Gottheimer Announces New Bipartisan Darren Drake Act to Stop Homegrown Terror Truck Attacks

Concrete steps to help prevent ISIS-inspired, lone wolf terrorists from striking our citizens with trucks and online weapons of attack

 Above: Gottheimer announces bipartisan steps to protect Americans from terror truck attacks.

Today, Monday, October 28, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new bipartisan legislation --  the Darren Drake Act -- which will be introduced in the House of Representatives this week, along with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), to help stop ISIS-inspired terrorists from using trucks and other vehicles as weapons of mass destruction.

Gottheimer is also leading a bipartisan effort in Congress to stop online weapons of attack. Specifically, the group has demanded that, by no later than November 1st, Twitter follow U.S. law, immediately change their policies, and cut off all handles affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah, and all Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

The Darren Drake Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide rental companies and car dealers with the information they need to flag and stop a potential threat in its tracks. All rental companies will be required to report suspicious behavior at every single point of sale. The bill also requires DHS to certify to Congress that this program protects our country against terrorist attacks, and to identify any additional gaps in cooperation between rental companies and our national security apparatus.

The legislation is named in memory of New Milford resident Darren Drake, a victim of the October 2017 New York City terrorist truck attack.

“We stand in solidarity, and we look forward, with hope, and to create change. Remembering Darren also reminds of that we must always remain vigilant in the fight against terror,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) said today. “With the Darren Drake Act, if a terrorist attempts to rent a van or pick-up truck, that company will immediately alert our federal counter-terrorism agencies. Just like how the TSA checks passenger information against the no-fly list, helping stop a terrorist from boarding a plane, law enforcement will know if a potential terrorist has attempted to rent a vehicle capable of a mass terrorist attack.”

Today, Gottheimer announced two concrete steps in the fight against terror to help protect our homeland and democracy -- and to help prevent homegrown terrorists from striking at our country through terror trucks and online weapons of attack.

Gottheimer continued, “Aside from physical weapons of terror, we must also take additional steps to stop terrorists from utilizing social media as an online weapon of attack.  We have made great progress on this front, and many of our tech companies have helped. But this is an area that innovates quickly and moves fast. We must stay ahead of it. We must do everything we can to scrape the internet and social media of their ability to brainwash, to send signals, to communicate, to radicalize, and to convert to hate.”

Gottheimer was joined today by Darren’s parents, Barbara and Jimmy Drake; New Milford Mayor Michael Putrino; New Milford Councilwoman Hedy Grant; New Milford Police Chief Brian Clancy; and Bob Allen of the New Jersey State Firefighter’s Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA).

“I hope this bill will save lives, so that everyone across the country can be safe from attacks,” said Jimmy Drake, father of Darren Drake.

The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’ Threat Assessment put homegrown violent extremists as the single-highest threat to New Jersey for 2019.

From 2013 through 2017, terrorists carried out at least 25 known vehicle ramming attacks worldwide, resulting in 156 fatalities and 790 injuries.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS have promoted vehicle attacks for years, including in Inspire, Al-Qaeda’s online magazine, and in Rumiya, the ISIS magazine. ISIS calls upon its followers to conduct vehicle ramming attacks by buying, renting, stealing, or borrowing trucks and targeting large outdoor events, crowded pedestrian streets, outdoor markets and rallies.

Watch today’s press conference HERE.

Below: Darren Drake’s father, Jimmy Drake, gives remarks commemorating the attack in New York City two years ago this week.

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

We’re standing here together, this week, with the Drakes -- Jimmy and Barbara, New Milford’s leadership, our brave first responders, and the entire community, to remember the great life of Darren Drake, for all he gave to us, and what they took from us, when they took Darren and so many other innocent souls. 

We stand in solidarity, and we look forward -- with hope -- and to create change.

Remembering Darren also reminds of that we must always remain vigilant in the fight against terror.

Today, I’m announcing two concrete steps in the fight against terror to help protect our homeland and democracy -- and to help prevent homegrown terrorists from striking at our country through terror trucks and online weapons of attack. 

Eighteen years after 9/11, thanks to our nation’s remarkable intelligence community and law enforcement, we have made monumental progress in the global fight against terror.  But that fight is not over.

We must never get lulled into a false sense of complacency – because, that’s when they strike. Just this weekend, our brave U.S Special Operations forces successfully, and heroically, carried out an operation targeting and killing ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi, recognized for his brutality, transformed the Islamic State into a global terrorist network. They’ve killed thousands of people around the world, including at churches in Sri Lanka, an office party in San Bernardino, California, and a truck attack in Nice, France.

Not all of their soldiers trained in the caliphate are using traditional weapons, though. Over the years, we’ve seen terror in new forms with new strategies inflict harm on our democracy.

Now, instead of training in Northern Africa, ISIS is converting, radicalizing, and teaching online. That’s what killed Darren on the bike path in New York. It led to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and the jihadist bombings in Chelsea, New York.

The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’ has declared homegrown violent extremists as the single-highest threat to our state this year. So has the FBI.

Even in the last several months, homegrown terrorists, with connections to Hezbollah and Hamas, have struck here in New Jersey. They were radicalized online.

So, when we see a new threat, we must always stay a step ahead. Through intelligence and might, both in the field and online, our law enforcement and national security teams have developed remarkable tools to stay a step ahead of those seeking to do us harm.

But is there more we can do, and today I’m addressing two plans of attack to ward off these terrorist threats.

First, we know that vehicles continue to be used as new weapons of terror. Yet, in my opinion, in Jimmy and Barbara’s opinion, we are still not taking the necessary measures to respond and prepare for this threat. We imposed new rules for screenings at airports after the shoe bomber struck, yet still haven’t filled this glaring vulnerability in the war on terror.

On Halloween in 2017, Darren and seven others were killed when an ISIS-inspired, homegrown terrorist drove a rented truck onto a bike path in lower Manhattan. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first or last time that vehicles were used as a terrorist weapon.  In fact, in ISIS literature found online, there is a literally a road-map showing how to rent and use a truck as a terrorist weapon, to spread fear and cause mass casualties.

In 1993, Ramzi Yousef and Eyad Ismoil, rented a U-Haul in Jersey City, drove it into a parking garage beneath the World Trade Center, and detonated a homemade bomb, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand.

In 2016, in Nice, France, on Bastille Day, an ISIS-inspired terrorist rented a nineteen-ton cargo truck and drove into crowds, killing eighty-six people, and injuring more than 400.

In 2017, in London, three terrorists inspired by the Islamic State, rented a car and drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, killing eight people and injuring another fifty.

In Edmonton Canada, just one month before the attack on Lower Manhattan, a man struck four people with a U-Haul, including a Canadian police officer he then stabbed multiple times.

He had ISIS's black flag with him in his vehicle during the attack.

In 2018, a terrorist drove a car into security barriers outside the UK Parliament during London’s morning rush hour, injuring several innocent people.

Then, just last month, a man drove an SUV through a suburban Chicago mall – Illinois’s largest shopping center -- causing chaos and panic in an attack he had researched and carefully planned.

And two weeks ago, a man in Limburg, Germany, stole and hijacked a truck and drove it into waiting traffic.

These are not just random occurrences. They represent a new weapon of mass destruction deployed by terrorists in their fight against peace and democracy.

The new, bipartisan legislation that I’m announcing today, the Darren Drake Act, will help stop this new weapon of destruction – terrorist trucks -- and will prevent vehicles from being deployed as weapons of terror.

When enacted, the Darren Drake Act will help us thwart ISIS-inspired, and other homegrown terrorist attacks by requiring that all vehicle dealers and rental companies match critical information against dangerous individuals who may be on the government’s terror watch list.

If a terrorist attempts to rent a van or pick-up truck, that company will immediately alert our federal counter-terrorism agencies. Just like how the TSA checks passenger information against the “No Fly List,” helping stop a terrorist from boarding a plane, law enforcement will know if a potential terrorist has attempted to rent a vehicle capable of a mass terrorist attack.

The Department of Homeland Security and TSA will provide rental companies and car dealers with the information they need to flag and stop a potential threat in its tracks.  All rental companies will be required to report suspicious behavior at every single point of sale. No excuses.

The bill also requires the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on how this effort is protecting our country against terrorist attacks, and to identify any additional gaps in cooperation between rental companies and our national security apparatus.

I look forward to working with my Republican cosponsor, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who met with Jimmy and Barbara Drake in Washington, to pass this critical legislation .

Now, it’s not just ISIS-inspired lone wolf  terrorists who can use vehicles as weapons. White supremacists and other homegrown hate mongers are also on the rise. We must take swift action against them, as well, in their anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry.

According to FBI statistics, there was a 17 percent increase in overall hate crimes from 2016 to 2017.  Right here at home, the Anti-Defamation League ranked New Jersey third in the nation in anti-Semitic incidents for this past year. All of this hate-driven violence is unacceptable, and must be stopped cold in its tracks.

Aside from physical weapons of terror, we must also take additional steps to stop terrorists from utilizing social media as an online weapon of attack.  We have made great progress on this front, and many of our tech companies have helped.

But this is an area as we all know that innovates quickly and moves fast.  We must stay ahead of it. We must do everything we can to scrape the internet and social media of their ability to brainwash, to send signals, to communicate, to radicalize, and to convert to hate.

Last week, I stood with a bipartisan group of my colleagues in Washington, to sound the alarm on Twitter, which is actively allowing Hezbollah and Hamas, two jihadist terrorist organizations, to maintain accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers on their platform.

There is simply no reason why terrorist organizations, like Hamas and Hezbollah, determined to kill Americans and our allies, deserve access to Twitter’s user-base and platform to promote themselves as sponsors of violent, radical, hate-filled extremism.

So, we have demanded that, by no later than November 1st, That Twitter follow United States law, immediately change their policies, and cut off all handles affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah, and all Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Facebook and Google have – it’s time for Twitter to take the same moves.

I’m sure that there are those out there who will say that there’s nothing more we can do to protect Jersey families from terrorism. I simply refuse to accept that.

By moving this new bipartisan legislation, the Darren Drake Act, forward, and by demanding that our American social media companies stop providing a platform for terrorists to spew hate and violent extremism, we are charting a new, safer path forward. And we are standing up for our American values. These are the concrete steps we are taking today.

First, I want to take a moment to remember each of the victims of terrorism, those we lost in 9/11, before, and ever since then, especially our brave first responders who got our backs that day and continue to today. While our New Jersey communities and our nation lost so much that day, we also learned just how resilient we can be and how strong we must remain in the continued face of terror.

I couldn’t be more honored for this legislation to be in Darren’s name. We all read countless stories about how honest, kind, and talented Darren was. As Jimmy and Barbara have told me, he was just a great kid. A good soul. Whether it was his work on the school board, at the office, in class, people just loved Darren – and Darren loved everyone. I wish that I could have spent time with him.

Our community, and the State of New Jersey will always remember Darren as our own. Thank you, Jimmy and Barbara, for having the bravery to stand up for your country and your community – and for fighting on in Darren’s name.

Today, we remember Darren and we look forward and we commit ourselves to take these next steps in the war on terror.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and, together, we will ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us and that our families are safe.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

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