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Public Statements

The FTO Reform Act of 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Speaker, the United States Foreign Terrorist Organization List is widely recognized as a powerful tool in the fight against terrorist networks around the world. Designating a terrorist group as an ``FTO'' makes it clear that organizations that engage in terrorist activity should not be welcome in any civilized society, while the wide-ranging effects of designation can hamper a network's financing and operations. Often, when the United States adds an organization to the FTO List, they are leading the global community in taking on extremist groups willing to murder innocent civilians, and therefore, the value of a credible, potent, and reliable designation process is immense.

The Secretary of State's role in managing the FTO List in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality act is complemented by consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury. Each of these cabinet level officials plays a role in enforcing an FTO designation, and their assistance in considering potential additions to the list is absolutely vital. However, since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)--which also has responsibility for many of the enforcement tools of FTO Designations--the role of the Secretary of Homeland Security in the FTO process has not been codified in statute.

As an example, DHS is the only Cabinet-level Department whose first three missions are the prevention of terrorism and enhancement of security; securing and managing borders; and enforcing and administering immigration laws. Each of these is a major component of the FTO List, which is designed to mitigate the terrorist threat and prevent members of designated organizations from entering the United States.

Further, DHS already plays a significant role in assisting the Department of State in making FTO designations by providing information gathered by component agencies and DHS' Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The Immigration and Nationality Act should codify the reality of the responsibility DHS has to assist in these designations.

Additionally, DHS personnel have a large presence in foreign countries, and DHS employees interact with individuals attempting to enter the United States thousands of times each day. DHS personnel contribute to screening FTO members who attempt to enter the United States.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an office within U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is the second-largest federal investigative agency in the country. The National Security Investigation Division of HSI ``enhances national security through criminal investigations; prevents acts of terrorism by targeting people, money and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities; and identifies and eliminates vulnerabilities in the nation's border, economic, transportation and infrastructure security.'' This mission is intimately linked to the FTO list.

Many recent FTO designations have been issued for groups that have already attacked U.S. interests, U.S. citizens, or the U.S. Homeland. At the same time, many of these organizations engaged in terrorist activity and have been viewed as terrorist networks long before their inclusion in the FTO list. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Boko Haram, the Haqqani Network, and al Shabaab are some such examples. Yet the FTO list was intended to proactively respond to the threat of terrorism, and should be utilized as a weapon in the fight against all terrorist entities, not merely a declaration of the obvious and measure of last resort.

With this in mind, it is important to balance the diplomatic concerns of the State Department with the law enforcement concerns of the Departments of Justice and Treasury, and the security concerns of the Department of Homeland Security. Terrorist groups, and their members, should be identified as terrorists and barred from the United States according to the threat they pose. Adding the Secretary of Homeland Security to the formal designation processes in statute will help achieve that goal.

The FTO Reform Act of 2014 will strengthen the FTO process and ensure all relevant considerations are taken into account when considering potential FTO designations. Lastly, the bill enhances Congressional oversight and creates greater visibility into the impacts of these designations and how they are used.


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