H.R. 5611, Homeland Safety and Security Act

H.R. 5611

Homeland Safety and Security Act

Date
January 1, 1970 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, July 6, 2016, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 5611, the Homeland Safety and Security, under a rule. The bill was introduced on July 1, 2016, by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security, in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5611 improves federal efforts to combat the radicalization and recruitment of individuals by radical Islamist terrorist organizations and provides law enforcement with additional tools and resources to prevent future attacks on U.S. soil. In addition, the legislation provides for a process for individuals being investigated as known or suspected terrorists who attempt to buy a gun to be identified, delayed, and denied, if the burden of proof is satisfied.

Specifically, Section 2 of H.R. 5611 establishes an Office for Partnerships to Prevent Terrorism within the Department of Homeland Security. The Office shall prioritize and coordinate the Department’s efforts to prevent radical Islamist terrorism and activities related to recruitment, radicalization, and propaganda. In addition, the Office shall establish a counter-messaging program to craft strategic counter-messages to radical propaganda and extremism, and shall establish a grant program for community groups and organizations to produce counter-messaging campaigns against radical Islamist terrorism.

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is directed to submit a comprehensive Departmental strategy to counter radical Islamist terrorism in the United States. The strategy shall include: activities surrounding the counter-messaging program; Department activities countering radical Islamist terrorism-related engagement and outreach; cooperative agreements with Federal, state, local, and tribal partners; steps taken to protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties; qualitative and quantitative metrics to evaluate Departmental programs; an analysis of homeland security risk posed by radical Islamist terrorism; and near, mid, and long-term goals for countering radical Islamist terrorism.  In addition, upon completion of the strategy the Secretary shall submit an implementation plan for each of the components and offices of the Department with responsibilities under the strategy.

The Assistant Secretary for Partnerships to Prevent Terrorism shall submit annual reports for each of the next five fiscal years and include: a description of the status of the programs and policies of the Department for countering radical Islamist terrorism; a description of the activities of the Office to cooperate with and provide assistance to other Federal departments; the quantitative and qualitative outcome-based metrics used for evaluating success; an analysis of how activities correspond and adapt to the threat environment; a summary of how civil rights and liberties are protected; an evaluation of the grant program; and a description of how the Office incorporates lessons learned.

Finally, Section 2 authorizes $4 million a year to be used by the Office for Partnerships to Prevent Terrorism between fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2021. In addition, $10 million is authorized until September 30, 2017 to carry out the grant program for strategic counter-messaging of propaganda and extremism. The authorization sunsets on September 30, 2021.

Section 3 of H.R 5611 requires the Secretary to develop and conduct an exercise related to the terrorist and foreign fighter threat. The exercise shall include a scenario of persons traveling from the United States to join or provide material support or resources to a terrorist organization abroad and terrorist infiltration into the United States, including U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. In addition, the exercise shall include coordination with appropriate Federal departments and agencies, foreign governments, and State, local, tribal, and private sector stakeholders.  The Secretary is required to submit an after-action report presenting the initial findings of the exercise.

Section 5 provides the Attorney General of the United States the authority to deny the sale, delivery, or transfer of firearms or explosives to known or suspected terrorists. Specifically, when the Attorney General is notified of a request to transfer a firearm or an explosive to a person who is being, or has been investigated during the previous 5 years, as a known or suspected terrorist, the Attorney General shall notify relevant Federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, or intelligence agencies, concerning the identity of the individual.  In addition, the Attorney General may delay the transfer of the firearm by no more than 3 days and file an emergency petition in a court to prohibit the transfer of the firearm of explosive. An emergency petition can be granted only after a hearing, to which the individual looking to acquire the firearm or explosive receives notice and has an opportunity to participate with counsel.  Finally, in the case of an emergency petition filed which has been denied, the court shall require that the United States pay the costs and attorney fees of the individual.

Section 6 requires the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to annually review individuals identified in the Terrorist Screening Database and determine whether each such identification is appropriate. Finally, Section 7 provides the Secretary of State the ability to deny, limit, or revoke passports and passport cards to individuals affiliated with a foreign terrorist organization.

Background

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 86 Islamist terror plots in the United States.[1] These include successful attacks like the 2013 Boston Bombing, the July 2015 shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California, and the most recent massacre in Orlando, Florida. In addition to these plots and attacks, there has been an increased flow of American citizens who embrace violent Islamist extremist ideology joining terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, ISIS, and their affiliates around the globe.[2]

Most experts and senior U.S. security officials regard violent Islamist extremism as the principle extremist threat to the United States. In addition, Secretary Johnson previously noted that more than eight components at the Department of Homeland Security have a role in the Department’s countering violent extremism activities, highlighting the need for greater organization and clarity for domestic efforts.[3] Oversight by the Committee on the Homeland Security concluded that a number of shortcomings existed including: the lack of a clearly defined, overall lead agency; a lack of established metrics for success; unclear coordination between domestic and foreign efforts; and a lack of budgeting for and accounting of ongoing activities. [4]

The House previously considered legislation to address homeland security concerns with violent Islamist extremism and foreign fighters. On July 21, 2015, the House considered H.R. 237, the FTO Passport Revocation Act of 2015 under suspension of the rules.  The bill was agreed to by voice vote, and provisions of the legislation are included in Section 7 of H.R. 5611. The Legislative Digest for H.R. 237 can be found here. In addition, the House considered H.R. 4820, the Combating Terrorist Recruitment Act of 2016 under suspension of the rules on April 26, 2016. The bill was agreed to by a vote of 322-79, and provisions of the legislation are included in Section 2. The Legislative Digest for H.R. 4820 can be found here. In addition, the Committee on Homeland Security considered and reported out H.R 2899 on July 15, 2015, much of which is included in Section 2.

Finally, the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) reference in Section 6 is managed by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The TSDB integrated all existing U.S. government terrorist watchlists in an effort to better provide law enforcement agencies with information to help them respond appropriate during encounters with known or suspected terrorists. The No Fly List is a subset of the TSDB. The TSC collaborates with members of law enforcement, homeland security, intelligence, and international communities to provide support for U.S. counterterrorism objectives.[5] Following the attempted bombings of Northwest flight 253 on December 25, 2009, a GAO study exposed certain weaknesses in how the federal government nominated individuals to the terrorist watchlist and identified gaps in how agencies used the list to screen individuals.

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[1] See The Daily Signal “Massacre in Orlando: 86th Instance of Islamist Terror in US Since 9/11” June 14, 2016.
[2] See House Report 114-344 at 5.
[3] Id.
[4] Id. at 8.
[5][5] https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/nsb/tsc/about-the-terrorist-screening-center

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available for H.R. 5611.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.