Gottheimer Announces FASTER Act to Fight Terror

Sep 09, 2017
Press

Bill Would Speed Up Efforts to Combat Homegrown Terrorism

Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced the Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits (FASTER) Act of 2017 standing alongside local law enforcement officials at Oradell’s 9/11 Memorial.

“We must use every tool in our arsenal to disrupt and defeat lone wolf and other ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorists. In that vein, through my authority on the Terrorist Financing Committee, I am introducing the bipartisan Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits (FASTER) Act.” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “When passed into law, the FASTER Act will help combat terrorism and protect Americans from new and evolving threats. First responders bravely work to keep our communities safe. They are what helps make our region and nation great and need tools like the FASTER act to protect us.”

“Everything that Congressman Gottheimer has done, we have supported and he has always supported law enforcement,” said Tony Balistieri, a representative of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA). “This is all to create a safer community, help our citizens, help keep the great state of New Jersey safe.”

The bipartisan FASTER Act — with Republican co-sponsors Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8) and Tom Reed (NY-23) — would help combat terrorism and protect Americans from new and evolving threats by:

  • Requiring the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to notify financial institutions when a terrorism suspect is arrested by, or turned over to federal law enforcement, and immediately freeze their assets
  • Establishing a National Homegrown Terrorism Incident Clearinghouse to collect and share information on incidents of lone wolf terrorism and violent extremism
  • Applies to individuals who provide material support to terrorist groups including ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as individuals suspected of domestic terrorism
  • Preserves due process protections by requiring government to provide written notice to a suspect within 60 days and grant them their day in court

The FASTER Act will speed up our efforts to combat homegrown terrorism, help prevent family members and associates of terrorists from carrying out new attacks, and give local, state, and federal law enforcement the information they need to crack down on these heinous threats.

Video of Congressman Gottheimer’s announcement can be found HERE.

Below: Congressman Josh Gottheimer stands with local law enforcement representatives and Oradell Mayor Dianne Didio in front of Oradell’s 9/11 Memorial, built from steel from the World Trade Center’s 81st and 85th floors.

Below are Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

We’re here this morning on the weekend before 9/11 to honor the memory and sacrifice of those precious lives lost that day and to honor their legacy by making sure that a tragedy like it never occurs again.

Not unlike today, the sun shone brightly on September 11th, even as the clouds of terror gathered overhead.

Today, we remember Brent J. Woodall, an Oradell resident and stock trader who perished in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Brent played football and baseball for UC Berkeley, and AAA ball for the Chicago Cubs. He had just gotten married and bought a home in Oradell with his wife, Tracy, who was expecting their first child. These steel beams in front of me were taken from the wreckage of the 81st and 85th floors to forever memorialize the depth of loss in our communities.

This community will forever remember those hours spent in horror, wondering if loved ones would make it home alive from New York City that day.

Many of our bravest went into the city to help clean up the aftermath. People like River Edge’s Fire Chief William Van Riper, who took a crew of construction workers that night into the City.

And other brave community members are still valiantly fighting the war on terror throughout the Middle East in order to keep our families safe from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and others who seek to harm the United States. We thank them and pray for their safe return. Neighbors like Oradell’s former Councilman Eric Shuler were deployed to Iraq shortly after these attacks – and we are all grateful for his patriotism and service.

To all those lost on 9/11 and in the War on Terror, we remember you and honor your sacrifice, service and bravery. We will always remember you and the American spirit shown by countless New Jersey residents that day.

We also honor the memories of the brave 117 Bergen County First Responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty here at home.

These memorials are a solemn reminder of the grave day-in-and-day-out risks law enforcement and first responders face protecting our communities and families. They run into harm’s way when everyone else runs out to safety. We must always have the backs of our first responders.

While we have made enormous progress in the global fight against terror, including against al Qaeda and ISIS, new threats are always emerging. Iran and Hezbollah are on the march in the Middle East. Al Shabab in north Africa and beyond. Syria remains a hotbed of terror. And, as I’ve learned on the Terrorist and Illicit Financing Subcommittee, through technology, the means of financing global terrorist activity has become easier, not harder. In short, we can’t afford to let our guard down for one minute.

But the threats we face aren’t just coming from overseas. They are here at home. Since 9/11, we have seen a surge of a new and grave threat to our communities — ISIS-inspired, homegrown and lone wolf terrorists. These are terrorist lurking in our town, and they don’t need to go overseas to get their training. They literally can sit in their boxers in their living room and watch YouTube videos about how to attack and kill Americans.

Ahmad Khan Rahami was a homegrown terrorist. He moved here in 1995 at age 7. He went to college at Middlesex County College in Edison. These threats are abound. More than 133 people have been charged with terrorism-related activities in connection with ISIS since 2014.

Furthermore, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness’s 2017 Terrorism Threat Assessment found that homegrown violent extremists pose a high-level threat to New Jersey.

In 2016 alone, there were 22 domestic terror attacks and 17 plots, threats of violence, and instances of weapons stockpiling in New Jersey. This doesn’t include the [thousands] of other plots and lone wolf activity across our country, including those like the Boston bomber.

Our first responders have thwarted dozens of potential attacks. Most don’t make it into the newspapers, because that’s how good our law enforcement and firefighters are – thwarting them before they even occur.

Earlier this year, for example, authorities arrested an ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorist who planned to build and detonate a pressure cooker bomb in one of our communities.

Gregory Lepsky, a 20 year-old man in Point Pleasant, was communicating with ISIS channels online, instructing him to carry out a terrorist attack here in the U.S. with an improvised explosive device. On social media, Lepsky told others that he was training to be an ISIS fighter and would become a martyr by driving a bunch of explosives into a crowd and blowing himself up.

Fortunately, his family members reported him to the authorities, who arrested Lepsky, and searched his home, where they found a pressure cooker hidden along with specific, step-by-step instructions on how to turn that pressure cooker into a bomb.

We must use every tool in our arsenal to disrupt and defeat lone wolf and other ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorists like Lepsky.

In that vein, through my authority on the Terrorist Financing Committee, I am introducing the bipartisan Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits (FASTER) Act.

When passed into law, the FASTER Act, cosponsored by Republican Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Tom Reed of New York, will help combat terrorism and protect Americans from new and evolving threats.

First, the FASTER Act will require the Federal government to notify financial institutions when a terrorism suspect is arrested by, or turned over to, federal law enforcement, and instruct those institutions to immediately freeze their assets. We simply cannot run the risk of those funds being used 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, ISIS inspired terrorists.

Second, the FASTER Act will 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

Third and finally, the FASTER Act also applies to homegrown, radicalized supporters of foreign terrorist organizations including ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as domestic terrorists .

This is just smart, sensible policy—it will confiscate the funds of convicted terrorists and give them to their victims or to law enforcement for counter-terrorism efforts.

Ultimately, The FASTER Act will speed up our efforts to combat homegrown, lone wolf, ISIS-inspired terrorism, help prevent terrorists and their supporters from carrying out new attacks, and ensure our financial institutions and law enforcement have the information they need to crack down on these heinous threats. This will do even more to protect our families and communities.

And, of course, it preserves our Constitutional due process protections by providing suspects with a right to contest charges and by granting them their day in court.

The FASTER Act is a tool that our law enforcement needs in their toolbox to keep us safe, because here’s the bottom line: We don’t know when the next emergency or terrorist attack will be. We have to be vigilant, coordinated, and smart—using all available resources, fostering public and private cooperation and information sharing. We can’t know the future; while we do hope for the best, we must be prepared for the worst. We need our first responders and law enforcement officials to be fully equipped for whatever the next crisis may be.

As I have since I was sworn in, and as a member of the Firefighter Caucus, led by our friend, Congressman Bill Pascrell, I will always stand by those first responders who stand by us — who not only protect our communities from local dangers, but are on the front lines in our fight against terror.

I will always do everything I can to make sure our law enforcement officers, and all first responders, get the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

And I will continue to do whatever I can to stop terror in its tracks.

In February, I introduced a bipartisan bill, HR 911, that would mandate the installation of secondary barriers on commercial airplanes to prevent would-be hijackers from charging the cockpits on our flights like they did on 9/11.

To close, I’d like to reiterate to the first responders who are here today how deeply grateful I am for your service and sacrifice. Your work to keep our communities safe helps make our region and nation great.

I will always have your backs the way you have the backs of the towns you serve. We live in the greatest country in the world, and it’s in no small part thank to the work that you do every day.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

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