place high-level security threats, including individuals who received advanced terrorist training in explosives and suicide missions, in our own backyard is untenable and has received bipartisan criticism in Congress. While these are important efforts in prioritizing our safety, we need a cohesive strategy that has the power of American leadership and the support of a united, legitimate international coalition.

A comprehensive strategy against ISIS must also account for the groups’ plans to exploit U.S. assistance in the refugee crisis. With over 13.5 million people in need, the U.S. has provided critical humanitarian assistance to those in Syria, including emergency medical care, food, safe drinking water, and hygiene kits. The U.S. should continue its leadership in humanitarian assistance, while ensuring our homeland remains safe from terrorists who have threatened to grossly exploit this refugee crisis to enter our country to carry out attacks. To address concerns of vulnerabilities in our vetting process by leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and others in the intelligence community, I voted for bipartisan legislation that would suspend the admission of Syrian refugees until our top national security advisors can examine the process for those entering the country and confirm it is not possible for terrorists to breach this process. Additionally, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act – now law - will suspend certain individuals who have traveled to known terrorist hotspots, such as Syria and Iraq, from participating in the waiver program, which allows individuals from many countries to travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less without a visa. These are important steps towards admitting those who are in need and keeping potential bad actors out, but it is also important we diminish the ability of terrorists to act where we cannot control entry and exit – online.

As technology continues to advance, we must be diligent in prioritizing our digital security capabilities. We have seen radicalization at home occur in unprecedented ways, as the U.S. faces so-called lone wolf attacks by those already in our country who are convinced by ISIS propaganda to commit terror attacks. In an effort to counter terrorists’ use of social media to win hearts and minds, I support efforts in Congress to evaluate how such an online presence can be identified and disrupted. I also helped introduce the Digital Security Commission Act. This is wider-ranging legislation that would bring together various stakeholders, including social media companies, all levels of government, law enforcement officials, and privacy advocates to make policy recommendations for ensuring data protection, privacy, and public safety as they relate to our country’s national security. These are important pieces of legislation that will modernize our country’s efforts against terrorism.

In order to keep our country secure, we must agree on a comprehensive strategy to combat ISIS, ensure our vetting programs are not vulnerable to breaches, and keep our digital security on pace with technology. The House has taken important steps towards these goals, and I am committed to supporting measures that enhance our country’s safety as we continue the fight against terrorism.