Above: (left to right) Barbara and Jimmy Drake help Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Announce the Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act
Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced that he plans to introduce the Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act.
The legislation, named in memory of New Milford resident Darren Drake, a victim of the October, 2017 New York City terrorist truck attack, will help law enforcement thwart deadly lone-wolf, ISIS inspired attacks by requiring vehicle dealers and rental agencies to share critical information with the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to identify potential terrorist matches. In 2017, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’ Threat Assessment put homegrown violent extremists as the single-highest threat to our state – a state that lost so many innocent lives in 9/11.
Rep. Gottheimer also announced that he will be bringing Jimmy Drake, father of the late Darren Drake, as his guest to the State of the Union address. In the aftermath of the tragic attack in Lower Manhattan, Jimmy Drake and Rep. Gottheimer worked together to find ways to prevent future tragedies.
Under the Darren Drake Act, if a terrorist rents a van or pick-up truck, the rental company will immediately alert federal counterterrorism agencies, providing them with his or her name, home address, driver’s license number, and the registration, make, model and license plate of the vehicle they plan to use. This plan is similar to Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) checks on passenger information against the “No Fly List.”
On October 31st, 2017, an, ISIS-inspired, lone wolf terrorist drove a rented pickup truck along the Hudson River Park’s bike path in New York, killing eight people, including Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, New Jersey.
Jimmy Drake joined Rep. Gottheimer for today’s announcement and hailed the new bipartisan legislation.
“Today, I am proud to be joined by Jimmy Drake, to remember the memory of his extraordinary son and a treasured member of our community, Darren Drake. Darren’s life was tragically cut short by a hate-filled terrorist, who like many attackers, was too easily able to acquire and weaponize a truck to wreak havoc on innocent civilians. That is why I will be introducing the Darren Drake Act.. As terrorists continue to use vans, cars, pick-up trucks, and other low cost, high impact, “21st century weapons of terror,” our law enforcement must have the tools and authorities they need to combat these growing threats. Today, we are here to protect our communities and help our law enforcement in the fight against lone wolf, ISIS-inspired terrorism,” said Rep. Gottheimer.
Continued Gottheimer: “I couldn’t be more honored to have Mr. Drake as my guest for the State of the Union address. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, Jimmy has carried himself with dignity, bravery, and class. All of us have read countless stories about how honest, kind, and talented Darren was. I wish that I could have had the honor to meet him. Our community, and the entire State of New Jersey will always remember Darren as our own. Thank you Jimmy for having the bravery to stand up for your country and your community. Rest assured, Darren’s death will not be in vain.”
To view a one-page summary of the Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act, click here.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:
We’re standing here today where the future Darren Drake Memorial will be located, and I couldn’t be prouder of this town and its residents. We all need to come together for Darren, for the Drakes – for Jimmy and Barbara – for our broader Jersey community, and for our country.
October 31st, 2017, was warm and sunny, unusually so for a day so deep in the fall. The path along the Hudson River was packed with tourists, walkers, joggers, and bikers, getting ready for the nightly Halloween festivities. Among them was Darren Drake, a young man from New Milford who like many in North Jersey, commuted each to day to the city, went to mass on Sundays, loved spending time with his wonderful parents and family, and worked hard as a program manager at Moody’s. In between meetings, Darren would take time to go outside to enjoy a city that he loved so much.
Having worked hard to lose weight and determined to stay in shape, Darren would often ride his bike along the Hudson River highway, along the West Side Highway, nearly every single day, enjoying a moment away to clear his head, think hard, appreciate the outdoors, and the people around him.
That day in October should have been just like any other day for Darren – and seven others. Darren was on his usual bike ride, listening to an audiobook, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles Mann. He loved his history – a real patriot.
But then, out of nowhere, as we all know, tragedy struck against Darren and America. A hate-filled, lone wolf, ISIS-inspired terrorist, decided to change the course of history, ruthlessly and callously took Darren’s life and seven others – and, in the process, left behind a wake of sorrow that is hard to imagine, and reminds us, as it’s said in Scripture, that we see through a glass darkly. There is no explanation for what happened. Like so many others, I was heart-broken when I heard the news, and I have been inspired by all that I learned about Darren, including at his wake, where a line of people snaked around the corner.
I am humbled to be joined today, by Jimmy Drake, Darren’s father, and Barbara, his mother, who have become friends, and who have handled this unthinkable tragedy with tremendous courage and grace. I am also honored to have Mr. Drake join me as my guest at tomorrow’s State of the Union address in Washington. We will be there together, along with Barbara, to honor Darren and to introduce legislation to help ensure that Darren’s loss, ultimately, helps to save other lives in the war against terror.
That war wages on abroad, with our brave servicemen and women on the front lines, and here at home, too, where lone wolves and home grown terror continue to wage war on our way of life. In 2017, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’ Threat Assessment put homegrown violent extremists as the single-highest threat to our state – a state that lost so many innocent lives in 9/11. In April, that same office put New Jersey’s malls on high alert to boost security. We know the threat of terrorism continues today. Experts expect terror attacks to increase in 2018, as the ISIS power centers in Iraq and Syria continue to break down as we push them back.
While we have deployed fierce and formidable weapons in the fight against terror at home and abroad, Mr. Drake and I believe that there always more to do – that there is another arrow in our quiver that we can put into action.
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 one thousand.
Last year, 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.
And, we cannot forget earlier in 2016, in Nice, France, when an ISIS-inspired terrorist rented a nineteen-ton cargo truck and used it to drive into crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day, killing eighty-six people, and injuring more than 400.
These are not just random occurrences. They represent a new weapon of mass destruction deployed by terrorists in their fight against peace and democracy.
In these attacks, often lone wolves, inspired by ISIS, and other terrorist organizations, have rented trucks, cars, and vans, evaded law enforcement, and used them as weapons of terror against innocent civilians. No bullets, no missiles, no planes – simply a truck and a terrorist with a clear mission to take lives.
In these moments, here in the shadow of where the Twin Towers once stood, we must ask ourselves a wrenching question: Could we have done anything to have stopped those vehicles from taking away lives of those like Darren? And are there any steps that we could take today to prevent future attacks?
When Sayfullo Saipov rented a truck on the day of the attack and another just nine days earlier to practice, there was a clear step that we could have taken. We know that he had already been on the authorities’ radar. So had Ramzi Yousef and Eyad Ismoil.
They were connected to people on watch lists. We knew they could pose a threat. And yet, they could easily walk in and acquire a weapon to murder our friends and family. There should be a better way.
As terrorists continue to resort to using vans, cars, pick-up trucks, and other low-cost, high-impact 21st Century weapons of terror, our law enforcement officials must have every tool and authority they need to combat this growing threat.
Today, I am proud to announce a new tool to thwart this terrorist threat: the Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act.
When enacted, the Darren Drake Act will help us thwart lone-wolf, ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks by requiring that all vehicle dealers and rental companies match critical information on individuals against the government’s terror watch list. Rental companies will be required to instantly share this information with the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to flag any potential terrorist matches.
If a terrorist attempts to rent a van or pick-up truck, that company will immediately alert our federal counterterrorism agencies. Just like the TSA checks passenger information against the “No Fly List,” helping stop a terrorist from boarding a plane, law enforcement would, immediately know if a potential terrorist in the TIDE system or FBI case files has attempted to rent a vehicle capable of a mass terrorist attack. In 2018, we already collect this information and have the technology we need to make this a smooth and seamless process.
The Darren Drake Combatting 21st Century Weapons of Terror Act will also establish a much-needed, competitive grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to help state and local governments protect exposed public and pedestrian areas like along the Henry Hudson with security barriers and bollards. In this day and age, major cities and communities with public places that pose clear targets for terrorists need resources to prevent a potentially avoidable attack.
I’m sure that there will be naysayers who believe that our law enforcement and first responders shouldn’t have all of the resources that they need to protect Jersey families from terrorism. I simply refuse to accept that – and I’m ready to take them on.
Our first responders have already thwarted dozens of potential attacks. Most don’t make it into the newspapers, because that’s how good our law enforcement, national security officials, and firefighters are – they thwart them before they even occur. But, it is up to us to continue to give them the tools that they need to continue to thwart these potential attacks. We need to adapt based on the tools today’s lone wolf terrorists use to prevent future tragedies and protect us all from these threats.
I also want to take a moment to remember each of the victims of terrorism, those we lost in 9/11, before, and ever since then. 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 to have Mr. Drake as my State of the Union guest and to name the legislation in his name. We all read countless stories about how honest, kind, and talented Darren was. As Jimmy told me, he was just a good kid. A good soul. Whether it was his work on the school board, at Moody’s, in class, or in politics, people just loved Darren – and Darren loved everyone. I wish that I could have spent time with him.
Our community, and the entire 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. Rest assured, his death will not be in vain.
Today, we remember Darren as the sun shines down on us, and recommit ourselves to take the next step 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.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.