tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 30, 2015 10:29am-12:30pm EST
the stories behind designing a congressional gold medal. he spoke at the museum of american finance in new york city, for just over an hour. >> good afternoon, everyone. welcome, welcome to our friends from the c-span audience and what that means for our audience is during the q&a period please wait for the microphone sorry one can hear. i am david cowan, president of museum of american finance and i'm joined by the founder in the audience today. i will show you one of our most cherished items in this is a bond from about 220 years ago signed by the father of our country, george washington. this is george washington's bond and then about 60 years ago this is a sheriff's certificate and it's owned by howard hughes, signed right here and-- the
point today is what do those two men have in common and the answer is that they both received a congressional gold medal. today we will hear from joel iskowitz who will tell us all about the process of gold medals because he has designed them, including one for the apollo 11 mission, the original moon landing mission. journal has an alumina's body of work and you could see his artwork in many periodicals, berks, coins, stamps. he has designed over 2000 stamps for 40 different countries. is artwork hangs in many places or his work does, the pentagon, the capital, the white house, but my favorite is was actually on the staged shuttle and it's my pleasure to introduce joel iskowitz. [applause].
>> thank you and good afternoon, everyone. i want to thank everyone for coming and thank you, david, for that very wonderful introduction i went to think a couple of individuals before i began. john herzog, number one, founder of this beautiful institution and chairman emeritus. also want to thank my very good friend constantine, who hatches and creates wonderful ideas and this being one of them, hopefully, that i speak to you about the congressional gold medals for mice perspective and i also want to thank christina aguilera who has held my hand through the hope process and make sure everything works well and the slide presentation goes well and i also certainly want to thank, last in this case, but
not least by any means, who truly made this event a possibility from my standpoint because she invested a lot of time and energy and interviewing me and trying to find out the story behind congressional gold medals from my vantage point, from my point of view and that's really what i will be doing here because when i realized that i would be speaking at this very prestigious institution and when christine mentioned i would also be covered by c-span i immediately got into incredible panic because there was a tremendous sense of privilege one has when one is tasked with something like designing a congressional gold medal. a congressional gold medal is
our nation's form of highest esteem for distinguished individuals and also institutions. it goes back to the founding of our nation. so, it's a very daunting process to take on, such a role, it's a lot of hard work, but also is incredibly gratifying. especially when one gets a chance as i have my lovely wife has had yesterday to witness the recipients of the congressional gold medal. the congressional gold medal ceremony, which occurred yesterday, so my head and my heart is spinning with the events of yesterday. because that particular congressional gold medal combines so many stories,
combines a stories of world war ii. it combines the horror and terror that hitler and his millions had visited the-- upon europe and literally the world and it also involves heroic efforts that were up until recently untold and unsung of museum curators and architects and restorers and artists and sculptors and archivists who took it upon themselves, they were in very comfortable lifestyles and had no need to be impressed into service, but order to save the great cultural treasures of the world put life and limb at risk and saved great
treasures. i apologize. this is originally going to be the final piece of my writing narrative, but we had just returned from-- it is filling my mind and my heart right now. this talk or slide presentation sound very formal, but in reality when i took a look at the seven or so congressional gold medals that i intended to speak to you about this afternoon, i realized that each and every story was so complex and had such elaborate content and such connections to so much history that it would be literally impossible with a small amount of time we have this afternoon allowing for some questions and answers at the end getting into too much detail about each everyone, so with
that my disclaimers that i will show you images and hopefully, if i had done my job properly those images will speak for themselves to some extent and i will have a very informal running commentary with each and everyone recounting some of the things that i remember the might be important and hopefully informative. it's interesting, david cowan's introduction mentioned general george washington. he was the first recipient of the congressional gold medal and sometimes legislation as we know take a great deal of time. we had to be very patient before anything becomes a law and in the case of these congressional gold medals in our modern era
sometimes the legislation takes a, 10 years or more to get passed by both bodies of congress & the president and then there is the entire process of creating the congressional gold medal, which is in the purview of the agency of the meant, which is part of the treasury and here i stand before you at the corner wall street and alexander hamilton's bank. not many footsteps from trinity church will-- where alexander hamilton, our first secretary of treasury and none of this is lost on me as i go about taking these assignments. with also not lost his loose tradition, this connectivity. i titled this exercise and looking at these congressional gold medals with you and artists perspective and that's a very
kind of office and relative term, my perspective, perspective changes with each and every individual vantage point. but, one of my perspectives and one of the things i take very much to heart when i am invited to submit a candidate for something like a congressional gold medal or for any coin that bears an image of the united states of america. it's pretty daunting stuff. i think back to the early days really of our nation when the story goes that martha and george washington actually gave up their silverware, things were pretty sketchy back in the revolution and there are stories, some are cooperated and some are not, that they give
their own silverware to create our nation's coinage. there are scholars in this room who know much better than i that the imagery that is set in coinage metals carries humankind highest ideals. it carries images of exploits that are quite extraordinary by very very distinguished powerful , creative individuals, so it's all really very inspiring and do you see, i just put together some of our great founders, great great visionaries who put together this american experiment. i have always been a great fan and admirer of abraham lincoln
and i think like most of us have a very close association to him because he really comes right out of the fabric of our society , whereas a young fellow growing up in school george washington always seemed so patrician and still tinged with so much of great britain. both in comportment and clothing and manner, but as i learned more and more about washington i was deeply deeply impressed by what character and vision he showed, what's restraint and it really set an incredibly powerful president for what we call america, what we call the united states of america. we are really unique. we are truly unique and yesterday's events are one more indication-- are we losing the
microphone? did i push something? i'll wait a second. not only did i, by the way, m i completely off my notes, but i doubt if i will remember the thread of what i was just saying. someone will have to help me and remind me. should i wait a little bit? are you able to pick me up on this? so, most talking about george washington and talking about the fact that the president he sat for i guess i would have to say the ethical precedent is so overwhelming to me as i contemplate the events of yesterday. we are the only country, nation
who returned and repatriated what would ordinarily be spoils of war, the great art and treasury of europe. we repatriated that's not only to their rightful owners, we actually even included germany come so anyway there is a great deal of history and lineage that is not lost on me. hamilton approved coinage back in that day, the revolutionary era. it is something that is-- and must be ratified by bodies of congress and once it is, it is sent up to the executive branch and the president of the united states signed it into the law of the land. just as george washington did back in those days. the one thing i did want to insert about washington in terms
of visionary, what a visionary he was, was that he insisted to the others that his image not be used on the new coinage for our nation. that's a very wise and powerful concept because he insisted that if you put my at the dizzy on our coinage you will make me a sovereign and in this mainland, in this new experiment, it is the people who are sovereign. that it still functions today. it sometimes gets wild and woolly and in an election cycle like we have it's not always pretty, but the precepts that the founders lay down are alive and well and i can tell you as an american citizen, a plain regular guy without many connections, that the system of meritocracy is still alive and
without any special elections or insider advantages i know personally that my artwork, because of it hitting the mark at certain points gets to be part of our nation's history, and heritage in itself, which is very very daunting for me. i'm not going to bother with some of this verbiage, but basically i was trying to talk about the process, which i think i alluded to to some extent, this tremendous lineage to it that goes on today. today secretary lu just like alexander hamilton must sign any coinage or any metal into eternal life. sorry to go back. i'm going to go back one more
last time here for a second. i just want to also parenthetically mention that i also besides having a great honor and privilege to work for the united states mint and take on these incredibly inspiring assignments, that through the air force art program and through the nassau art program i have had the occasion and privilege to travel with the united states air force to many different venues and i have gotten the privilege of spending time down in nasa and getting to witness city of experts committed to incredible feats and witnessed a couple of launches of space shuttles, so anything is connected as part of my perspective and i think that forms a lot of what i have done
in terms of my work. the very first congressional gold medal that was ever accepted was for the women's air force service pilots. very often, by the way, another great thing about our nation is that we may not show gratitude to our men and women in uniform or those who have done great service and achieved great things for humanity, but after 60 or 70 years we come around and we give credit where it's due. these women, they flew more readers, which were nicknamed widow makers.
the male pilots who they were standing in for, so they could be assigned combat duty, they were afraid because it was nicknamed the widow maker. these women, 25 of the women's air force pilot was hand selected by jackie cochran and these women flew those be 26 planes and loved every minute of it. they were an incredible group of ladies that my wife and i got to meet when the congressional gold medal was the stove upon them back in 2009. that is my drawing. in terms of process, it's a pencil drawing. it's not just one pencil drawing i might go through 45 different versions before i get it right and before a very elaborate process that that's the designs.
feel is gotten right enough to be part of a design portfolio that makes it through the internal vetting process. it's quite complex-- complex, credibility, manufacturability, a static integrity etc. and then it goes national review boards who make recommendations and the process is not over until the secretary of the united states of the treasury-- part of me, i have been watching too many congressional hearings. the secretary of the treasury, secretary lu ended this day and age finds it into being. then, there is a process that i won't go into of sculpting the metal. we have-- i'm part of a group called that artistic in fusion, which began in 2003, by henrietta ford, a visionary woman in her own right who
wanted to democratize the process and-- process and bring the citizen into the process of invigorating the imagery on our coins and medals. this was sculpted by phoebe who is part of a team of doctor engravers in philadelphia, world-class sculptor engravers who are accomplished artist who also submit design candidates, two-dimensional design candidates for consideration. i call the view the of philadelphia. this is another shot of it with my iphone. when you shoot a three-dimensional least, very often the lighting is very telling of a different story. this is a shot of what a congressional gold medal ceremony looks like when it's given to a group such as the
women's air force service pilots. incidentally,-- and another thig that is not lost on me is that in this day and age it's also very edifying and wonderful to see both sides of congress meet in perfect agreement over perfectly well-deserved honor and it just does your heart good as an american to see the leadership of congress recognizing these heroes and these people of great distinction who have done great deeds and paid great sacrifice and also to hear them complementing me over my work. by the way, the woman in the center is jeanie parish and she
accepted on behalf of that entire lofts community because these metals, most of them that i have done-- actually all of them that i have done our groups are recipients, collectively the so. the second congressional gold medal was for the nisei shoulders of world war ii. this is an interesting and also very nuance story because the backdrop, of course, was the attack of the pearl harbor and fdr at the time soffit under the circumstances to with an executive order inter, incarcerate and inter people of japanese ancestry both on hawaii and the mainland and is a context-- on this-- i'm sorry is
a context for how complex the stories are, he also issued simultaneously another executive order, which came probably close to its real beliefs that no one should be judged on their citizenship or their american identity by race or color, so against this backdrop of racial injustice where family and friends were incarcerated in interment camps, these men served in the mountains and saved the lost the tying at great cost, at great cost and incidentally served with more military distinction and recognition than any candidate in american military history.
this is honoring the 442nd regiment combat team, though hundred infantry battalion in the military intelligence service and that's why there are only three stars appearing indicating the three branches. those are the little subtleties that go into some of the thought process. incidentally, in terms of the thought process, before i ever left a pencil up, if i'm doing my job correctly especially since my narratives, the task orders that come to us come within and attachment and the attachment besides the description of what is needed and in terms of the design is the congressional law that has been passed and so that's the
essence. so, when i do my first research i read congressional findings. they enumerate sometimes 28 different items, why the wasps or why the nisei soldiers course deserving of the congressional gold medals, which is literally a higher civilian award. this is the closest i've ever gotten to doing a congressional gold-medal design for an individual. most of them-- in a sense these men, group recipients with a combined effort. we are honoring john glenn, the first american to orbit the earth and neil armstrong, michael collins and buzz aldrin that represent the apollo 11 mission, which landed the first
earthling on another planetary body, on our leader surface. i saw this on black-and-white tv. i was in san francisco somewhere and it was an indelible moment in human history. as a matter of fact, when i was sitting in dave cowan's office and he was showing me the certificates for george washington and howard hughes being congressional gold medal recipients, what a strange interesting position and he said this is really cool and i told david in his office, i said you know, the speaker of the house, john boehner whose last congressional gold medal ceremony was yesterday in the rotunda of the capital, in the rotunda of the capital was the only congressional gold ceremony
i attended in the rotunda, the inner sanctum of our country george washington was going to be interned there like napoleon, but other circumstances prevailed and in the rotunda the speaker of the house came to the podium and he said okay, i'm going to say what everyone in this room and there were quite a number of people in the room including scott kelly who is now in orbit on the space station, he said i'm going to say what everyone is thinking. this is pretty cool. it was really true. it was really true because there's almost all the way to describe these kinds of exploits, these kinds of seats. they defy imagination. so, basically this is the congressional gold medal, my drawing. this is again, phoebe temples
and credible sculpt and this is the reverse. incidentally, artistically it's supposed to be taught by an artist. between you and me and anyone else who might be listening in, i love art. i have loved art all of my life. when the monuments men were honored yesterday, it was incredible to witness that. art is our crowning legacy. its communication of who we are as human beings. our creativity, it's a repository of all we are. but, i believe what duke allington said, there is no labeling. there is no formula, one size does not fit all and when i was tearing my hair out and trying
to figure out what to do for the reverse, i was playing around with a lot of different elements, but i really was very excited by the fact that since i was working in the round as you do with coinage, the linear rules of composition and such are thrown out the window just as you experience orbiting the earth. orbiting the moon rose one out of our usual ways of reckoning our own identity and are replaced with in it and it's all thrown into complete flux, so i went to achieve a sense of vertigo, almost. i wanted to achieve a sense that there is no orienting point. there is no north and south. it three-dimensional, but it's only motion. talk about a point of view. the reverse sculpt, which is
done by the lead sculptor of the united states mint, don everhart and here's a little insight baseball for you, don called me up on the phone and said i am working on the clay for the reverse for the new frontier. jural, the sea of tranquility what you indicated with a lunar service and i said no, because i had to portray the lunar module in such a way that it would have been inaccurate to show the sea of tranquility, the actual landing site of the eagle and so i said, no, it's just a lot of lunar craters that look really lunar intext year. i said have fun with that and just make it look like the moon in contrast to the earth. not many people-- i will probably never repeat that. i got to go back to this. a photograph that ginny captain
i said let's use that photograph. where, again in the rotunda of the capital for john trumbull's murals, one of which was the resignation of george washington, of general washington, which crumble called one of the greatest moral lessons in history, which it was. there before we all left, someone took a snap of me between the obverse and reverse blowup and behind me are john trumbull's murals. incidentally, laid down his brush to be george washington's aide to camp. everything is connected. a great story i had to quickly tell you about this metal. as i was getting ready to leave the capitol rotunda my head literally i was over the moon, pun intended.
don everhart who sculpted the reverse said joel, are you going to go to the after event where nasa and families of astronauts and the caucus room and i said i don't know anything about that. he said i don't know anything about it either, but a congressional page just that please follow me. do you want to call-- go i had to call the united states mint because i was going to meet them for lunch and i said i'm going to stay with don and see the astronauts at the after event and they tease me of course. your going to throw us over for some astronauts. this gentleman sitting here whom it wasn't enough that when i followed dawn into the caucus room i got to shake everyone's hand. i got to shake the hand of neil armstrong. i had a conversation about his remarks in the capitol rotunda,
which were soaring, again pun intended. i went over to john glenn and at one point i told him something that is kind of a wonderful story i have to tell you, talk about cool. when i first got the assignment as a layman by first question was, well, how am i going to portray friendship seven. how did it get inserted into orbit, what was its position, was going east to west, was a going west to east, wasn't going against, you know, the rotation of the earth on its axis. i didn't know anything about that even though i spent time at nasa. this was the mercury program on before i visited nasa. i have got to go over to john glenn and i should his hand and i said senator glenn, i must tell you that when i was trying to get to represent friendship
seven correctly a metal, i came across nasa's archives kind of a crummy pdf document from manned spaceflight center and in that document on page 32 or something or hundred 32, it was something called pilot flight report. i felt like i found the holy grail. in john glenn's perfectly matter of fact nasa ease he recounts the most hair-raising experience that you can possibly imagine. i actually copied it and was going to read some to you, but i went to move this along so we can get to a question and answer period. while i was standing there telling him that, a woman who is kind of in charge of things wanted to move the senator over
to a photo op and john glenn said, hold on, i'm speaking to the man who designed the metal and for me this is an out of body experience because it was out of a page from tomball. it was out of a page from the right stuff for the astronauts went up against the nasa brass and scientists at the time and said, look, we are not going to be put in a caps off. that is a space craft and we want window for orientation and we want a control stick because we're not monkeys, we are not dogs, we are not spam in a can. we are pilots and if john glenn and the mercury astronauts didn't get their way, and they did, john glenn would not have had a window. he would not have had a control stick and would not have been
able to manually adjust the reentry, so he would avoid being burnt to a crisp. the mission would have failed. we would have lost john glenn and these are some of the back stories that go through my mind when i'm designing these. incidentally, i got to meet john glenn again because adam sack which who is here today was trying to garner enough support for legislation for the ohio pathway through space, national heritage site. he is making good process and there's good reason for it. for medicine out of who have been part of nasa space program astronauts. of ohio is an amazing place. also, spawned six or seven sitting united states presidents and they loved politics. i'm going to kind of go quickly here because again, each and every one of these have compelling stories and are very very complex.
back in 2000, there was congressional legislation that was signed into being to recognize the navajo code talkers in 2000, and they received their congressional gold-medal finally. they saved many soldiers lives. they created many united states victories because the code was unbroken. the professional decoders japanese and germans cannot penetrate this language and so in 2008, they realized the congress said there were many other tribes that also contributed to the war efforts as code talkers, so this was my first code talker congressional gold-medal for the seminal coded talkers and a little artistic
parenthetical consideration is that if you look at the border that is a seminal border that in the seminal iconic means fluidity, communication and so these kind of subtleties might be lost on some, but while you're putting this together it's very important and it's very important, by the way, when these metals reach the recipients because when they recognize that you have been your homework and you are trying to honor them accurately, there really appreciative and that is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me when i see the recipients say that the work rings true. second one was the apache tribe, a much more active scenario where while running into fire,
which is what these men did, they provided cover with their indecipherable codes. the hopi code talkers-- incidentally, i have to go back for a second. this is sculpted by joseph and by the way, all of the sculpting engravers in philadelphia, are all classically trained and are very much under song sometimes, but they are world-class sculptors and every time i get a wonderful feeling when i see them bring my two-dimensional linear concepts to new heights, pun intended again. the hopi code talker be 54 flying above, sculpted by lead sculptor don everhart. in the background kind of faded
is highly revered chief white eagle. sculpted by phoebe. okay. here is where some of my experiences traveling with air force kind of paid off in terms of believability. with the air force 50th anniversary of world war ii, we want to literally around the world to visit china. we were in hawaii. i saw the marks at the khmer for space. we visited the arizona. these things become powerful. when you have direct contact as opposed in direct contact, it's
going to play a role in how you interpret this. is going to mean so much more also being there, being in guam, being in india, being in -- across the himalayas. we went to china, and i also want to nobody with the air force and i also went down to fort bragg and that the green berets, special ops graduating from their training. and i also did a private sector painting of the filthy 13 who parachuted in what would have been, which really was a suicide mission to secure bridges in normandy and actually was incredibly important factor in the success of freeing the code 10 peninsula from hitler, so i had a lot of background. the first special service forces were the only combined united states and canadian military units and they made silent
landings, which is indicated by my xers. they climbed mountains at a critical altitudes and rigorous conditions. they were the precursors of our special ops and they were quite a group of men to encounter when i got to see them get their congressional gold-medal back in february. scope was by joe menna. the reverse was done by a fellow artists. this is the elite and the tree, so the arrow had to be a part of
that if a tree. actually, another piece of inside baseball, there was a commander who the man revered, like napoleon. he was first and always and when he was relieved of his duty, these tough guys made john wayne look like a wimp, they broke down in tears. i actually put fredericks portrait in the metal. looked exactly like my friend gary stern, who is here today. it's a metal that is given collectively, so it wasn't going to fly. okay. i'm going to talk very little about this because it's so meaningful. here we are not far from the trinity church where hamilton-- [inaudible] >> the events of that black day,
that horrible terrible unimaginable day, what do you do if you are a narrative artis? what do you do if you are a narrative artis with the sacred background who likes to tell stories with background as an illustrator? what do you do? one size for congressional gold-medal. they are not like the medal of freedom for the national arts medal, which are beautiful things. each congressional gold medal was individually crafted and struck specifically for the recipients in each story is different. what would one do? what would you do for this story? went-- what i came up with as best i could describe to you our lines, abstract lines, conceptual piece. i wasn't about to make this literal. literally it was too horrifying to contemplate doing anything literally or figuratively.
and will go into my art theories. i will just tell you what my thinking was and really design is thinking with a pencil in your hand. so, my thinking was if i make lines going up that could counteract the horrible and unimaginable loss of the lines going down. they also configured the powers that we lost. they are indicative of the towers themselves. one, of course, is inverted because our world was turned upside down that day and i'm sure everyone feels the same way. that was unimaginable. science fiction like war, but it was real. i got a chance to visit the sites once on my own, just because i had to go. than through the meant when the
mentor was striking a national metal i visited the memorial when it was a construction site and then again when the congressional gold-medal were about to be struck, one for new york, one for shanksville, pennsylvania and one for the pentagon. i visited through the kindness of the united states mint the 911 memorial. i went on my second tour in most of the construction was complete , and what i learned by that direct encounter was that the names around the reflecting pools, the names and the complexity of trying to arrange the names in a respectful way besides it being a museum it's a memorial in a grave site and to
be respectful they had to hire elite algorithm specialists to put together the names of everyone from all the flights, and certainly the events of 911. there were married couples who worked in different towers. they were gay couples who had different surnames. so, the complexity of that and the care that was taken was very very impressive to me and of the reason why the roses on that wall, which i hope that showed a spray from the falling water that was indicating great loss, the people at the 911 memorial had a logistics problem because with that so many in the
calendar year, there's on average 16 birthdays, other anniversaries and people would come with flowers and it would be a logistics problem with momento sunflowers like they tacked up on the fences at the church during the event. so, they took upon themselves and every birthday and every occasion to put a flower in the name, these names are accused great into the wall like a gravestone and in design speak the legend or inscription always, which is in the sky is the same indicated in my drawing here as remember, meaning it's raised. when i found out that this was designed was selected i called don everhart said, do me a favor, if we are going to make
this right, let's engrave, remember into the stone because that's very similar to the way it's done at the memorial. and the other part of that is, of course, the numbers you can probably well imagine, when you design its again great different when you design round. there are different rules roughed apollo in different rules you have to break as an artist, but this is a conceptual piece, so the four flights i put in as if i placed them very carefully as if around the face of this metal were an analog clock. so, flight 11 that hit the north tower at 8:21 a.m. or whatever was exactly a 21-- 8:21 and all the flights are positioned exactly at the times that souls met their fate.
so, it was a very emotional metal and a very proud of it as well. scoped is done by jim and inside baseball again, the lines were very difficult, he told me, to get them raised and to get them to have integrity. went through a lot of technical ups and downs to achieve his sculpt. that metal, by the way, most of metals congressional gold medals are housed in the smithsonian institution, but sometimes at the end of the lot it does say that the sense of congress is in the case of the nisei the metal can travel on exhibition to be later returned and in case of the nisei it travel to six major museums including the world war ii museum and is now part of the permit exhibition at the
smithsonian called the price of freedom. the american fighter aces served in every theater of war. they served in world war i. they served in world war ii. they served in korea and they served in vietnam. each branch of service is represented and to meet those gentlemen when they received their congressional gold-medal, this is cbn. i just put in a couple of different versions to show the lighting and sense of the portraiture better in other lighting conditions and don everhart did a spectacular reverse with the four cross our associated with these gentlemen. of course, on my operas is not only the wings military aviators
weeks, but in the center those wings show in the reach of their efforts. above them is on ace of spades, which goes way back before world war i and is associated with aviators. this is my own shot with my iphone could i just thought the lighting showed phebe's incredible interpretation with my portraits of these gentlemen. this is the last slide. this is what i was talking about at the outset. we got to witness the monuments men receiving their congressional gold-medal. there were four. there are six that are surviving today and forward present at yesterday's ceremony including terry ebling are from new jersey, who has a boy in germany fled with his family to america
weeks before. as a 19-year old new jersey lad, joined the army and eventually was with the monuments men. his job, his mission was to go to the salt mines and save priceless works of art. the astronomer, which is by the way put that in because it wasn't only artworks and oils and sculpture, it was all of civilizations precious heritage, manuscripts, voltaire, everything. they were taking everything and yesterday i got a chance to speak to harry after he was interviewed by the german press and he said, do you know when i was in the salt mines, they were pristine.
this is chilling to me. they were clean perfect and atmospherically controlled to protect the work. it to protect work for what, to protect the work for themselves that no one would get to have. the face of pure evil and in the face of pure evil what makes me feel so honored and so privileged to be un-american and as an american get to tell some of these stories is that in our worst days, in our darkest days like 911, which reminds of-- as a what must've been like in pearl harbor and unimaginable for and practice of the holocaust, in our worst days it also brings out the very finest of what human beings are capable of and that's with the congressional gold medal is really all about. it's been my privilege to be
tasked with telling some of the stories and it's my privilege to spend this time with you this afternoon to tell you a little bit about my perspective. thank you so much. [applause]. >> she will kill me because she is such a private person. my beautiful wife is smiling, so things are good. i came close to living as no time for renée, but we can sneak a few in. by the way, i should show you like this it's a congressional hearing. these are notes i've and pay no attention to. i have been making them for days that. i didn't even look at them. i'm glad i didn't. yes. >> i noticed in the first three metals, you had the figures
coming out of the boundary, either stepping over. the head is above the boundary, and i was wondering was that a little bit on your part to say that people are breaking barriers? >> absolutely. i'm so glad you mentioned that because not only are the women on the tarmac, the women's air force service pilots walking out to us-- let's see if we can get back there and hurry. that is very perceptive of you. thank you because it gives me a chance to reiterate a design aspect and the design aspect has to be tied. it has to be tied to content. it has to contain a representation of something you are trying to say that. like that one. that ceremony in the bitter cold updike and 44, meant a great deal to these men.
they were being complemented. they saved-- stayed in the mountains in the winter, the lost battalion, so that ceremony is iconic, more than iconic to the nisei. i thought you were-- absolutely, i wanted them to break out, to break the third wall and come out to us and reach out to us, absolutely. if the convention, artistic. art is really-- it was said very well and as i said earlier i love art and there are thing about art, but sometime art gets a little bit filled with itself and my personal take is that i think art, whether you want to or not it will represent something. ..
so yes they broke barriers. did you have a question? >> can you give us an idea whether they surprise you with graphic resources or you do your own research or where do some of the images for example the types of paintball, how do you come up with those images? >> let's see. do we have another couple hours here? i will be very brief. it is obviously a very complex rao. the first place i usually had a psyche and is a site. if it's anywhere within physical ability, even if it happened long ago, there will be vestiges in a trail. it will be people who remember. that is why traveling with the air force and going down to nasa, seton home run would spin.
it's a different experience than any other media. so that would be my first ineffectiveness library of congress, national archives. things in the public domain and i also do my own photography, use models come in mix-and-match. i love what george balanchine said when he was interviewed once feared interviewers had what was it like to be a creator of this work? he stopped the interviewer and then creator. i am not a creator. i take a bit from here and there an assemblage artist. i related to that because you take from many different sources and re-create a brand-new image. mostly national archives, library of congress, my own
photography and my own models to simulate poses that wind up eating the final post. >> would you describe the back of the 9/11 metal? you didn't show us the back. you only showed us one side. >> i'm sorry. that is my omission and you are absolutely right. the back of the metal from 9/11 is a common reverse. with different inscriptions. the industry is an american bald eagle. i don't have a picture right now. i apologize. it was designed and sculpted by phoebe hensel and it's an american bald eagle positioned away from the two or the two or three quarters and yet it's turning back as if to look in retrospect for introspection.
each side, the new york metal reverse, the pentagon metal reverse and shanks reversed each have different appropriate inscriptions. i couldn't tell you what they are right now, but that is what the reverse of all three medals is. [inaudible] you certainly can. if you go to the united states mint.gov and go to the historical archives, historical picture archives, you'll have all all the congressional gold medals and you will be able to enlarge them and see them clearly and they will have descriptions that are probably a lot more accurate than mine. yes, david. >> is their actual gold in the gold medals and how many are
struck? >> that is a great question. that is a great off a question thank you, david. guess it is all solid gold and i'm beyond my pay scale but from what i now understand to be correct that i do know it is solid gold. it winds up in the smithsonian. unless in the letter of the law the finance of congress also say it can travel to associate or appropriate venues such as the metal for the first special service force is spent time in canada which is certainly a corporate. most all wind up at the smithsonian, but not all. i do think the 9/11 metal for new york is housed here at the 9/11 museum.
i hope it's not just in the collection. i hope it's on display somewhere. from what i know, it is about $30,000 on wall street. so we can talk money. it's about $30,000 that might be the mediator. the beautiful thing about the mint does not operate at a deficit. and no, it never costs the taxpayer to create congressional gold medals because bronze replicas of each and every gold medal are made and are given to the recipient you and i have to buy -- i don't have free samples of rawlinson certainly not a
goal. >> i noticed all the metals are done in detail, minute. i don't know how long it takes you to complete one to your satisfaction. i am just amazed how much you put into it, how much time. the >> people are going to ask you how much i paid you to ask me such a question. [laughter] thank you. one size does not fit all. i did sculptor, don everhart had a wonderful post of an artist handymen to draw into our direct to your and the art director tagline, a new york cartoon saying why should i pay coming
you know, $2500 for this. you did that in 15 minutes in the artist said yes, but it took me a lifetime to be able to do it in 15 minutes. so you know, with that in mind there is no rule of thumb. each and every one is very different. in general, it is months. usually a few months from the time i get the assignment unless i get a call and they say joel, we really need this right away. the united states meant i'm unabashedly push everything away because of the nature of the work and because i feel so privileged to be able to contribute to such a fine team. when you go on the main site if you do you will see eight nonetheless are just a confusion program artists. there's no one say joel is a great follow and a good artist. the path into the mohammed ali.
i would love that, but it doesn't work that way. the process is that it is an elaborate procedure were each and every program essay contest between the 18 very, very fine artists in the program and the world-class sculptor also submit designs, many of which are minted winning. the portfolio set the review board is rather hopeless graced us with the presence well knows sometimes there is a portfolio of 30 or 40 different design and one select it, john conchita told the greater of the united states spent -- jewel kind of speaks in a wonderful accent but it's a combination of robert deniro and the first godfather and eliot ness. know what it feels like.
he says that like a rocket ship. i go to my nasa imagery. he was absolutely right. it doesn't ever get old because the elaborate process in the nature of what you are doing. my wife will tell you he keeps on saying this is the most important point ever. they are all important. [inaudible] >> i am not sure who designed it but my guess to be a frenchman. think of lafayette to george washington called my son. lafayette named his sons to two men really had off. the congressional gold medal to george washington was given to him by thomas jefferson 14 years after it was approved.
it was struck in paris. so i don't know who the designer and sculpture engraver wise, but i do know it was struck in paris. that's a good question. but that the smithsonian or maybe the museum. i don't know. [inaudible] >> thank goodness. i was in grade to be in front of all of this. david mensch all mentioned this. thanks so much. >> i want to thank you for that gold medal talk. thank you so much. [applause]
>> to maintain i think that we need to think about going forward, what are the principles we are going to operate under. a 15 or 20-point and it's great. i can beat him. i've got a 30-point plan. that is great. what are the underlying principles. when the plants go under, we can't get agreement on something like that. i think the united states and we as citizens all remember our first principles, and i don't think the declaration of independence and the constitution of the united states are uploaded documents. declaration tells us -- the declaration tells us our rights come from god, not from government.
[applause] the constitution as a framework that is set up not as some kind of a result of bureaucratic outgoing, but something designed to protect and promote freedom. >> are in the morning program also includes new york governor mario cuomo snaked in 84 democratic convention speech and the congressional gold medal ceremony for massachusetts republican governor, edward brooke. that is tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span. >> as 2015 wraps up, c-span present congress hearing review, a look back at albany's making issues, debates and hearing that took center stage on capitol hill this year. join us thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern as we revisit mitch mcconnell taken his position as senate majority leader. hope france's historic address
to joint session of congress. the resignation of house speaker john boehner and the election of paul ryan. the debate over the nuclear deal with iran and reaction from congress on mass shootings here and abroad, gun control, terrorism and the rise of isis. congress year in review on c-span thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. >> members of congress continued their holiday recess this week.
state department issued almost 10 million visas for people seeking temporary entry into the united states. state department issued an additional 531,463 and the mp said last year alone. does 10.5 million immigrants a non-immigrant visa holders joined an estimated 20 million others who entered the united states without visas under the visa waiver program. our government also issued 1,075,063 border crossing cards of the mexican nationals than just the first 10 months of fiscal year 2015. there is an estimated close to 10 million border crossing cards in circulation today. on top of that, more than a million non-immigrant students are lawfully studying in the united states on student visas. some 2,093,700,011 individuals were granted employment authorization and 2015 and fiscal year 2013 the last year for which statistics are
available to the united states granted asylum status to 25,199 people and fiscal year 2008 fiscal year 2014 the number of individuals claiming a credible fear of persecution in their home country increased from 921%. at that graphic. i would appreciate it. we are seeing a rapid rise of people coming to the united states from stepping foot into our country and claiming asylum a lot of discussion about refugees to the administration want to import to the united states of america. let's also understand the surge happening on our borders. just today on the front page of the "washington post," a front-page story about the number of children coming across our borders. but the graphic down. thank you at the total number of asylum applications between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2014 more than doubled. going from 47,000 plus over
108,069,933 refugees were resettled in the united states just last year. that's an incomplete picture inevitably not enough for the obama administration. not everyone who is here illegally are obtained lawful status with a got here. fiscal year 2013, 241,400 -- 241,442 people were processed for expedited removal. fiscal year 2014 border patrol makes 486,651 apprehensions. still, an estimated 15 million people that are here illegally. it's estimated 40% of the folks entered legally in that we did not leave. these numbers beg the question of whether the united states is doing enough to bed people applying to come to the united states. a world is changing them along with it the types of threats and counter. certainly with their experience with 9/11 the boston bombers in
the more recent terrorist attacks making clear the immigration screening process is a critical element in protect the american people. preparing the background for nationals before they come to the united faces crucial for understanding who is entering the united states. the terrorist attacks in san bernardino highlight how the background checks have to be. we have some of the most horrific terror episodes we've had in our nation recently in california. wounding 21 more. it was the deadliest terrorist attack in the united states soil from september 11th. you need both week came on a visa before getting her green card. she passed akron check fish immigrated to the united states and pakistan. dhs checked the name again fun for his national security
database. then a state department user fingerprint to do a criminal background check. finally when applying for resident status, dhs check her out again. she cleared each check. no red flags were raised. it is clear looking back that it was well known among friends and family issues supported by the jihadist and the united states. it is reported this morning on msnbc that as early as 2011 homeland security was preparing to check social media and yet homeland security decided that was a bad idea. almost every story i've ever heard, read and team us about even president has made comment about terrorists who are really good at using social media. back in 2011 when homeland security was thinking that using social media, the decision in homeland security was a bad
idea. they made the wrong call. it was unclear what dhs will actually do when it encounters fraud via social media or other tools that utilize this applicant seeking the united states. it is my understanding homeland security might start looking not at your publicly available information under current law overseeing a visa to violating terms are committing fraud is sufficient but not pursuant to executive action such conduct does not necessarily a priority for removal. all too often we hear stories of those encountered by law enforcement and commit crimes and then jeh jeh johnson, secrey of homeland security put a guide in and says even if you commit sex crimes, even if you do other crimes, don't necessarily need to deport them. they are here illegally. they committed a crime in homeland security is a news
discussion. we may not want to deport these people. it is not a threat to public safety. you tell a woman who has been that it is not against public safety to have that person here. we are going to go through that in the committee today. the subcommittee last thursday left many frustrated about the abilities to address the growing threat. homeland security sent for screening coordination office to this committee. it was an embarrassment. as the deputy assistant secretary, her bio state sheet quote deters, detects and denies access to or withholds benefits from individuals who may pose a threat to the united states of america. she couldn't answer a single question. i don't know. i'll have to get back with you. all the promises she made, by the way, she didn't fulfill.
she couldn't even tell me if more people coming by land, by sea or by air. she thinks most people come in by air. and she's in charge of screening. you can see why we are scared to death that this administration, the department of homeland security, the state department is not protecting the american people. she has worked in the office since 2007. the basic lack of information of a senior official raises serious concerns and inspires little confidence in americans have legitimate concerns about the threat that radical extremists pose to their safe in the safety of their friends, families and communities. i would like to complete my opening remarks with the video. this is a national security advisor and followed up -- you will see. i will speak for itself.
>> is. >> as. >> as president above are reconsidering its plan to accept 10,003 refugees over the next year? >> no, chris. we are still planning to take in serum refugees. we have robust procedures for those refugees that involves our intelligence community, counterterrorism center, fighting against the information. >> we have very extensive procedures for all seeing refugees who would come to the united states. there's a very careful vetting process that includes the intelligence community, national terrorism center, homeland security sue we can make sure we screen anybody that comes to the united states. >> are you confident enough as the united states brings searing refugees into our country to pledge that this will never happen here? >> with respect to refugees we have the most extensive security vetting we've ever had to do with your refugees coming to the united states that involve not
just the department of homeland security and state department intelligence community, terrorism and are so anybody that comes to the united states we the united states we carefully bet against all of our information. >> that's the challenge we are all talking about that we can only query against that which we have collected and so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in syria in a way that would get their identity or their interests reflected in our database, we can create a database until the cows come home, but nothing will show up because we have no record on that person. that is what assistant director steinbach was talking about. you can only query what you have collected. >> at least the fbi director calls it like it is. at least the fbi dirt tells us candidly what is happening out there. in the case of the most recent terrorist attack, when the person maybe hasn't been here or there is other circumstances, you can see why we have great
cause for concern. where the series of questions today. i would like to introduce the panel, allow for their opening statements and then will have the opening statement of the questions from there. i will hold the record open for five legislative days for any members who would like to submit a statement. we would not recognize or witnesses. we are pleased to welcome the honorable alan bersin at the opposite policy of the united states department of homeland security. the honorable leon rodriguez, director of united states citizenship and immigration services. the honorable michele bond, assistant secretary of the consular affairs at the united states department of state and the honorable anne richard commander of population refugees
and migration to the united states department. we welcome the wall in thank you for being here. pursuant to committee votes, all witnesses are sworn before they testify. if you please rise and raise your right hands. do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to get will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? thank you. please be seated. but the record reflect the witnesses answered in the affirmative. in order to allow time for discussion, we would appreciate you please limit your testimony to five minutes. your entire written record statement will be made part of the record. we will do that for opening statements for mr. comments and then we will go to questions from there. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> good morning, mr. chairman, members of the committee. last time i had the privilege of being here was to discuss the
issue of libya. i am happy to be here this morning. i look forward to our dialogue. i also in his 15th year since 2001, september 11, 2001 want to express their support and sympathy that i and my family field and i am sure my colleagues on the panel shared and colleagues across federal service or the families of those killed in san bernardino and for the families and the victims who were injured, 21 victims injured in that terrorist attack. i written testimonies have been submitted to the committee describing in some detail the systems that have been put in place for screening of terrorist travel. but i would like to do in the four minutes i have left is to give you an overview to look at the system and the four major
shaping factors that have built-in said 9/11. i point out that this is a system that was built under the leadership of two presidents, one republican, one democrat, was built under the leadership before homeland security secretary's, two democratic into republican who's built under for secretaries of state, two republicans, two democrats. what we face after 9/11 were a situation in which we did not have a unified system. i was the united states attorney in southern california and i recall a minute to 90s that there were terrorist watch list in each of the various departments. we were stovepipes appeared in the aftermath in 14 years since 9/11 we have built a system that brings together the information of the united states government
and institutionalizes it in a multiagency way. we have a national counterterrorism center national counterterrorism center come in and ptc that maintains the tide, terrorist identities database. environment. we have the terrorist screening database managed by a multiagency terrorist screening center, terrorist watch list. we actually brought the system together and we do communicate and i trust during this hearing we will have an opportunity to discuss that. the second major shaping influence was we realized 98% or 99% of all trade and travel in the united states is perfectly lawful and legitimate and therefore we needed to see security and travel facilitation and trade not as being mutually exclusive, but as being part of the same process. we needed to introduce the risk management into the trade into the vetting systems.
the third influence was that we recognize in a global world where there is a massive instantaneous constant flow of goods, people, ideas, capital, electrons on the images and ideas that in fact protect the homeland, the homeland security enterprise is inherently transnational and we built out a system in which together with the state department, defense department come intelligence agencies committee hs has a presence abroad to watch movement of cargo and the movement of persons towards the homeland. fourthly, what we have seen recently and that is shaping the system now is that in fact we have a transnational threat that a cyberenabled and that our terrorist enemies are actually using the internet to radicalize those who listen to their
message and are receptive to it. so at end, what we have built and what we need to continue to build hopefully in a bipartisan fashion is the system that protects the american people by building up a homeland security enterprise that takes into account pre-departure towards the united states, towards the united states, entry of the united states and at the time the united states in due course. lastly, mr. chairman, i have with all due respect would be remiss if i did not say on behalf of calais and the receipt i know of no other person in the office i'm responsible for who is more dedicated, more knowledgeable about screening. the fact of the matter is she came to this hearing expecting to talk about the visa waiver program and she was hardly questioned at all about it. i make no apologies for her.
she is first rate. she is an american, and future it and i regret that he came away with a different impression. thank you. >> that we will be discussing. mr. rodriguez coming are recognized for five minutes. >> good morning chairman, ranking member, members of the committee. one of our very most obligation as public servants is to safeguard public safety and national security. that is particularly true when we are granting benefits and privileges. so when we give somebody a drivers license, or require a test of another person will drive safely. when they give professional licenses, we know they can practice their professions in a manner that poses minimal threat or harm. we worked in every respect and what we do to minimize risk that
is particularly true in the area citizenship and immigration with a great citizenship and immigration benefits. we take a number of safeguards to protect the national security. an observation made by congressman gaudi last week at a hearing before the subcommittee resonated with me particularly. he challenged us that when incidents occur we be talking not just about what we are doing in response to that incident, but that we really be thinking in terms of prevention of future challenges. as i reflect on that, that in fact has been her posture and will continue to be our posture in the future. i'll give a few examples. we are a secretary johnson has frequently observed in an evolving threat environment. more and more the threats are not the threat posed by organizations act and in a
concerted manner, but increasingly those threats are the threats of isolated individuals were isolated groups of people, perhaps inspired by the organizations that present a threat to our country. in light of that combination of threats, and of threats come in the organized and also the isolated threats, we have been taking a number of measures over the past few years to reinforce the work that we do. one clear example is the institution of the interagency check that we apply in refugee vetting and other environments that gives us a very organized, very methodical way to query against intelligence databases when we are screening particular individuals. there have been discussions about individuals who enter the united states at earlier times. some of those individuals were not subject to that sort of screening. they would be today and in many cases that would have prevented their entry. when we screen syrian refugees,
we prescreen the cases before interviews are conduct. that is another innovation in a spirit of prevention. we have been piloting the use of social media for the vetting of particular categories of people seeking individuals. there have in fact been three pilots that u.s. eis has viewed in combination with its intelligence community and law enforcement partners to screen particular categories of individuals seeking immigration benefits. regardie concluded to pilots operated on a relatively small group of people. but for a number of important lessons from the pilot, which no doubt i will have an opportunity to expand on those lessons in this hearing and now we are in the midst of a third pilot which in fact has been applied and is in the process of being applied to literally thousands of applicants for immigration.
and he thought the department of security had simply forgone permit the use of social media for purposes of immigration screening is a mistake and thought. we have not spoken about it in great detail because the fact is the more we speak about it, the more those who will use it will cease to use it knowing we will be examining the content. what happened in san bernardino is a tragedy you should take no other lesson from what happened in san bernardino that we need to look at what we do and making sure something like that does not happen again. a tragedy of that type does not happen again. we have been working together with our partners at the state state department, partners elsewhere in dhs, partners in the intelligence community to further look at opportunities to strengthen the manner in which we screen individuals. as i have read news accounts of
what occurred in san bernardino, i am struck by the fact that among the big dance in san bernardino, are individuals whose news reports related or immigrants themselves would come from all over the world, who would come here to live service, serving the most vulnerable people in our society. i do feel that my oath applies to those individuals as well as the victims of san bernardino to protect them. while immigration is a privilege it is not a luxury for our country. it is necessary for the vitality of our economy. it is necessary for the stability and unity of our families. it is fundamental to our values and i pledge to operate my part of the immigration system in a way that maximizes every opportunity that we have to protect the american people to protect our national security. thank you, chairman for inviting us here today. >> thank you. ms. bond, you're recognized for
five minutes. >> thank you, chairman chaffetz and distinguished members of the committee. as has been described by my colleagues in the department of homeland security, the department of state and partner agencies throughout the federal government has built a layered visa security screening system in order to review and assess the visa eligibility and status of foreign visitors from the visa applications throughout their travel to and arrival in the united states. we take our commitment to protect america's borders and citizens seriously and we constantly analyze and update clearance procedures and look for new ways to do an even better vetting process. by written statement which i request be put on the record describes this screening regimen that applies to all visa categories and although the tragedy terrorist attack in san bernardino sparked particular interest in the fiancée visa, we apply equally rigorous security
screening to all visa applicants, all travelers to the united states. the vast majority of visa applicants and not immigrant are interviewed by a consular officer. the information provided describes the extensive training which has provided to the officers strong emphasis on border security and fraud prevention, interagency coordination, how to conduct those interviews, how to ensure domain check process throughout the agency is thoroughly done. all applicants data are fêted in this interagency process against databases that contain millions of records of individual sound and knowledgeable fergie says a regarding potential a derogatory access including the terrorist identity database which was referred to. the fingerprint them and screen them against dhs and fbi databases of known and suspected terrorists about wanted persons,
immigration law violators and criminals. we screen photos against that is the number suspected terrorists and the entire gallery of individuals who have ever applied for a visa, which is contained in our database at the state department. when the interagency screening process generates a red light headed, the consular officer suspends processing and submits the application for a washington-based interagency review conducted by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the department of state. at individual overseas posts we have edition of screening done by ths visa security programs, staff and their patriot system. the visa security units are located in over 20 high threat posed and i.c.e. special agent assigned to the security units provide on-site vetting of these applications and other law enforcement poured two officers. security reviews do not stop when the visa is issued.
the department and partner agencies continuously match new threat information with our records of existing vss or visa waiver program travelers and we use our authority to revoke these when indicated. since 2001 the department has revoked over 122,000 visas for a variety of reasons including 9500 for suspected links to terrorism. we are engaged with interagency partners in the senior-level review of the visa process ordered by president obama and i expect that recommendations developed in this review will apply to all visa screening. we are also working with the department of homeland security and the bureau's counterterrorism at the department on security screening of visa waiver program travelers and enhancing the data sharing commitments required for dwp membership. we are investigating the
advanced technology and data analysis risk screening and credibility assessment tools. mr. chairman, ranking member comings and distinguished members, the department of state has no higher priority than the safety of our citizens at home and abroad in the security of the traveling public. every visa decision is a national security decision. there is nothing routine about her work. we appreciate the support of congress as we continuously work to strengthen our defenses. mr. chairman, i know you visited mexico. i encourage everyone of you to visit our consular sections when you are abroad to meet with our staff and to observe for yourself the process that applicants undergo. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you goodness richard you are now recognized for five minutes. >> chairman chaffetz and distinguished members of the committee, thank you had the opportunity to appear before this program can security
vetting for refugees considered for settlement of the united states. fiscal year 2015, nearly 70,000 refugees have 67 nationalities were admitted for permanent resettlement in the united states including 1700 syrians. in fiscal year 2016 the president has determined the overall number 285,000 including 10,000 syrians. we recognize admitting mercy refugees to the united states is only part of the solution to the current global refugee immigration crisis but it is in keeping with our american tradition. it shows the world we seek to provide refuge for those most in need and sets an example for others to follow and as diversity and strength of american society. settlement offered to refugees among the most vulnerable. people for whom a return to sierra would be extremely difficult if not impossible. such as women and girls at risk of the survivors of torture, children and adolescents at risk
in refugees at medical needs, disabilities or physical or legal protection. families benefit the most resettlement to refer to the u.s. refugee program by the u.n. refugee agency. let me make clear the agency does not determine who comes to the united states. that determination is made by the department of homeland security. another murderous attacks in paris on november 13th of race ready questions about the spillover notches migrants to europe but the spread of violence in the middle east to the streets of a major european capital. let me assure you that the entire executive branch in the state department that i represent has the safety and security of americans as our highest priority. as the essential fundamental part, we screen applicants carefully to ensure that no one who poses a threat to safety and security of americans is able to enter our country.
consequently, resettlement is a deliberate process that could take 18 to 24 months. refugees of all nationalities considered undergo intensive security screening involving multiple federal intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies including the counterterrorism center, and the department of homeland security state and defense. i want to make clear that we work in very close partnership with the u.s. eis headed by leon rodriquez and so are officers are in constant touch. our responsibility is to help prepare the refugees further interview to prepare those who qualify for life in the united states. dhs is a heavy burden of determining qualified in screening out those who pose a possible threat. no one has a right to come as a refugee and if there's any doubt the screen people out.
applicants to the u.s. refugee admissions program as you know are currently subject to the highest level security checks of any category to the united states. these include biometric fingerprint and biographic checks in a lengthy in person overseas by specially trained officers to scrutinize the applicants of individual circumstances to ensure the applicant is a bona fide refugees and not known to present security concerns to the u.s. the vast majority of the 3 million refugees admitted to the united states since the vietnam era including some of the most troubled regions of the world have proven to be hard-working and productive residents. they pay taxes, send their children to school and after five years many take the test to become citizens. some serving u.s. military and other forms of service for the communities in our country. i'm happy to answer any questions you may have about our program or our contributions to aid refugees and victims of
conflict overseas and our diplomatic efforts related to humanitarian operations around the world. thank you. >> we now recognize the ranking member, mr. cummings. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for calling this hearing and i think if we were to -- as i listened to the testimony, i have two words that bring out for me and i hope that it will be the theme of this hearing. and they are two words that i repeat to my staff over and over and over again. effectiveness and efficiency. effect is nice and efficiency. i believe i speak for every member of this committee when i express their condemnation for the actions of these two depraved terrorists who murdered
14 innocent people in cold blood and injured many, many others in their sickening rampage in california just two weeks ago. certainly we send our prayers to people who were entered into the families of the innocent big guns. we know that their lives will be changed forever by this horrific act. we also extend our profound thanks to the hundreds of law enforcement officials, emergency first responders and health care providers who responded then and are still responding today to the fact is evil. this attack was unusual because it was carried out by a husband,
a united states citizen and a woman who came into our country on a fiancée visa, married this man and then had a baby with him and the baby was only six months old at the time of the attack. last week the director of fbi, james colby testified before the senate that based on the fbi ongoing investigation, it appears that both farouk and ms. maliki were radicalized before my week entered the united states. director komi explained explain yesterday, however, that contrary to the suggestion that a simple google search would have revealed the radicalism, these tourists did not post their messages on publicly available social media.
director call me stated, and i quote, we found no evidence on social media by either of them at that period of time reflect in their commitment to jihads modern done. director called me also said this. and i quote, i see no indication that either of these killers came across our screen and trip wires, end of quote. he also stated he had not seen anything that should have put them on our screen, and of quote. unfortunately, due to the extremely short turnaround for today's hearing, we do not have anyone here from the fbi. chairman tom i ask unanimous consent to place the fox news
story into the record which is entitled san bernardino terrorist post-islamic messages, fbi director colby says. >> without objection so ordered. >> of the search of the public social media would not in fact have prevented the attack, the question before us today is what else. this is the question that is so vital to our witnesses and we need to know this. by the way, mr. rodriguez, i agree with you when you refer to that distinguished gentleman from south carolina, mr. gowdy about preventing things. but the question is what else can be done to identify foreign national seeking to enter the united states who pose a risk to our national charity.
again, affect the missing deficiency. for example, should the united states agency's attempt to access password protected platforms like the ones reportedly used by mr. maliki? how should they identify people who use alternate identities which line person officials also believe malik also used. which agencies do it. state department and the dhs, fbi, intelligence agencies, all of it at once that conduct the screening, how should they report the results? should they go into the counterterrorism database, and the fbi terrorist screening database for others. finally, should other agencies be able to access communications over social media accounts of u.s. citizens who sponsor or
foreign nationals. and if so, under what circumstances. these are all very difficult questions and a lot of the answers may involve classified information. i understand there are several pilot programs already in the works. i also understand the review currently ongoing. our job is to grapple with these issues to develop solutions and home protect this great nation. the american people expect aggressive and urgent actions to screen people entering the country to ensure that they do not pose risks to our national security. again, effectiveness and efficiency. for these reasons i believe one of the most construct its steps are committee can take today is to examine the various information databases used by federal agencies to make sure
they are sharing as much information as possible to promote our national security. i think our state department and dhs witnesses for being here on such short notice and i look forward to your testimony as you address the questions of how we can be more effective and efficient. with that, mr. chairman, thank you for your courtesy and i yield back. >> thank you am a gentleman. the gentleman from ohio, mr. jordan. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. berson, you said last week -- you also said that she came prepared to answer questions about the visa waiver program last week. here is question one. how many visa waiver program overstays are currently in the united states. i didn't bring that number. second question, how many overstated may have traveled to syria before they got here. i don't know that number. final question was how many
people came from the visa waiver program countries you're today may have been in syria, iraq before they came here. i don't have that answer. she honestly wasn't prepared to answer questions about the subject he told her. did this work for you? >> yes, sir. >> why didn't you come last week? >> i was in london with secretary johnson at the g six plus one meeting. >> are you prepared to answer the question? >> we sent you an e-mail asking for these numbers. are you prepared to give us the answers today? >> with regard to overstays as indicated, mr. jordan, this has been an issue spinning both republican and democratic administrations with regard to the overstays. >> how many visa programs are in the country today? >> if you give me an opportunity at the pleased to respond to your question.
the overstay report which has been a subject to attention to this committee and the congress for many years, if you would like to understand why that report has not been produced despite 20 years of requests -- >> i'm asking for a number. how many visa waiver program travelers are in the country today? just the overall number. how many? >> there are 20 million persons who enter the country each year. >> do we know how many here today? >> i cannot give you a number given the way in which -- >> how many overstays are here? >> we track overstays and we do not have a number that has been the 20 million who commented here and some travel they are and then come to the united states.
>> the homeland security investigation, the counterterrorism and expectation you're not has opened up a number of investigations with respect to the number -- >> do we know a number? >> he said 20 million in a year. you can give me that number. i'm asking the people calm on the travelers. do we know if any of those sometime before they come here. >> there were 113 investigations by homeland security investigations with regard to that matter. the bulk of those investigations have been closed and in fact, there are 18 ongoing investigations associated with serious nationals. >> 113 number specific to the question i asked. you may have traveled to syria. >> i do not have a specific