Gottheimer, Pascrell Take Action to Fight Domestic, Homegrown Terrorist Threats

Gottheimer announces bipartisan FASTER Act to freeze assets of ISIS-inspired, white supremacists & other homegrown domestic terrorists - Stresses need for greater civility

 Above: New Jersey Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9) stood together in Ridgewood today to take action against threats of homegrown, domestic terror in our communities.

Today, Monday, September 9, 2019, both U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9) stood together, on the heels of the eighteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks this week, to announce steps being taken to thwart threats of domestic ISIS and other foreign-inspired and domestic homegrown terrorists.  

Gottheimer announced the bipartisan FASTER Act -- the Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits Act, which will take two actions. 1) It will give law enforcement the capability to freeze the assets of all domestic terrorists or those who provide material support to terrorists when a suspect is arrested by, or turned over to federal law enforcement. We simply cannot run the risk of funds being used by an ISIS-inspired terrorist or other extremist to carry out another attack by friends, family, or unknown accomplices operating in a small cell. 2) The FASTER Act will also implement a one-of-a-kind, state of the art National Homegrown Terrorism Incident Clearinghouse for all levels of law enforcement to collect and share information on incidents of ISIS inspired, homegrown, lone wolf terrorism and violent extremism. This will help investigate and thwart future attacks. The FASTER Act also applies to homegrown, radicalized supporters of foreign terrorist organizations including ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as domestic terrorists.

Both Gottheimer and Pascrell were briefed this morning by the Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, which has identified homegrown violent extremists as the top threat to New Jersey this year.  

Gottheimer and Pascrell, standing today at the Ridgewood Fire Department, both honored the nearly 3,000 Americans we lost on 9/11, including more than 400 firefighters, police, and other first responders who ran into the towers. The congressmen were joined by New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Jared Maples, Ridgewood Mayor Ramon Hache, Sr., and the New Jersey State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association President Pete Stilianessis.  

“Eighteen years since we lost nearly 3,000 Americans, including more than 400 firefighters, police, and other first responders who ran into the towers -- true patriots, who, as ever, put others ahead of themselves and their families. What’s incredible is that you think of how many lives were touched that day by the hatred of Al-Qaeda, how many families destroyed, how many more servicemen and women have since fought for and died at home and abroad in the global fight against terror,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “And how many more have been inspired by that hatred here at home, brainwashed by their anti-American propaganda. Homegrown terrorists. And it’s not only ISIS-inspired and other foreign-terrorist threats. We have also seen a dramatic spike in an age-old homegrown enemy — white supremacy, right-wing nationalists, and other extremists. It’s incredibly clear to me that we need to be using every tool in our arsenal to disrupt and defeat all homegrown threats.”   

Today, Gottheimer and Pascrell both stressed the growing need for greater civility throughout our nation.

Gottheimer continued, "I’m increasingly convinced, like so many others are, that hatred in all forms is fueled by what’s happening in our public debate and discourse. The screaming, the lies, the personal attacks, the pure nastiness. Our failure to follow the basic commandments of love thy neighbor. I think our country has had enough. I think people want us to come together. They want us all to take things down a notch, including their leaders.  They want us to work together, govern together, and solve problems together. As Americans first — not as Democrats or Republicans first. That’s what we did after 9/11. Yes, we need every tool to fight terror at home and abroad. We must protect our police, firefighters, and always stand by our service members and veterans. There are steps we can take and there are solutions right in front of us. But more than anything, we must address the underlying anger that’s tearing our country apart, splitting us asunder. We need to address issues like health care, high taxes, and dead-end jobs that are poisoning our spirit, and pledge our allegiance to our flag and our mission as a nation — to build that more perfect union.”

Gottheimer also highlighted his work on the Darren Drake Act, which will help thwart ISIS-inspired terrorist truck attacks by strengthening the information collected by vehicle dealers and rental agencies, and improving suspicious activity reporting to help law enforcement identify potential threats. 

“The continuing attacks from right-wing domestic terrorists is out of control and getting worse,” said Rep. Pascrell, a former original member of the House Homeland Security Committee. “There is no cure-all here and defeating this scourge will require the entire village. Community leaders along with state and federal officials need to acknowledge that terror is no longer a purely international fight but a domestic one. We need to increase resources for community programs that identify radicalization before it metastasizes. And we must denounce incendiary rhetoric from all leaders that emboldens extremists. Only then will the fight against domestic extremism be successful. I want to thank Rep. Gottheimer for helping spearhead today’s important discussion.”

Below: Gottheimer and Pascrell joined local North Jersey law enforcement today in Ridgewood.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Mayor Hache. Ridgewood Fire Chief Van Goor, State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association president Pete Stilianessis. Thank you, Congressman Pascrell, for being such a good friend and mentor to me. With your work as chairman of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, you are always standing by our first responders. And thank you for your strong advocacy in countering violent extremism and for consistently fighting the rise in white supremacist terrorism. Thank you, Director Maples, also, for all your work in keeping Jersey safe.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eighteen years since terror struck our homeland, and the church bells will ring again, under a moment of silence, early Wednesday morning.

Eighteen years since we lost nearly 3,000 Americans, including more than 400 firefighters, police, and other first responders who ran into the towers -- true patriots, who, as ever, put others ahead of themselves and their families. It’s what they’ve always done and why I remain so grateful for what they do each day, and why Bill and I are so committed to getting the backs of those who always get ours.

More than 2,000 first responders and others who were in and around the World Trade Center have died since that day, as a result of 9/11 exposure.  Thankfully, earlier this summer, we fought for and passed the bipartisan 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.

What’s incredible is that you think of how many lives were touched that day by the hatred of Al-Qaeda, how many families destroyed, how many more servicemen and women have since fought for and died at home and abroad in the global fight against terror.  Against ISIS abroad, Al-Shabab, Hezbollah, Hamas, PIJ -- people whose hatred for freedom and democracy and our way of life is so great that they are willing to fly a plane to their death. Just last week, in Afghanistan, we lost Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz.

And how many more have been inspired by that hatred here at home, brainwashed by their anti-American propaganda. Homegrown terrorists.

Ironically, in Hebrew, the letters of the word chai, add up to eighteen and it carries the meaning of “alive” or “life.” Last night, I was struggling to find meaning in that, given how many we lost that day, eighteen years ago —12 right here in Ridgewood and 147 residents of Bergen County, not to mention the scores lost across New Jersey.

But, then I thought of the legacies they all left behind. The young children who are now young adults, who are now firefighters, police officers, EMTs themselves, or in the armed forces.  I think of how far we’ve come, in capturing or killing Al-Qaeda leadership, destroying ISIS, and successfully stopping countless lone-wolf terrorists at home.

The lives lived and the lives saved. But, as we all know, protecting our flag is a never ending battle. When you’re the greatest country in the world, that’s just reality.

That’s why we continue to fight Hezbollah, ISIS, Al-Shabab, PIJ, Hamas and other terrorist groups abroad. It’s why we must stand up to Iran when they harbor terrorist organizations.  It’s why we work so closely with our key allies including Israel to protect democracy and fight terror in such a volatile region. 

We must also fight the continued terrorist threat on our homeland, and the deep veins of hatred that run through it.  The FBI and NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness brief us regularly, including just this morning, and the number one threat in our state remains ISIS and other foreign-inspired lone-wolf terrorists. Threats like the ISIS-inspired one that took the life of Darren Drake, from New Milford, on the West Side Highway, the Boston Bombers, and the lone wolf terrorist who set off a bomb before being captured in Linden. We must do everything we can to stop them, including giving law enforcement the FASTER Act, my new legislation, which I’ll discuss in a minute, and all the other tools communities need, including COPS, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program, and Assistance to Firefighter grants. 

Since 9/11, we’ve seen a surge of these lone-wolf terror threats. Unlike in the past, they don’t need to go overseas to get their training. They literally can sit in their living room and watch al Qaeda and ISIS-created YouTube videos about how to attack and kill Americans.

It’s not only ISIS-inspired and other foreign-terrorist threats. We have also seen a dramatic spike in an age-old homegrown enemy — white supremacy, right-wing nationalists, and other extremists – what Mike Kelly called in his Record column, “the dark side of America.” They are also spewing hatred online, on Facebook, on Twitter -- and doing so at record levels.

The vile Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville two year ago, which killed Heather Heyer, was only the tip of the iceberg.   Case in point: just a few weeks ago, right here in the Fifth District, a man in Sussex County was found to have a cache of firearms, ammo, and white-supremacist literature in his home and car. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a majority of all the extremist killings that took place last year were carried out by white supremacists. White supremacists attack Jewish people, and Muslims and, frankly, anyone who isn’t like them. We’ve seen these issues at the tragedies at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Chabad of Poway in California, and the massacre in El Paso. And Klan groups continue to be active in areas throughout our country, including right here in our state and in my District. According to my briefing with Director Maples, other extremist groups, including NJEHA – European Heritage Association, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters,  continue to rear their ugly heads in Jersey – where they’ve circulated recruiting fliers in Monmouth county last year.

It’s incredibly clear to me that we need to be using every tool in our arsenal to disrupt and defeat all homegrown threats.

It’s why I’ll be introducing the FASTER Act, along with Republican Brian Fitzpatrick -- bipartisan legislation, that gives law enforcement the capability to freeze the assets of all domestic terrorists when a suspect is arrested by, or turned over to federal law enforcement. We simply cannot run the risk of funds being used by an ISIS-inspired terrorist or other nationalist or extremist to carry out another attack by friends, family, or unknown accomplices operating in a small cell.

We take these steps for international terrorists; why not empower our authorities at home with the same tools to thwart homegrown terrorists. The FASTER Act will also implement a one-of-a-kind, state of the art National Homegrown Terrorism Incident Clearinghouse for all levels of law enforcement to collect and share information on incidents of ISIS inspired, homegrown, lone wolf terrorism and violent extremism. This will help investigate and thwart future attacks.  Finally, the FASTER Act also applies to homegrown, radicalized supporters of foreign terrorist organizations including ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as domestic terrorists.

In the wake of the El Paso shootings, forty-seven of my colleagues and I also called on leadership to hold hearings on white supremacy and domestic terrorism. 

We must stand up to, and stamp out, hatred wherever it appears, whether it’s targeted at Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Irish, Italian, the LGBTQ community, or others. Anti-Semitism, for instance, lurks in all corners, it isn’t only a white supremacy issue -- and it has flourished in our state.   It’s increasingly in our public debate and I’ve spoken out about it time and again. In fact, according to the ADL, New Jersey ranked third in the nation in anti-Semitic incidents last year, a year in which reported anti-Semitic incidents were at near-historic levels.

That’s why my office and I are working closely with great partners like Director Maples and his office, and our faith leaders, to push for more resources from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program – to stand up to threats against all religions. In 2018 and 2019, the Fifth District clawed back more than $2 million to the District from Washington to make sure synagogues, yeshivas, Jewish Community Centers, and all of our houses of worship are protected from increasing threats of terror.

I’d like to make a final point before I introduce Congressman Pascrell. I’m increasingly convinced, like so many other are, that hatred, in all forms, is fueled by what’s happening in our public debate and discourse. The screaming, the lies, the personal attacks, the pure nastiness. Our failure to follow the basic commandments of love thy neighbor.

Facebook, cable TV, you name it -- our worlds have somehow gotten smaller, into narrower slices of Facebook friends, who just share and reinforce our own views. We spend too much time stirring each other up -- hours watching MSNBC or FOX -- instead of talking civilly about issues, even when we disagree. Debate is healthy, we’ve always had it, going back to the Federalist Papers.  It’s what’s made our country the rich fabric it is today. And so has our great diversity and immigrants. Generations of Italian, Irish, Jewish, Dutch immigrants settled here, joined later by a tapestry from all over the world, and built our great economy and country. But we never targeted each other the way we do today, with such venom. 

And this isn’t just a one sided problem, although I wish, like I know you do, that we had more civility. If we are going to be honest, regardless of who threw the first punch, and I have my strong opinions, the anger and hostility must end.

I think our country has had enough. I think people want us to come together. They want us all to take things down a notch, including their leaders.  They want us to work together, govern together, and solve problems together. As Americans first — not as Democrats or Republicans first. That’s what we did after 9/11 when President Bush stood on top of the smoldering pile with a bullhorn and said to the rescue workers, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”  They did. And when President Obama announced that we had killed Osama bin Laden, it wasn’t Democrats or Republicans waving American flags outside the white house – it was all Americans. Together, we beat back al Qaeda, killed bin Laden, and overcame ISIS.

Yes, we need every tool to fight terror at home and abroad. We must protect our police, firefighters, and always stand by our service members and veterans.  We need to be able to freeze the accounts of domestic terrorists and, ensure, through the Drake Act, that just like if they’re on the no-fly-list, terrorists shouldn’t be able to rent a car or truck to attack our citizens. We should also extend the Saricini Act to add secondary barriers outside cockpits of all airplanes, not just new ones, and could help stop another 9/11 style attack. We also need to prohibit dangerous individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing firearms. And there is legislation that I’m cosponsoring that will do just that, being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee this week. And yes, we must also pass background checks on all commercial gun sales to prevent domestic terrorists from getting military-style assault weapons. There are steps we can take and these are solutions in front of us.

But more than anything, we must address the underlying anger that’s tearing our country apart, splitting us asunder. We need to address issues like health care, high taxes, and dead-end jobs that are poisoning our spirit, and pledge our allegiance to our flag and our mission as a nation — to build that more perfect union.

I truly want to thank the first responders who have joined us here today. I will always have your backs.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and it’s in no small part thanks to the work that you do every day -- and to the work of all those fighting terror here, throughout New Jersey, and throughout our country.

Our best days will always be ahead of us, with you all protecting our community.

Thank you.

May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. 

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