Darren Drake Act Legislation Passed House, Fight Moves to Senate. Calls for DHS Investigation into Texas Synagogue Attacker. Calls for Increased Investment in Non-Profit Security Grant Program to Protect Houses of Worship.
NEW MILFORD, NJ — Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) stood with Barbara and Jimmy Drake — the family of New Milford resident Darren Drake, who was killed in the 2017 New York City West Side Highway ISIS-inspired Lone Wolf terrorist truck attack — to call for critical steps to fight back against ISIS-inspired Lone Wolf terrorist attacks, especially in the wake of the attack on Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
Critical Anti-Terror Steps Gottheimer is Calling for Include:
Passing and enacting the Darren Drake Act: Gottheimer’s bipartisan Darren Drake Act recently passed the House, and Gottheimer is now pushing for the legislation to be introduced and passed in the Senate, to get it fully across the finish line. The bill will help stop ISIS-inspired and Lone Wolf Terrorists from using trucks and other vehicles as weapons of terror.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigation into the Texas Synagogue Attacker: Gottheimer is requesting that DHS complete an investigation into how the Colleyville, TX synagogue attacker entered the country, with a comprehensive report to Congress within 60 days.
Boosting Federal Investment to Protect Houses of Worship: Gottheimer has called for increased federal investment in the Non-Profit Security Grant Program (NSGP) to help protect houses of worship, schools, and community organizations from terrorist threats.
“The Darren Drake Act is a commonsense bipartisan bill aimed at stopping ISIS-inspired and other domestic terrorists from easily acquiring trucks and other vehicles to wreak havoc and cause mass destruction and death,”said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “But it is just one critical weapon against the alarming rise in terrorism, extremism, and acts of hate in the United States and around the world. There is no time to waste. And we must use every weapon in our arsenal against terror.”
Gottheimer continued, “Yesterday, I also asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a full and immediate investigation into this domestic terrorist attack and to report back with their results in the next sixty days. The American people deserve to know how this violent extremist, who worships at the altar of another terrorist with ties to al-Qaeda, was able to enter our country, and why we weren’t better coordinating with global law enforcement and intelligence. We can’t afford gaps in our fight against terror. We must be two steps ahead of lone wolf terrorists and extremists on our soil. As part of that, we must also invest additional resources in the security of our houses of worship. That is why this week, I joined my colleagues in asking that we increase the investment in the vital Non-Profit Security Grants to further protect our houses of worship.”
Gottheimer added, “It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years – four years since New Milford and the Drakes lost Darren. Four years since an ISIS-inspired lone wolf terrorist rented a vehicle, used it as a weapon of terror on the West Side Highway, and killed their son and other innocent souls. Four years since Darren’s dad, Jimmy, sat across from me and, with tears in his eyes, declared that no other family should suffer what he, his mother, Barbara, and their family had – and that we must take action, in Congress, in the country they love, to stop any terrorist on American soil from deploying the same heinous tactics that had killed their son.”
Both ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorists and domestic extremists have promoted ramming and vehicle attacks for years, with vehicle attacks on the rise in recent years. To help prevent attacks like these, the Darren Drake Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop and disseminate best practices for vehicle rental companies and dealers to report suspicious behavior to law enforcement, helping them stop potential threats in their paths. These best practices will be developed and updated in consultation with federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as industry stakeholders.
The bill also requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress regarding the implementation of these best practices and other ways they are working to help improve coordination between the Department and rental vehicle providers.
The bill text of the Darren Drake Act can be found here.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to start by taking a moment to honor and pray for the families of two brave New York City Police officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, who were killed this past week while on duty, protecting their community. They were true heroes and their killing is a grave reminder that we must do more to protect the officers who risk their lives for us every single day. May God bless and watch over them.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years – four years since New Milford and the Drakes lost Darren. Four years since an ISIS-inspired lone wolf terrorist rented a vehicle, used it as a weapon of terror on the West Side Highway, and killed their son and other innocent souls. Four years since Darren’s dad, Jimmy, sat across from me and, with tears in his eyes, declared that no other family should suffer what he, his mother, Barbara, and their family had – and that we must take action, in Congress, in the country they love, to stop any terrorist on American soil from deploying the same heinous tactics that had killed their son.
A few months ago, just days before the anniversary of his death, after years of hard work, and Jimmy and Barbara spending time walking the halls of Congress with me, the Darren Drake Act passed out of the Homeland Security Committee and then out of the House of Representatives by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin. Now, we are working in the Senate, with members of both parties, to pass the bill and get it to the President’s desk. That call to action is why we are here today.
We’re also standing here, just a few feet from the memorial in Darren’s honor and name, because this legislation is but one critical weapon against the alarming rise in terrorism, extremism, and acts of hate in the United States and around the world. There is no time to waste. And we must use every weapon in our arsenal against terror.
Earlier this month at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, a violent ISIS-inspired extremist took a Rabbi and three members of the congregation hostage. They were attending Shabbat services, just like they do week after week, practicing their faith as a community — one of the bedrocks of the American experiment — when the attacker entered the synagogue, posing as a homeless person, counting on the kindness of the Rabbi he then took hostage.
During the next eleven hours, the attacker screamed violent antisemitic threats, threatened murder, and called repeatedly for the release of Aafia Siddiqui – a convicted terrorist with ties to al-Qaeda. By the grace of God, a heroic rabbi, and the brave work of law enforcement, the hostages escaped unharmed. But, Colleyville was a terrifying reminder of just how susceptible we are to lone wolf terrorists, to sympathizers of al-Qaeda, and just how vulnerable we are to individuals — even if they are known threats — to slip under the radar, enter our country, and access the resources and weapons that allow them to perpetrate violent attacks. Just like what happened on the West Side Highway on October 31, 2017. The synagogue attacker — Malik Faisal Akram — traveled here from England, despite his violent criminal record, despite a history of domestic violence and extremism, and despite his identification by MI-6, the British intelligence agency, as a Person of Interest. To me, more than twenty years after 9/11, that is completely and totally unacceptable.
Let me be clear, and I say this as a member of the Homeland Security Committee: There is no reason the attacker, when he was flagged by MI-6 as an extremist, should have been able to enter our country, procure weapons, and make his way to Texas to commit a violent attack against the Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville. Yesterday, I asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a full and immediate investigation into this domestic terrorist attack and to report back with their results in the next sixty days.
The American people deserve to know how this violent extremist, who worships at the alter of another terrorist with ties to al-Qaeda, was able to enter our country, and why we weren’t better coordinating with global law enforcement and intelligence. We can’t afford gaps in our fight against terror. We must be two steps ahead of lone wolf terrorists and extremists on our soil.
As part of that, we must also invest additional resources in the security of our houses of worship. Since I was elected, working closely with our local churches, synagogues, mosques, and parochial schools, New Jersey’s Fifth District has received more investment from the Non-Profit Security Grant Program than any other area in the state — $6.3 million — to protect our religious institutions. That includes everything from bulletproof windows and bollards, to security systems and security guards. But, given the current climate, as we saw in Texas, in Pennsylvania, and California, we need additional resources. Just this week, I joined my colleagues in asking that we increase the investment for these vital grants. Religious institutions often cannot alone shoulder the investments required to deter, detect, and prevent violent extremist attacks. And they shouldn’t have to. For this reason, and because of the increased threat environment these organizations have to navigate, it’s critical that we are providing all the support they need. Just here in New Jersey, according to that most recent data released by the ADL, there were a total of 295 antisemitic incidents in the Garden State in 2020 — the second–highest number recorded in any state across the country.
In the end, thankfully, we were lucky in Texas last month. Sadly, Darren and seven others weren’t on that unseasonably warm Halloween day. Darren Drake could have been any of us. A young man from New Milford, who, like many here in North Jersey, commuted each day to the city, went to mass on Sundays, loved spending time with his wonderful family, and worked hard as a program manager at Moody’s. In between meetings, he would take time to go outside to enjoy a city that he loved so much.
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.
And this is just one of many violent attacks using vehicles as weapons of terror that we have seen throughout the past few years.
In 2016, in Nice, France, 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.
In 2017, in Barcelona, fourteen people were killed and more than 130 injured when a van drove into a crowded pedestrian walkway in an attack claimed by ISIS.
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.
Then, in 2018, in London, I an act of terror a car rammed into security barriers outside the UK’s Houses of Parliament, during the morning rush hour, injuring several people.
Also, in 2018, four cyclists — two Americans, a Swiss man and a man from the Netherlands — were killed, and three others were injured, when they were run down by a car in southern Tajikistan — an attack that ISIS claimed responsibility for.
In 2020, in an ISIS inspired attack in France a man rammed a car into police, severely injuring three officers.
In 2021, a Canadian man ran over a Muslim family in his truck, killing four and wounding a child.
These are not just random occurrences. They represent a weapon of mass destruction deployed by terrorists in their fight against peace and democracy. And the Department of Homeland Security has made it very clear that vehicle born threats still remain a major vulnerability.
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.
When enacted, the Darren Drake Act will help prevent terrorist truck attacks by requiring the Department of Homeland Security to develop and disseminate best practices for vehicle rental companies and dealers to report suspicious behavior to law enforcement. These best practices will be developed and updated in consultation with state and local law enforcement, and industry experts.
This crucial legislation will provide rental companies and car dealers with the vital information they need to flag and stop a potential threat in its tracks. We can take no chances when it comes to terrorism, which is why this bill will help ensure all rental companies report suspicious behavior at every point of sale. No excuses.
The bill will also require the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress regarding the implementation of these best practices and other ways they are helping improve coordination between the Department and rental vehicle providers.
This commonsense, bipartisan bill is aimed at stopping ISIS-inspired, lone-wolf, and other domestic terrorists. It is an important addition to our arsenal as we work to eradicate threats of terror across our nation.
As I’ve learned from my work on the House Homeland Security Committee, and as Vice Chair of the Financial Services National Security Subcommittee, there is more we can do to prevent lone wolf terror and build systems to protect against all types of attacks. And as violent extremists and lone wolf terrorists remain a national threat priority for the United States Department of homeland security, we must take any and all steps possible to fight back and keep our communities safe.
For instance, I’m leading a bipartisan bill — the FASTER Act, the Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits Act — to give law enforcement the capability to freeze the assets of all domestic terrorists and those who provide material support to terrorists.
As I continue to work to fight back against lone wolf terror on all fronts, I want to make it clear that we can do more to keep our communities safe and we will not give into the threat of extremism. Here in America, when we are threatened on our own soil, we can strike back.
As I continue to work with my Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, on the Senate Homeland Security Committee to enact the Darren Drake Act, I want to reiterate that our community, and the entire State of New Jersey will always remember and honor Darren. Thank you, Jimmy and Barbara, for having the bravery to stand up for our great country – the greatest country in the world — and for always fighting on in Darren’s name.
Today, we remember Darren and all of those whose lives have been taken by senseless acts of terror and recommit ourselves to taking all of the necessary steps to protect our communities, to fight terror, and any one or any nation who seeks to us harm.
Working together, and saluting our flag, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us.
God bless the Drakes, God bless all of you and this community, God bless our troops, and may God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.
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