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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  October 27, 2015 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT

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the red cross estimates 5 million people in syria are located in places that they categorize as difficult to reach by relief workers. i'm extremely concerned about how the new russian bombing campaign is contributing to violence in syria with reports that tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the past few weeks. syrian human rights organizations have documented cases of russian strikes on hospitals and medical facilities and the hugh man rights watch report said russian strikes killed 69 civilians on october 19th. with this renewed fighting it will only increase. as the weather turns colder the situation for refugees on the move will get more perilous. many host communities are overwhelmed. overcrowded schools, inadequate hospital services, impacts on resources such as water all contribute to the burden of neighboring countries. the large is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to syria and the region. from fiscal year 2012 to september 21st, 2015, the united
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states has allocated more than $4.5 billion to meet syrian humanitarian needs. this includes over $1.5 billion to ngos, the international federation of red cross and red crescent and other international organizations. yet according to unhcr chronic funding shortages are greatly limiting aid. since 2011 the u.n. appeals have remained significantly underfunded and recently resulted to cuts in food aid and cash assistance. lack of supplies is leading to begging, child labor, survival sex and increased debt. the world can and must do better. it's imperative when we talk to our allies particularly in the gulf countries that we emphasize the necessity of meeting the humanitarian need of these refugees. while the united states has been the leader we've fallen short in absorbing refugees.
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jordan has absorbed half a million. lebanon 1 million and turkey 2 million but since the 2011 the united states has taken in roughly 1,500 syrian refugees most in the past year. this is simply not acceptable. last month as ranking member deutsch mentioned i asked the administration to raise the number to 100,000 syrian receive fufgys by the end of 2017. there's precedent for this. the united states welcomed approximately 200,000 refugees during the balkan wars and more than 700,000 refugees from vietnam. while i was pleased that the administration raised the quota, i fear it isn't enough to make an impact. of course, the ultimate accountability for the violence and chaos on syria in iraq falls upon the syrian regime of bashar al assad as well as upon isis.
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the only way to fully ease the suffering of the syrian and iraqi people is to feet isis and bring an end to the civil war in syria. there is certainly no easy fix for this problem, but i hope that our witnesses today can tell us what steps the administration is taking to bring about a solution to this terrible tragedy and what more we can do. i thank the witnesses, again, for being here and thank you for the testimony you're about to provide and i yield back. >> thank you very much. would you like to add anything, mr. deutsch, or you'll wait? >> i'll wait. >> thank you. mr. trott is recognized. >> i'd like to start by thanking chairwoman ros-lehtinen for holding this important hearing. always the situation in syria becomes progressively worse the need to deliver aid to affected people in a timely and efficient manner becomes even more important. we've learned throughout history that unfortunately religious minorities are disproportionately affected during dire humanitarian crises. i'm proud to represent a district with minorities from the middle east and one of the
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most common complaints i hear from them that aid is not getting to them quickly enough. in i'm i wrote a letter to usaid asking usaid to consider removing the red tape to help the battered communities. six months later my letter remains unanswered. while i understand they are under pressure to assure that every vulnerable citizen is taking care of if the aid is not getting there at the right time the efforts are futile and the crisis becomes worse. to better coordinate the relief efforts ongoing in the region i introduced legislation that would require the interested parties to better coordinate with one another to ensure timely relief. after spending 30 years in bils i know the key to success of any project is communication and cooperation and not more red tape and obstacles and excuses. i yield back my time. >> mr. boyle is recognized. >> thank you, and i would just
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briefly say that we face a real turning point in late august ever since the shocking and horrific sight of a small boy's body being washed ashore on a beach in turkey. that really i think awoken the consciences of many people. i was in europe at that time as part of an international conference. and it clearly changed the dynamic in many western european countries that had not been stepping up to the plate to do their part. i would say that the size of the humanitarian assistance, and i preread some of the testimony, and i know that we've had a three-prong approach, clearly our humanitarian assistance has led the world. we're number one in that regard and we should be quite proud of it. i think the question i'm searching for an answer that i really want answered and cannot at this point is are we going to continue to do a series of
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one-offs or will there actually be a worldwide collaborative effort to solve this problem? so, in the hearing today and many of the questions that are asked and answered, i hope we could spend a moment and take a look at the united states not in isolation, but ourselves as part of a larger global solution. thank you. >> very good, sir. do any other members wish to be recognized? if not, i'd like to introduce our witnesses who are three very good friends of our subcommittee. first we're pleased to welcome back the honorable ann c. richard who serves as assistant secretary of the bureau of population, refugees and migration for the department of state. she has served as the vice president of government relations and advocacy of the international rescue committee and was a nonresident fellow for the center for transatlantic relations at johns hopkins university's school of advanced international studies. welcome back, ma'am. and second, we are pleased to
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say hello to the honorable leon rodriguez who is the director of the united states citizenship and immigration service. previously mr. rodriguez served as the director of the office for civil rights at the department of health and human services and before that served in the united states attorney's office for the western district of pennsylvania and was a trial attorney in the civil division of the department of justice. welcome, mr. rodriguez. and now we also welcome back a good friend, senior deputy assistant administrator thomas doll of the bureau of democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance at usaid. he's served there since the late '80s and has served as the director of the iraq reconstruction office. mr. stahl also served as the admission director in lebanon, ethiopia and iraq and you don't have to be a good friend of the subcommittee to be a witness, but we just get good witnesses and we welcome you back. thank you, miss richard, we'll
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start with you. >> thank you, madam chairman. >> closer to your mouth. >> oh, i can bring this to me. thank you, madam chairman, ranking member deutsch, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the house committee on form affairs to discuss the syrian humanitarian crisis. i returned recently from a series of meetings overseas including my fifth visit to turkey and my eighth visit to jordan during my tenure as assistant secretary. i greatly appreciate the interest of this committee. i'd like to briefly outline the steps taken by the population and refugees and migration bureau in the other departments and the obama administration to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians and to assist the governments of other countries to deal with the crisis in syria. as you know in early september, and as congressman boyle just mentioned the tragic photo of a little boy's body on a beach in turkey awakened people to the plight of syrian refugees in ways that years of grim
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statistics, bleak images and climbing casualty figures could not. what started as unrest in syria in 2011 has developed into a multi-front war and spilled over to become a regional crisis. recently the crisis reached europe as hundreds of thousands of young men, women, and sometimes entire families seek to -- by boat, bus, train and foot. they are joined by refugees and migrants from other countries, chiefly afghanistan and iraq. while the outflow of refugees to europe has garnered a lot of attention, it is important for us to remember and acknowledge that the vast majority of syrian families remain in the middle east. and you just heard the figures in the opening statements of the chair and ranking member that there are more than 4 million refugees in the surrounding countries and roughly 7 million syrians are displaced within their own country. for more than four years the obama administration has helped these countries neighboring
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syria and the innocent people caught up in the syria crisis even as we continue to play a leading role in providing humanitarian aid to people affected by conflicts in many other places. we have a three-pronged approach for the humanitarian aspects. strong levels of assistance and active diplomacy and expanded refugee resettlement. first the u.s. government is the leading donor of humanitarian assistance to people inside syria and the surrounding countries and others caught up in crises throughout the world. through contributions through the organizations the u.n. high commission of refugee, the international committee of the right side cross, the international organization for migration and the world food program and uniseven and leading nongovernmental organizations u.s. funds are being used to save millions of lives. and u.s. humanitarian assistance in response to the syrian conflict as you said totals more than $4.5 billion since the start of the crisis and is made possible thanks to strong bipartisan support from
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congress. without u.s. support more people would be making the dangerous voyage further north. even with our sizable contributions, however, u.n. appeals for humanitarian aid to address the crisis in syria remain underfunded with only 45% of the needs covered as of october, 2015. these shortfalls have had real consequences. cuts to food and other assistance was one of the triggers of the current migration of people to europe. syrian refugees in jordan, turkey and lebanon are losing home of ever returning to their homes. they are unable to work regularly to sustain their families, rents are high, and their children are missing out on school. roughly 85% of refugees now live outside of camps and that's something that's not well understood or known. we need to help refugees become self-sufficient while we also support the communities that host them. we are looking at ways to better link our relief and development assistance and importantly we are working to get more receifu
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children in school throughout the region. the second prong of our response is diplomacy on humanitarian issues. for several years we've engaged government officials in the region to encourage them to keep borders open and allow refugees enter the countries and authorize the work of leading humanitarian organizations and allow refugees to pursue normal lives. diplomacy means working constructively with other nations to find solutions. the issue of the retch ffugee a migration crisis has been taken up recently. i've talked recently about the meetings i've had pursuing our so-called humanitarian diplomacy. it includes pushing when needed those who can and should be doing more. we are engaged on encouraging countries that provide assistance outside the u.n. system to contribute to the u.n. appeals for syria. contributions to u.n. appeals can help prevent duplication and
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ensure that assistance is provided to those who need it the most. and we are also encouraging countries to promote refugees to pursue jobs and livelihoods. the third prong of our response is resettling refugees in the united states. as you know, for the past three years we've brought 70,000 refugees from all around f/n they're referred by the unhcr.
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we work very carefully to have them tell their stories. they are -- no one comes who hasn't been approved by the department of homeland security and mr. rodriguez and i are here to answer the questions about the resettlement >> madam chairwoman, ranking mej deutsch, distinguished members
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of the committee, thank you all for convening this very important hearing. wh when i first became director, in fact, during the confirmation process, i knew that the work of operating the refugee admission process particularly with respect to refugees from various parts of the middle east, but chief among them syria, was going to be one of my priorities and one of the most important parts of the work we do. the statistics recited by congressman sicily tell a very grim story of what's going in syria today. more than half of the population of syria is displaced. 4 million people are now essentially in exile somewhere in the middle east, be it jordan, be it turkey, be it lebanon, be it egypt. but the individual stories that
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we hear are probably the most compelling of all. recently one of my refugee officers shared with me a story of an individual who was screened and during the screening process we learned that he was with his elderly mother during a time when his town was being bombed by the syrian air force. his mother because of the stress of the bombing had a heart attack. she ultimately died in his arms, but not after hours actually of this young man attempting to recesuscitate his mother throug cpr and having no access to medical care because of the horrendous conditions in that town. this is one of legions of stories that we've heard at uscis from the individuals that we've screened. i took the opportunity this past june to travel to turkey where in istanbul we have a resettlement support center where my officers work with a
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state department contractor to screen refugees and i observed both the screenings. and i observed them incidentally with the particular eye that i bring as a former criminal prosecutor who has myself conducted thousands of interviews, many of them confrontational interviews, many of them with individuals who i knew were lying to me, so i observed those screenings as they took place. but i also had the opportunity to sit down with the families that were in that resettlement support center. and what was amazing to me is how recognizable those individuals were to me, how familiar they were to me. they were individuals from all walks of life. but they were individuals who really want the same thing that any of us here want. is to get out of harm's way and to find a better life for their family. i had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the children at the resettlement center. to witness their excitement about their potential new life
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in america, to hear what they had already learned about our country and their excitement about coming here. so, amidst that challenge the men and women who work in a refugee admissions program do their job. and that essentially involves their doing two things -- one, making sure that the individuals who ask for refuge in the united states satisfy the legal requirements in order to obtain that refuge. but, two, and importantly as the chairwoman noted, ensuring that none of those individuals who are seeking refuge in the united states are people who mean us harm. now, how do we do that? part of that is done through a sweep of biographic and b biometric checks and i'm hoping during the course of the hearing to be able to explain in some detail as to how those work. but the key is we have actually screened out individuals who we identified through that process
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as being potential threats. so, the process has actually worked. but, too, as importantly, the refugee officers in our agency are among the most highly trained professionals in the federal government and they are specifically trained in country conditions to conduct interviews to screen out individuals who may do us harm. that process has also resulted in a number of people being placed, quote, on hold. not permitted to travel to the united states until security concerns can be resolved. i'd like to conclude by dedicating my testimony here today to my maternal grandfather, who i actually never had the opportunity to meet. my grandfather was one of the leaders of the jewish community in cuba in the late 1930s and 1940s. and among his activities as a leader of that community was to attempt to assist refugees from nazi europe who -- some of whom
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had sought refuge here in the united states and were denied that refuge. many of us have heard the story of the st. louis and who then traveled to cuba. some were able to find refuge there but some of whom were not. i intend as director of uscis to honor his legacy. first and foremost by making sure that we don't admit people who do us harm to the united states, but secondly by making sure that we honor our tradition of offering refuge to those who so desperately need it. thank you, madam chairwoman, and i look forward to answering the committee's questions. >> thank you very much, mr. rodriguez. excellent testimony. mr. stahl? >> madam chairman, ranking member deutsch, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for your support and the attention today to this syrian crisis which grows as we've heard more complex every day. for almost five years the assad regime has waged an unrelenting campaign of bloodshed that has decimated communities and allowed extremists to thrive.
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and while the world's attention is centered appropriately on the perilous journey of syrians forced to flee their homeland the refugees, as we've heard, are part of a much larger community that suffers under the weight of this crisis. over 17 million syrians, 70% of the country's pre-war population, are affected by this conflict with the majority facing daily attacks inside syria. indeed, half of all syrians are either dead or displaced from their homes. while more than 4 million of them go into neighboring countries and another 6.5 to 7 million are displaced inside syria. and behind these massive numbers the children just like our own and parents like any parent would do anything and risk everything to keep their families safe. families inside syria face the painful ultimatum if you stay, your child could be killed on the way to get bread. if you leave, you risk their
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safety on a dangerous journey across borders. and we're doing everything possible in u.s. aid to alleviate the suffering for families inside syria as well as those fleeing to the neighboring countries. the u.s. government has been as you've heard the single largest donor to syria's crisis and our partners fearlessly cross conflict lines amidst daily barrel bombs and shifting conflict lines to reach people in the regime in the regime and even in isil-held areas. today they face an added layer of threat russian aggression on syrian soil. several partners report that russian air strikes are driving new displacement and complicating access. one heroic partner told us he feels like every time he goes to the hospital that he manages it's only a matter of time until it will explode. his hospital has been bombed by the way over 18 times by the syrian regime and recently by the russians. despite ongoing access and
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security challenges, we are reaching approximately 5 million people inside syria and another 1.5 million in the region every month with our humanitarian assistance. and this aid is saving lives and reducing suffering every day. u.s. aid supports inside syria 140 health facilities and in fy-'15 alone we 2.4 million people with health assistance and we provided access to clean water to 1.3 million people. we are the largest donor of food assistance providing $1.5 billion to date. we provide flour even to bakeries inside syria and support food vouchers for syrian refugees that have injected over $1.2 billion into the economies of the syrian neighbors. and separate from our humanitarian efforts we help to moderate civil -- we help moderate civilian organizations
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in syria to provide essential services, providing a lifeline to communities under siege. and then also our development assistance helps syria's neighbors who are strained more than ever to build more resilient public services to cope with the influx of the refugees. with 2 million syrian children out of school, we're working to ensure that this entire generation is not lost to this crisis. in jordan, in lebanon, we're expanding public schools, supporting re medial programs, training teachers so that syrian refugees can thrive alongside their host community peers. we've upgraded water systems and hospitals to help the communities in jordan and lebanon cope with the increased demand. in lebanon we're working with young people to decrease tension between host communities and refugees and help them find constructive solutions to common ends. and these efforts, by the way, are possible thanks to the generous support from congress.
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nevertheless, we struggle to meet the escalating needs with stretched dollars. we're working closely with other donors to mobilize resources because we cannot meet the needs alone. certainly no amount of humanitarian assistance will stop the suffering. or stem the tide of refugees, which is why a negotiated political solution is urgently needed. in the meantime, we are committed to saving lives, alleviating suffering, and helping syria's neighbors to cope with the largest humanitarian crisis we've ever faced. thank you for your support, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much to our government agencies for the great work that you are doing under difficult circumstances. i'd like to yield my time to mr. chafit of ohio. >> during a recent hearing before the house committee on homeland security, fbi director james comey stated that government background checks on refugees is limited to only that
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information which has been previously collected and stored in its database. given that isis has threatened to exploit the current syrian humanitarian crisis, what's being done to increase scrutiny and the thoroughness of security checks on those seeking refugee status in the united states? >> thank you, congressman, for that very critical question. we working together with the state department conduct a sweep of biographic and biometric checks of individuals who are applying for admission. the biographic checks, in fact, occur before my officers interview the individual seeking admission. among -- among the sources of the biographic checks are something called the interagency check which is hosted by the national counterterrorism center. that database is populated from information from all kinds of law enforcement and intelligence
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sources, and there is a constant and ongoing effort to feed that database. it is true, as it has often been true in other places, that we do not currently have any meaningful united states presence inside syria. nevertheless, we do have, as we always have had, ability to gather intelligence information, gather law enforcement information, using a number of techniques in doing so in a number of places. and as a result of that process, our officers in 30 cases were able to identify individuals who, in fact, based on their showing up in the databases that i just described denied those individuals admission. once we interview individuals, we also take fingerprints. we run those fingerprints against department of defense databases, united states law enforcement databases, including both the fbi and also our own
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customs and border patrol. in those events where some individuals have encountered really united states either military or law enforcement authorities at some point along the way. but very critically, congressman, is the interview process. i started my career as a street prosecutor in new york city. and we had all the technology in the world. we could run fingerprints. we could conduct chemical analysis. but at the end of the day criminal cases were made by new york city police detectives. the work that we do, congressman, i would suggest is similar. at the end of the day the judgments that we make are the judgments of the men and women, the highly trained and highly prepared men and women that work in our refugee admission process. they are trained and briefed on -- at a great level of depth in country conditions within syria. in fact, the interviews that we conduct further populate our understanding about those
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country conditions. and they use that knowledge, that knowledge, to then test the information that's being given to them by the individuals applying for admission. as a result, of that training, hundreds of individuals have either been placed on hold or denied a mission altogether because that process of interviewing has identified problems with the account being given by those individuals. so, we're going to continue to polish that process. we're going to be continuing to work -- work to further access different sources of identify tell jed intelligence so we can test the stories. >> i would like to get one more question out. and miss richards or mr. stahl, whichever one of you wants to handle it. why has the administration opted to funnel the aid through the united nations rather than through direct aid or ngos? would it not be more efficient
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and cost effective to work directly with partners on the ground? so, either one of you that would like to take it. >> i can start. >> miss richards. >> we do both. we channel aid through the best u.n. operational agencies and humanitarian agencies and we work with the top nongovernmental organizations and we try to use all channels to get aid inside syria. which tom is the expert on. and our sense is that because the u.n. plays a coordinating role and reviews the requests from a whole span of agencies and puts together these appeals, it actually reduces duplication and makes sure that professionals who know what they're doing are responding with the aid. now, of course, at the same time most aid workers are from the countries in which they're working. so, inside syria it's mostly syrians. in jordan it's jordanians, et cete
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cetera. but at the top there are people who are quite seasoned who are involved in this. tom, do you want to add anything? >> yes, thank you. it's an excellent question, and what we try to do is make sure we are using the most effective means and the organizations that can do the job the best in a given area. and sometimes it can vary between different parts of the country. photographical frankly in the regime-held areas in syria the u.n. agencies are able to operate most effectively and broadly into, you know, the far reaches of the areas. in the nonregime areas, we do work also somewhat with the u.n. but there we work more with international ngos. now, they in turn work with -- through local organizations and that's a critical aspect you mentioned. it's difficult for us to work directly with local organizations just through the financial systems and oversight. but through our local -- our international partners, they are able to work with local
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organizations. indeed that's how they get there. including with, like, local councils and civil society organizations that really know the situation on the ground, have the best access. we actually have better reporting and oversight of our programs and our assistance than in many other countries. so, even the gao and irg shows that our aid is getting to the right people. and then the nice thing about working with local councils is that you are building some local capacity so that hopefully when the regime -- excuse me, when the crisis is over, you've got some local capacity to build up again. >> thank you very much. my time's expired. thank you very much, madam chair. >> thank you very much. mr. deutsch is recognized. >> thank you, madam chairman. i'm going to yield. >> thank you the gentleman for yielding. >> miss richards, if i can begin with you, can you explain, and recognize it's a complicated process, can you explain to us
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from beginning to end how a refugee from syria might navigate the process to be admitted to the united states, how long that typically takes, where's the first contact, how many agencies are involved and have jurisdiction over this determination, and kind of just explain sort of the process. because i think people have sort of a mistaken impression that they just show up and they're admitted and sort of better understanding of kind of what that process is. >> thank you, congressman. the process lasts 18 to 24 months. the refugees are identified as people who are particularly vulnerable in the places where they've fled. so, i guess the process starts when they decide to leave their country, which is a very challenging thing. they cross the borders. they try to live as well as they can for a time. but they may come to the attention of unhcr or other aid workers who will then look at their case and see if there are certain characteristics about
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them that would make them match what we're looking for. what we're looking for is that they have to fit the definition of a refugee which is someone fleeing persecution for one of -- they have a well-founded fear of persecution, for one of five reasons which is race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership in a social group. and we also, though, seek to bring those who are the most vulnerable people. so that might be someone who has been tortured or has specific medical condition that makes it very hard to survive where they or just people for whom there is never going to be a chance to go home again. the first contact, then, is really with the u.n. high commission for refugees. they refer them to us. they do not choose who becomes -- who gets admission to the united states, but they refer the cases they think are likely to fit what we're looking
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for. and then the process continues where we have a relationship with several resettlement support centers, rscs, in different places around the world where they will work with the refugee, the individual or the family, and put the case together of how they became a refugee and make the case that they do actually qualify for refugee status. as part of that, they have a series of background checks. and then this picks up where leon rodriguez was describing the type of checks, the fingerprints, the medical background, the biographic history, until they get interviewed by that dhs officer who has traveled out to the field, usually in a circuit ride, and is interviewing people during the course of the day. for syrians it's three per day. and really double-checking several things. and they're trying to screen out people who are lying to us, people with a criminal past, or
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people who are, of course, would-be terrorists. so, once that all has happened, and the final checks work out, they are scheduled then to be brought to the united states. they are brought to the u.s., escorted by the international organization for migration. so, that's two u.n. agencies involved, unhcr and the international organization for migration. >> if i can interrupt you before -- after they get to the united states i understand the process. but that process you just described, is that any different than the process that was in place when the united states accepted 200,000 refugees from the balkans or 700,000 refugees from cuba or 700,000 refugees from vietnam? is it improved or the same? >> after 9/11 the security aspects of that program were tightened quite a bit and then again in the last couple of years. they spent a lot of effort to scrub the program to make it as
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efficient as possible without cutting corners on security. and right now we're under direction from the white house to keep doing that and keep seeing if we can speed up the length of the process without doing anything to undermine security. >> and this has been described by some as the most intensive vetting process in the federal government. interagency -- >> well, for any traveler to the united states. no traveler to the united states gets this kind of intense vetting. >> you know, are there any limitations, assuming you had additional resources, director rodriguez, or undersecretary richard, any limitations on your ability to do this for more refugees you were provided the additional resources to do it, to go through this process? are there any other obstacles? >> i think the -- this is -- it's always a resource question. and so right now i -- we have
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about 100 refugee officers. we have an asylum corps of 400-plus that we can draw from to supplement. they're trained very similarly. or just about identically to the refugee officers. but these situations always require us to adapt to build to whatever the task is that's in front of us. and we've actually -- my agency's become very good, and i know prm has become very good at adapting when these challenges are presented to us. but does it put further stress on our resources? no question. >> you know, just in talking about it, we knew that we can't -- we can't change the numbers like a dial on a -- on a -- i don't know, do people make things with dials anymore? a dial on an old-fashioned stereo. because, you know, even if he were to get more funding to get more interviewers, they have to
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be recruited and they have to be trained before they're sent out, and then the conditions overseas kick in, which is some places where we had wanted to carry out interviews in the past, there are security concerns. and so, you know, we have to make sure we're not sending the officers somewhere where they, themselves, would get into trouble. but then also sometimes there's acts of god. we had to slow down bringing people from nepal last year after the earthquake happened, this past year. so, they have to be able to travel out to the places where the refugees are ready to be interviewed, and in the middle east there have been some security issues. same with the camp in kanenya a also parts of africa are hard to get in. you can't fly in and fly out without careful planning. >> thank you so much. mr. boyle? miss frankel. >> thank you very much. thank you to the witnesses.
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i agree with my colleagues here who have said that they consider this one of the great humanitarian -- probably the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time right now. so, i just want to -- i want to just get a couple things clarified. i got a little confused. on the refugees it sounds to me -- you say there are millions displaced within syria and 4 million displaced out of syria. what would you -- how would you quantify the number of receive fufgys that would like to come to the united states? what -- what figure would that be? >> well, they don't get to come if they'd like to come to the united states. it is a -- i think it's probably a very large number. but not 100%. because most refugees usually want to go home. >> no, no. i'm not saying that. i just -- i just want to know what do you think is the number?
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>> what the unhcr does is they believe that of 15 million refugees that they're concerned about that about 1 million are people who are suitable for resettlement in other countries. >> so, how does this come about? does someone leave syria in order to be considered by us they have to -- and is there any type of prioritization, i mean, if you're a family member, or is it first in line, first to sign up or -- >> it's who is -- first you have to qualify to be a refugee and then -- >> what is the qualification -- >> based on the legal definition which were those five factors well-founded fear of persecution and then we seek to resettle the people who are the most vulner been, who -- who -- >> which would be who? >> so, it's widows with children or orphan children or people who
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have medical conditions that make it very difficult for them to get the treatment they need in a refugee camp, people who are burn victims and can, you know, benefit from maybe, you know, the type of medical services we can provide here. you know, torture victims. people who, you know, feel that they'll never be able to go home again. they've seen terrible things happen. >> so, if you're able to process someone, do most of these folks have somebody in the united states that they're coming to settle with, or are they just coming here on their own and -- >> if they have a family -- if they have a relative in the united states, we seek to reunite the families. >> and if they don't, what -- if there are services that you -- >> what happens is when they arrive in the u.s. they're met at the airport by a representative, one of nine national networks we have. six are faith based. three are not. but they work in 170 cities across the united states. and they use a lot of volunte s
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volunteers. they'll take the refugee from the airport to their new home. it's probably an apartment that's been set up for them, and it may have been furnished with donated furniture. and then they will make sure that there is a meal in the refrigerator and show them how to turn off and on the lights. depending on where they're from, sometimes some of the modern conveniences are new. and then the next day they take them to help get their new life started. and that could be using the bus, going to the grocery store, getting a social security number, getting the kids enrolled in school. >> and as to the usaid, your workers are not in syria, i think that's what you said. how many aid workers are dedicated now to syrian relief and where are they? >> yeah, that's correct. our aid workers are not inside syria. we have a team in jordan and
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another team in southern turkey. it's a disaster assistance response team, and then they work with our implementing partners, ngos, u.n., who in turn have local partners who work inside. so, there are no americans or international staff inside syria. >> and are the workers inside, is it basically food and medicine? >> it's actually quite a bit more. i mean, food and medicine are a big part of it. but it's also helping to repair water systems, even schools. we've trained teachers and help rebuild things. sometimes it's an underground school, you know, that's safe. working building capacity of local councils. we work with -- we've trained hundreds and hundreds of first responders who are, you know, like, you know, the fire department in a number of cities inside syria.
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they've been a huge thing. and they're independent. they're volunteers, but we provide them training and even equipment. we've given, you know, like, fire trucks and things like that. >> that's terrific. >> so, we do a variety of things inside syria. >> madam chair, may i ask another question or wait for another round? >> please go ahead. thank you, ms. frankel. >> thanks. i'd like to -- just if you all have an opinion, i'd like to hear what your opinion is of what would happen if we wouldn't -- if we were not doing this aid? what does -- what does that mean to our -- not just to our -- the humanitarian part of this, which i think we all understand. but i think a lot of people what they don't understand is that a lot of this effort really goes towards our national security. because what happens? we're about to lose a generation of children it looks like, and
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hopelessness breeds a lot of bad things. but i'd like to hear it from your own words as to why your missions are so important. >> well, congresswoman, i'm convinced that, as i mentioned in my testimony, we're saving millions of lives with this aid. because some of it's from usaid is backing up the world food program. it's feeding so many people. vaccinations that go to children that if they're not vaccinated, you know, it makes them susceptible to really dangerous diseases, so there's a lifesaving piece of this. but then there's the life enriching part of it, too. and that's what i think you were getting at with our concerns about losing a generation of syrian children. many are out of school, have been out of school for years. to the extent that there are places in school, it's pretty
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tough for them, you know, if they go to turkey, they're living surrounded by a different language, turkish. but even in lebanon and jordan, they sometimes go to a second shift of school where they're trying to catch up to where they would have been had they stayed in school throughout. too many girls are getting married young. boys are -- and girls are sent to work early. so, they're really missing out on childhood, missing out on education. and for those who are just left idle, they're really susceptible i think to bad influences. we see what happened when the rest of the world did not provide the funding to these u.n. appeals. i think thanks to congress, we have done our share of funding the u.n. appeals for the syrian crisis and for many other crises around the world, but we weren't
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matched by the same levels by the rest of the world. part of it is because the number of crises have grown and the needs have grown. but you see what happened as the world program started to cut back on food assistance and vouchers, that may have played a role of triggering the number of people stream out of the middle east and walking and taking dangerous journeys to europe. it's very destabilizing. it's destabilizing for the neighboring countries. it's destabilizing now for various parts of europe. and i think that that shows you that had we not been there, things would have been much worse. >> congresswoman, this is who we are as americans. put simply. my parents were refugees from cuba who were offered refuge as was the chair. i would not be surprised if there are other stories of either being refugees or children of refugees certainly in this chamber today.
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and that has been our tradition as a country as far back as anybody can remember. when we talk about the importance of this work, it is certainly a humanitarian task that we are engaged in, and i think you've certainly painted very clearly sort of the scope of this problem. but it also promotes the stability of that region for us to take responsibility. for refugees and for us to lead by example as far as other countries. it has been our history that we have always taken a disproportionate share of refugees that has inspired other resettlement countries to do -- to do the same. and i would hope, and i think it is certainly the president's intention that we continue to
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honor -- to honor that tradition. >> if i might add as well, my colleagues have stated very eloquently,realize, notwithstanding the scale and scope of this crisis there has not been large famine, or major disease outbreaks, things like that, which would have been very likely without our assistance. and so it's been amazingly successful, actually, given the constraints that they actually have to work with. both inside syria, and in the neighboring countries. and that's something to remember. thank you. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you very much, miss frankel. >> thank you, madam chairwoman and ranking member deutch and to all our witnesses for being here today. as the weather gets colder, as winter approaches, how are our partners implementing partners on the ground helping to prepare
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winter for the refugees and displaced persons? >> i could begin the response especially within syria, that's been the major focus of our efforts in addition to basic food and health supplies. we've been focusing over the last month or so on providing things like blankets, and coats, and you know, additional supplies for the winter. wherever we can get it in. and that's why it's important for us to work throughout the country, wherever we can, either in regime-held areas or in opposition-held areas. as long as we can be sure that it gets to the right people. which we have been able to do. that's a major issue for us inside syria, and i know for the refugees, as well. >> and how are we supporting our european allies, and what more can we do as they absorb the
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large influx of refugees? and how can we urge countries that have made pledges of humanitarian aid to fulfill those commitments? >> well, we are responding to the appeals put out by unhcr and the international organization for migration for their activities in europe. they're really focused on the periphery of europe, so to speak, serbia, macedonia, dchó greece. and part of what they're doing is trying to make sure that as people approach borders and cross borders, that they're treated humanely. and not as criminals. but, as people who deserve a hearing to determine whether they deserve asylum or not. and people who need help along the way. so, that's a piece of what we're doing. but it's nowhere near the size and scope of what we're doing
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closer to syria in the region. the other thing we're doing is, we're participating in international conversations with the european leaders. we did that in new york, at the u.n. general assembly. i just came from istanbul, from the global forum for migration, development. you know, i've met with everyone from the german foreign minister to the swedish migration minister to the lebanese prime minister. we're talking to them, asking them what do you need, what can we do to help you? one of the proposals is that we try to do a better job internationally, pulling people together to do more, not just in terms of money, which is part of it. but certainly in terms of resettlement, work visas, family unification, humanitarian visas. trying to get permission for refugees to work in the places that -- to which they've fled. trying to get kids in school.
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trying to get development assistance off the tap to help governments like lebanon and jordan, whose societies are really strained by having done the right thing. so that's -- that gives you a little flavor for the kind of international diplomatic exchanges we're having right now. >> thank you so much, miss meng. mr. deutch? >> thank you, madam chairman. i appreciate it, thanks assistant secretary richard and deputy administrative minister we appreciate your willingness to keep a dialogue with the subcommittee. i've been clear where i stand on the need for increased humanitarian aid, the support by our allies around the world, the tension and the need for action in syria and the need for real and serious discussion on the practicalities of the safe zone. i hope that we'll have that conversation. but today i want to take advantage of director rodriguez's presence to explore refugee process. by appreciate what you've shared
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already. i will tell you i've written to the chairman of the judiciary committee asking for a hearing on this topic, as well, thus we'll have the opportunity to delve into these issues further there, also. so, i'd just like to walk through a few questions. you talked about uscis' role in the u.s. refugee admissions program. you talked about the interviews to determine who's eligible for refugee status. you've said that refugees -- applicants for refugee status are interviewed in person. what's responsible for conducting those interviews? >> i'm sorry, those interviews are conducted by refugee officers who are part of our refugee admissions program. >> and what's -- i know you talked about the way cases are solved, can you talk about the role of these refugee officers in adjudicating the applications for refugee status?
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>> so, i think the way to describe that role is first to talk about both the training and briefing process that they take into the -- so they all participate in a five-week training course as officers followed by a specialized training course as refugee officers. once we know that they're going to be deployed to a particular environment, let's use the case of screening syrian refugees, they receive a specific eight-day briefing prior to their deployment. the purpose of that briefing is to steep them in the country conditions which are applicable to the country in which these individuals are coming and those country conditions consist of all the things that you would think. in what part of the country is the government dominant? in what part of the country is isis dominant? what are the specifics of what's
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going on in a particular province, and much more that would really be difficult to talk about in a public hearing. but i think you get the sense of the kind of content with which they are briefed. >> how many of them are there? how many of them are trained to deal with syrian refugees? >> in total -- well in total there are 100. i don't know specifically how many are trained. what i will tell you is that, for example, in istanbul at any time, we will have deployed either a team of either five or ten, depending on how many cases are actually ready for their intervention. >> and are there specific security checks that have been instituted specifically for syrian applicants? >> it is the syrian vetting is the most intense vetting that we conduct. i talked about the interagency checks. >> which agencies are -- >> a number of intelligence agencies. a number of law enforcement
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agencies, are populating the database that we use for the information check, including specific databases that identify individuals who may be terrorists. >> and while their application's pending where do they reside? >> they may reside in specific -- depending on where they are. a lot of that depends on where they are. they could be in refugee camps. a large number of them are. >> they're abroad? >> yeah, they're abroad. they're certainly not in their country and they're certainly not here in the united states. >> and the u.s. refugee admissions ceiling over the last three fiscal years was at 70,000. would uscis have the capability to conduct these extensive security evaluations and interviews if the cap was raised to 75,000? >> absolutely, congressman. we do our job no matter what. >> and if it was raised to 100,000? >> like i said, congressman, we will do our job. we understand how critically important it is that we absolutely do our job, and leave no stone unturned when it comes
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to conducting these security checks. we will not cut corners. >> and you said that hundreds have been placed on holds or denied altogether. do you know what the specific numbers are? >> i apologize. i don't remember them right now. i usually have them at my fingertips but i certainly can provide them to the members. >> if you would. and if i may, i just want to thank you for the work that's being done. i want to thank you for your testimony here today to help provide some much-needed context, and to push back against some of the statements that have been made, wholly without any factual basis about the review that's done, the extent of the review, and i think without a full or in many cases without any appreciation for the efforts that are undertaken every day. to go through this refugee process, and to contribute to our nation's safety. you said in your opening testimony that it's important to you to honor our 2r5d igs of offering refuge to those who
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desperately need it. i agree, and i thank you sincerely for the work that you do. >> thank you, congressman. >> amen. and how touching to dedicate this program, in your mind, to the legacy of your grandfather. very touching. >> thank you. >> mr. connally of virginia is recognized. >> thank you, madam chairman. and welcome to the panel. ms. richard, with 12.2 million syrians within syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance, we've got in a country with 4.5 million people in lebanon, 1.1 million syrian refugees. in jordan, 10% of the country's population are syrian refugees, equivalent. to what extent are we concerned about the destabilizing effect of long-term refugee presence in
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small, delicate countries in the middle east region? >> thank you for your question. we're very concerned about it. it's one reason that we in very often in discussion with these government officials in those countries. we have a very strong aid program in jordan, that is stretching now to do more to help the communities that have taken in all these refugees. i've been very influenced by the high commissioner for refugees what's visiting washington right now, who really believed that this required more than just relief to the refugees. but also requires help to the communities, whose hospital beds are filled, whose schools are gone to second shifts, to accommodate syrian children,
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whose water systems are straining, water and sanitation systems. you know, on a municipal level, there's a lot more people there, in both jordan and lebanon. i mentioned the other -- that i recently came back from jordan. that was my eighth visit in the 3 1/2 years i've an assistant secretary so we have a very close working relationship with them. in lebanon, i had met with the prime minister when i was in new york in september. he'd met me several times before, so we have a good conversation there. we're particularly interested in doing two things. one is making sure that these development resources come in to these countries, whether it's from usaid or the world bank and multilateral mechanisms. and then the other is to make sure that children get in to school. because we think that's one of the most worrisome things right now. is that there's a whole generation of syrian children who are out of school, and you
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know, in danger of being unskilled and at loose ends. >> to what -- do we have an estimate of the total population of syrian refugees that will need to be permanently resettled? that are not going to be going back to syria? >> i don't think we have an estimate of that. it's very much done on a case-by-case basis. and we work unhcr to identify the most vulnerable cases. they sought to, starting in september 2013, they started to look at targeting a certain number of syrians, and it's now up to 130,000 syrians as a goal, and they have referred 20,000 of that number to us. in recent months it's climbed to 22,000. the u.s. will probably end up taking most of the syrian refugees who are referred for resettlement, but we are also
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trying to convince other countries to also do their share. >> right. and i want to get to that. but the number we have decided, the president announced, is 10,000. is that not correct? >> that's correct. for this fiscal year. >> right. how do we arrive at that number? based on what? >> well, we had been planning to bring between 5,000 and 8,000, and the president pushed us to stretch, and really gear up to take more. that makes sense as we're adding 15,000 refugees to our overall ceiling. then the number for the following year we haven't determined yet. in part that's because we want to see how well we do this year, or in the first half of the year, and getting more syrians to the united states. >> and what progress are we making in pressing health partners both to accept refugees and to help finance the humanitarian services that are so desperately needed in jordan,
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lebanon, turkey and elsewhere? >> i would say our score card on that is very uneven. it's very uneven. we've seen how kuwait has held three major pledging conferences for the syria crisis, and they themselves provided hundreds o millions of dollars several years running, and followed through on their pledges. but not all of the gulf states do that. some give very little. some give a little bit and then pledge some and then don't follow through. the uae, in addition to kuwait, has done several hundred millions of dollars. in general, none of these states resettle refugees. they are permitting syrians to come and work in their countries. so that's one way that they are sheltering syrians and their families. but that's normally a temporary
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situation. >> and a drop in the bucket. >> we need more. >> madam chairman, my time is up. but thank you. >> thank you so much mr. connolly. mr. rohrabacher of california? >> so when we're talking about this great challenge that we face, you're saying that these oil-rich gulf states aren't bringi i-- are bringing people in as guest workers. how many -- do we know what magnitude that is that we're talking about? >> i don't have those facts? >> how about 5,000 people? how about 20,000? we're talking about 50? >> we'll get you that information. because what happened was, when -- in the last month, in september, with the europe migration, there's been a lot more criticism of the gulf states and some of them pushed back and provided more information than we had previously had. >> so many migrants do we know have gone in to europe in these last 18 months? >> it's hundreds of thousands, upwards of 600,000. >> upward of 600,000, and we
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don't know if the gulf states have even brought in 10,000 people? >> well, i probably should know. but i don't know today. >> all right. i appreciate that. now we're talking about bringing 70,000 or 75,000 to the united states? >> the past three years we've brought 70,000 refugees from all around the world to the united states. last year, we brought 1700 syrians as part of that 70,000. >> 1700 out of 70,000? >> that's right. and then for this year, we intend to bring 85,000 refugees to the united states, and 10,000 syrians. >> and 10,000. where are the rest of us, the refugees from, by the way, the other countries >> the top countries they're coming from are iraq, burma, and somalia. >> okay. iraq. how many are -- >> but they come from 67 different countries. >> how many are coming from
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iraq? >> i have that and can tell you that. >> so 12,676 came from iraq the fiscal year that just ended september 30th. >> 12,000. now of these people, one thing we've noticed that the migrans s coming into europe, we seem to notice that they seem to be very strong, young men who are virile and muslims. leaving this muslim part of the world, to go in to this other part of the world that's not a muslim part of the world, and they're getting away from conflict, and they're going there. is there any -- let me ask you this, of the people that we are bringing in, are they going to be muslim men, like are going to europe? or is there some way that we are
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trying to see that we have maybe a better definition of refugee, helpless people who are in need, rather than bringing more muslim men into the united states and into western europe? >> well, of the 1700 that we've brought, only 2% were young men, you know, young adult single men. >> mm-hmm. >> of course we bring men. we bring families. we bring families that have had terrible things happen to them. i would question, i guess, some of the thinking behind your statement about the young, able-bodied muslim men walking to europe. i think the reason that they're able to walk to europe is because they're able-bodied. and i think the reason they're going is because they've lost hope in the places they're living now, of being able to finish their educations, or have an education, or have a job, or
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earn some money and support their families. >> when we see these pictures of thousands and thousands of young muslim men in the streets in western europe, one thing has to be a priority. we want to help refugees whose lives are in danger. that's our moral stand here. this is what makes us america, is we care about people who are in danger like that. but when you're talking about the people that i've seen are military-age people who, if they are against radical islam, they should be there fighting radical islam. and, i hope that -- let me ask you in terms of religion. of the people who are here, of the people who are coming, we know that the christian community in syria, and in iraq, and in that part of the world, has been targeted for most of us would consider to be genocide. they take the christians out, and they just massacre them. now there are other muslims that
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get sunnis and shiites kill each other. that's clear. but, it's pretty hard to miss the fact that the christian community in that part of the world has been targeted for extinction. should we not then try to prioritize so that we take care of those people who are targeted for extinction, rather than just people who are caught up in asy horrible situation? >> all right. three very quick points. one is that the muslim men going to europe, some of them are trying to avoid being drafted into assad's regime, into his army. and so i'm very sympathetic to them for that. second, europe is, in history, primarily christian. but today, there are a lot of muslims already living throughout europe. i assure you, congressman. and then third, we do agree with you that the christian community is being targeted.
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and particularly by isil. and as the high commissioner reminded me today, the ones who are most targeted, the most vulnerable are the yazidi who are not christian and are considered therefore not of the book and are therefore even more miserably treated and murdered, and raped. so we agree with you that this qualifies the refugees who have fled because they're christians or other ethnic or religious minorities, as particularly vulnerable. and it does help them put their case together. that they should be particularly helped. and -- >> i would hope -- >> in the united states. >> i would hope that we give priority to christians, and other people who have been actually targeted for their faith, and also let me know about whatever we have to say about assad trying to murder those people, who would create a more democratic syria, he did
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offer safe haven to christians for a long time, and that's at least one thing that we need to recognize. if christian community in the middle east is, indeed, being targeted for genocide, we need to understand that, we need to target that. we need to act with that part of the assumption of how we're going to handle this great humanitarian crisis. that we now face in the middle east. thank you for doing your part. god bless you. >> thank you so much, mr. rohrabacher. mr. rodriguez, i wanted you to have another opportunity to walk us through the vetting process. this hearing is being broadcast to c-span3 and then they will view it -- they will run it a few more times, so maybe some -- some in the television audience have not had a chance, because they just plugged in now, to talk about, to hear you talk about how the vetting process that you have in place, how
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secure you feel that is. how comfortable you feel that there is the existing security screening process that we have, is able to identify potential extremists, and threats to the united states. if you could walk us through that process about what your department is doing? >> thank you, chairwoman, for that opportunity. and undersecretary richard actually did a very nice job of walking through the broader process, which, of course, starts with the first encounter with the united nations high commissioner on refugees. then they go to resettlement contractor that works with the department of state. that begins the first part, two of the first critical parts of the vetting process, which is unhcr self-conducts an interview of the individual in order to determine whether they're stating a refugee claim. that's where information that we
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receive, and then later on becomes part of our interview process. the biographic checks, based on the pedigree information, if you will, that's given to us by the applicant's refugee status, are tested against three important databases. first is the consular lookout da database which is maintained by the state department and essentially describes people who've been encountered during the consular process. in some places we look to the fbi to give us something called the security advisory opinion, which again looks to a series of source sources that are both law enforcement and intelligence sources, most critically from this particular population is the third of the data bases which i mention which is the interagency check. that interagency check queries against the number of law
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enforcement and intelligence sour sources in the community that's working in partnership, national security council, the national counterterrorism center, the state department, us, we are in a constant process of thinking about how we further strengthen those sources. not just to vet syrians, but to vet anybody else, be it iraqis, be it afghans, somalis, as the case might be. as i indicated before that process just in the syrian case has identified 30 individuals who just as part of that process were identified as having derogatory history. were denied admission at that point. we then get to the point where our officers cult the interviews. by the time they're doing that they have the benefit of the interview that's already been conducted by the high commissioner. they have the results of these chats. but very critically, they have
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not only their own deep understanding of the country conditions about which they have been briefed prior to deployment, but they also have their experience in interviewing individuals. and so, through that they also gain a lot of depth of understanding of what makes sense. of what adds up. what's credible. and so through that process, they're making decisions about whether people will, in fact, move to the next stage, or whether, in fact, there is a problem with the account they're giving. sometimes that problem could be a contradiction between what they're saying during the screening interview and what they told the high commission. sometimes it can be that the information they're give something completely inconsistent with the country conditions as we know them. and by the way, the information that we gather we often nominate that information to be part of intelligence databases because we get information that is then used to deepen our understanding of what's going on, whether it's
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in syria, or somewhere else. and, of course, that then fortifies the work that we're doing in the future. is the process risk free? there is no risk free process. are we doing the absolute best that we can practically with the resources? are we giving our folks the best training we can give them? are we using the best intelligence resources that we can get our hands on? and the answer to that is absolutely yes. >> thank you very much. mr. richard and mr. stall i want to give you an opportunity in case you had any concluding statement that you would like to make. >> you know, you'll notice that we all said that we're able to do this with the bipartisan support of congress. and we actually say that to people in other country's, too and explain to them no matter what they hear about washington, this program actually has benefited year in and year out by bicameral, bipartisan support. and it's my desire to keep it that way. and i appreciate both of you
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sticking this out to the end here. and your help to help us to keep it that way. because, i think there is a risk that as we bring more people and as there's more press attention to the program, and attention during a presidential campaign season that people could start misinterpreting the goals of this. this is an american program. it's a fine american administration. i think most americans should take pride in both our overseas humanitarian endeavors and our domestic ones. so thank you in advance for the help you're giving us with your colleagues, to continue the strong support we get. thank you very much. >> thank you to all of you for the great work you're doing, mr. stahl? >> yes, thank you very much for holding this hearing, and also for identifying that it's not only the syrians themselves who are suffering, but the countries in the region, and the importance of maintaining their
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stability, but also their ability to absorb these additional refugees, and people and that's a critical part of the resources that you provide us. not only the humanitarian side, but even the development dollars are providing assistance to this crisis. and of course at the end of the day though, no matter how much we do on the humanitarian side that's not going to resolve the problem. that's not even going to stop people from going to europe. it's resolving the political issues. and getting the solution there, and that's what we all hope for. thank you very much. >> amen. thank you very much. we look forward to having you back with us in a few months' time so you can update us on the progress you have made. thank you very much. and with that, our subcommittee is adjourned. thank you.
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on the other side of the capitol today the senate armed services committee also held a hearing on syria. in one exchange with the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, south carolina senator and presidential candidate lindsey graham offered his thoughts on u.s. strategy in the region. >> you know as well as i do, both of you know, that the average syrian not only wants to destroy isil, but they're intent on destroying assad because he's killed 250,000 of them. and here's the question, for this committee. how do we leverage assad leaving when russia's going to fight for him? iran's going to fight for him? hezbollah's fighting for him. and we're not going to do a damn thing to help people take him down. and you all both know that. so when kerry goes over to geneva, he is turning over syria to the russians and to the
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iranians. is there any credible military threat to assad now that russia, iran and hezbollah have gone inside? do you see any credible military threat to take him down, general dunford? >> i think the balance of forces right now are in assad's advantage. >> not his advantage, he is secure as the day is long. so this is what's happened, folks. the strategy is completely falling apart. russia, iran and hezbollah are going to fight for their guy and we're not going to do a damn thing to help the people who want to change syria for the better by getting rid of the dictator in damascus. do you see a scenario, secretary carter, where we would fight to support an effort to take assad down? that we would fight alongside of people who want to take assad down in syria? is that remotely possible? >> we are -- our approach to removing assad has been to -- >> does it have a military component? >> it is principally a political
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effort in syria. >> so the answer is no. >> our military effort -- >> are we going to fight with people who want to take assad down? or are we going to provide them military help? >> our train and equip program -- >> the answer is no. the answer is no. >> supportive of people -- >> so let me just end this. if i'm assad, this is a good day for me. because the american government has just said, without saying it, that they're not going to fight. to replace me. the russians and the iranians and hezbollah, this is a really good day for them because their guy has no military credible threat. so, you tell me what kind of deal we're going to get, folks. i'm sure we'll get a really good deal. so what you've done, gentlemen, along with the president, is you've turned syria over to russia and iran. you told the people in syria,
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who died by the hundreds of thousands, we're more worried about a political settlement than we are about what follows. all i can say, this is a sad day for america, and the region will pay hell for this, because the arabs are not going to accept this. the people in syria are not going to accept this. this is a half-assed strategy at best. >> tomorrow morning, here on c-span3, attorney general loretta lynch goes to capitol hill, answering questions from the house judiciary committee. that oversight hearing is wednesday at 10:00 eastern live here on c-span3. also this week the house of representatives votes for a new speaker. wisconsin republican paul ryan has locked up support from various groups within the republican conference. he faces florida republican daniel webster. republicans meet wednesday afternoon to pick which candidate they'll put forward to be speaker of the house. then the full house votes thursday to elect the replacement for speaker john boehner who is resigning. also this week the house
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expected to debate a two-year budget agreement that would raise the debt ceiling until 2017. and provide $80 billion in extra domestic and military spending. you can read the 144-page bill on our website >> c-span has your best access to congress with live coverage from capitol hill. in the closing months of the year the house and senate have several key items to address. on thursday, it's the vote for the next speaker of the house. >> i've shown my colleagues what i think success looks like. what i think it takes to unify and lead, and how my family commitments come first. i have left this decision in their hands. and should they agree with these requests, then i am happy, and i am willing to get to work. >> that's also the deadline for a highway funding bill, impacting roads, bridges and mass transit projects across the country. in early november, the nation
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will reach its debt limit, and in december, temporary government funding will expire with a possible government shutdown on the horizon. stay with c-span for live coverage of congress on tv, on the radio, and online at right now on c-span3, a house homeland security committee hearing with fbi director james comey, homeland security secretary jeh johnson, and the head of the national counterterrorism center. they talked about isis, cybersecurity, and the process for vetting refugees from syria. texas congressman michael mccaul chairs the homeland security committee. the committee on homeland security will come to order.
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the committee is meeting today to exam current and evolving threats to the homeland. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. first i'd like to thank our witnesses for joining us here today and for offering their insights on the security challenges that we face ahome and abroad. we'll cover a lot of ground today from america's border security to our cyber defenses. but i want to focus in particular on the rising terror threat to the homeland. last month this committee held the first-ever congressional hearing at the 9/11 memorial museum in new york. and we were reminded of the column pledge our country made in the aftermath. to never let such a day happen again. that resolve became the rallying cry of this nation, as we embarked on a generational war against islamist terror. and 14 years later we're still engaged in that struggle.
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today i expect an unvarnished assessment from our witnesses about where we stand in the fight. we are at a turning point in the new age of terror. i predict this year could exceed the last and become the most violent year on record for global terrorism. radical islamists are recruiting online, across borders, and at broadband speed. and the impact is being felt worldwide. here in the united states, there have been more terrorist cases this year involving home grown jihadists than any full year since 9/11. isis alone has inspired or directed 17 terror plots in america since early 2014. and overall the group has been linked to more than 60 plots against western targets from canada to australia. the pace of terror and plotting is unprecedented.
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unrivalled even by al qaeda at its peak. yet we were no closer to dismantling isis than we were a year ago. despite 14 months of airstrikes, the group has largely maintained its core safe haven while expanding its global footprint. the isis reign of terror is fuelled by its recruitment of foreign fighters who hail from more than 100 countries, including our own. this committee launched a bipartisan task force to examine the foreign fighter threat and last month the group released its final report with some very disturbing findings. overall, they found that we were losing the struggle to stop americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists. and we have managed to only stop a small fraction of the hundreds of americans who've attempted to fight in syria and iraq. and some have even managed to make it back into the united states after enlisting with terrorist groups.
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we are falling behind the threat for many reasons. vulnerable, young people are being decree oughted at record speeds. and terrorists are shifting their communications to dark space, which has made it far more difficult to monitor, and intercept suspects. these secure communication tools are also being used to plot attacks in our own country. moreover gaping security weaknesses overseas, especially in europe, are making it easier for extremists to travel to and from the conflict zone. but at the end of the day we cannot keep individuals from being lured to terrorist hot spots unless we eliminate the problem at its source. sadly those prospects have grown darker. the president's failure to develop a coherent strategy in syria and iraq has emboldened our adversaries to fill the vacuum with disastrous consequences. russia and iran are now propping up assad, and there are reports
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that even cuban special forces have joined the fight. those rogue regimes will fan the flames of sectarianism and make it harder for us to eliminate the terrorist sanctuary in the region. their actions will also intensify refugee flows, which have become a serious security challenge in light of reports that terrorists are exploiting the crisis to sneak operatives into the west. violent extremists are also expanding their foothold from libya to afghanistan. yet, i am armed that we lack a clear vision for reversing their gains and winning the wider war against islamist terror. if we fail to defeat our enemies overseas and combat them and their hateful ideology we will be forced to fight more of them here at home. we've learned this the hard way. today i hope to hear from our witnesses about these challenges, and how their agencies are working to strengthen our defenses on the home front. again, i want to express my
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gratitude to each of you for your close and continued cooperation with this committee, your dedication to our country, and your success this year in disrupting so many terrorist plots, and let me just close by saying that the fbi and homeland working together have arrested almost 70 isis-related individuals in this country. i'm amazed at what we've been able to stop. and i just want to commend you for that. with that the chair recognizes the ranking member. >> i thank the chairman for holding today's hearing. mr. secretary, welcome to you. what is your first appearance before this committee. this congress. i look forward to hearing your informed perspective on today's
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topic. i'd also like to thank the director rasmussen and director comey for their testimony. mr. chairman, while i agree that the threats to this nation are concerning and worthy of examination, i also believe that as a authorizing committee of the department of homeland security, it is our responsibility to hear from the secretary about the overall management of dhs. this bipartisan committee, the government accountability office, and inspector general, have all identified challenges within the department. additionally, there are components within the department that have proposed restructuring. while the secretary's unity effort initiative has made strides since the beginning of the congress, but the federal employee viewpoint survey still indicates that dhs has a long way to go in improving workforce morale.
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also, two dhs components with a zero fail mission, the transportation security administration, and the secret service, are ongoing much-needed reform. furthermore, their mission is critical as we look to prevent crippling attacks from cyber terrorists. while we've heard from several dhs officials, this congress, we have yet to hear from the head of the agency on the record about how he's fulfilling his vision for the department, and what he needs from congress. today's hearing, and the topic and testimony does not provide for a hearing from the secretary on the topics i've mentioned. therefore i'm asking you, mr. chairman, for a commitment at some point to hold a hearing on the oversight of the department of homeland security, and invite secretary johnson to testify before the end of the first session of congress. i know the success of the department is a shared concern.
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each member of this committee should have the opportunity to question the secretary in an open setting, and to continue to hold him accountable. today's hearing on the worldwide threats should give the committee the opportunity to hear the perspective of top government officials on the wide-ranging threats of terrorism from both international groups and domestic terrorists. through its oversight this committee has given attention to the threat from international terror organizations, including al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, and the threat from islamic state of iraq in lebanon. the committee's bipartisan task force looked at the threat from foreign fighters and one of their glaring yet unsurprising findings is that they are still intelligence and information sharing gaps that need to be addressed. these gaps also enter the conversation as we continue our
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efforts to address our humanitarian response to the refugee crisis in syria. i want to hear from each witness about their agency's intelligence capability, and how they are working together as we prepare to assist in this humanitarian crisis. as members of congress we have a responsibility to convey accurate information to our constituents, and to the media. as we rightfully continue to address the threat from international terrorist organizations, i want to reemphasize that we should not lose sight of the threats posed by terrorists that are right here in america. as they are those that have no plans of traveling overseas to receive training from any international group. through social media network isil has encouraged lone offenders to perpetrate violence right here on our soil.
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this approach is not novel. right wing domestic terrorist groups also use social media to recruit and communicate. again, mr. chairman, violent extremists views no single ideology or recruitment tactic. even though some federal officials have been dismissive of domestic terrorism, and others generate false intelligence to the contrary, the facts are clear, since september the 11th, more people in the united states have died in attacks by domestic extremists than attacks by international terrorist groups. mr. chairman, we often discuss what the 9/11 commissioner calls a vary of imagination. as we use today to discuss the threats to our country, let us not fail to imagine the devastation that can be caused by the extremists, both abroad, and in our backyards. with that, mr. chairman, i yield back my time.
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>> i thank the ranking member. and i appreciate your bipartisan cooperation on the task force report which i think was valuable. hopefully to federal law enforcement and the intelligence community. and i will honor your request to have another hearing on the oversight. issue, as well. we have a distinguished panel before us. first, the honorable jeh johnson who serves as the fourth secretary of homeland security since his swearing-in on december 23rd, 2013. previously he served as general counsel for the department of defense, where he led over 10,000 civilian and military lawyers across the department, and worked on the raid operation on the compound in abbottabad to take down osama bin laden. next the honorable nicholas rasmussen has served as director
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of the national counterterrorism center since december 2014, served as the deputy director and is a member of the national security council staff, where he was special assistant to the president, and senior director for counterterrorism. and finally, we have the honorable james comey, who has served as the federal bureau of investigation's director since september of 2013. previously he was general counsel for bridgewater associated and deputy attorney general at the department of justice. he also worked on the exile program, which i remember meeting with you, sir, a long time ago when i was deputy attorney general for the state of texas, trying to implement the same program in the state of texas, and we thank you for being here, as well. witnesses' full written statements will appear in the record. the chair now recognizes secretary johnson for an opening statement. >> thank you, chairman. congressman thompson, members of the committee, it is a pleasure to appeal before you again.
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you have my prepared statement. i will not read it in its entirety. let me just give you a few thoughts. last month, i attended, on 9/11, the ceremony that occurred in shanksville, pennsylvania. this was the 14th anniversary of 9/11.yv.o that ceremony, in particular, was a sobering reminder of the acts of terrorism, but also the acts of heroism that day. particularly on flight 93. the 40 passengers and crew that day. i met almost all of their families that day. the events on 9/11 were the most prominent and devastating example of terrorist attacks by those who are recruited, trained and directed overseas. and exported to our homeland. the 9/11 hijackers were acting on orders from al qaeda's external operations chief khalid shaikh mohammed, who was in turn
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carrying out the direction of osama bin laden. likewise the attempted shoe bomber, in december 2001, the attempted underwear bomber in december 2009, the attempted times square car bombing in may 2010, and the attempted package bomb plot in october 2010, were all efforts to export terrorism to the united states. and they all appear to have been directed by terrorist organizations overseas. the response to these types of attacks, and attempted attacks on our homeland, was and is to take the fight directly to the terrorist organizations at locations overseas. but today, the global terrorist threat is more decentralized, more complex, and in many respects, harder to detect. the new reality involves the potential for smaller-scale attacks by those who are either home-grown, or home baked.
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not exported. and who are inspired by, but not necessarily directed by, a terrorist organization. today, it's no longer necessary for terrorist organizations to personally recruit, train and direct operatives overseas and in secret, and export them to the u.s. to commit a terrorist attack. today, with new and skilled use of the internet, terrorist organizations may publicly recruit and inspire individuals to conduct attacks within their own homelands. al qaeda and the arabian peninsula no longer hides the fact that it builds bombs. it pub his sizes its instruction manual in its magazine and publicly urges people to use it. today we're also concerned about foreign terrorist fighters. who are answering public calls to leave their home countries in europe, and elsewhere, to travel to iraq and syria, and to take up the extremist fight there. many of these individuals will
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return to their home countries, with an extremist motive. in this regard, i complement this committee for the report it issued on september 29th, concerning foreign terrorist fighters. i have read it. i believe this committee's work is spot on. in many respects in your assessments of the risk. as noted in the report, my department has undertaken much of what is recommended. we have been and are continuing to institute measures to detect and prevent travel by foreign terrorist fighters along with the good work of the fbi. the recent wave of attacks and attempted attacks here and in europe reflect the new reality of the global terrorist threat. the boston marathon bombing in april 2013, the attack on the war memorial and parliament building in ottawa in october 2014, the attack on the charlie
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hebdo headquarters in paris, france in january 2015. the attempted attack in garland city, texas in may 2015. and the attack that killed five u.s. service members in chattanooga, tennessee, in july. what do these wave of attacks, recent attacks and attempted attacks all have in common? they were all conducted by home-grown or moment based actors. and they all appear to have been inspired but not directed by al qaeda or isil. finally, we are concerned about domestic terrorism in the form of a lone wolf who can include various aspects -- which can include various aspects of domestic terrorism, such as right-wing extremism. it evokes substantial efforts to the study and understanding of these threats and will continue to further our understanding of the underpinning of terrorist threats in all forms. in terms of what we are doing about it, i look forward to your
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questions. the last two thoughts i have, members of congress asked me what can we do to help? how can we support the department's homeland security missions? just two things i'd like to leave you with. first of all, through the work of this committee and the house, the house passed hr 1731. which in my judgment is a solid cybersecurity piece of legislation. i hope it or something closely resembling it, becomes law. i note that the senate, with some managers amendments, offered on the senate floor the other day s-754 which is the cybersecurity information sharing act. that bill, too, in its current form, is in my judgment, a good piece of legislation. i hope the senate takes it up on the senate floor, passes it, and it goes to conference with the house's bill. and i want to thank the members of this committee who were leaders in that effort.
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we need cybersecurity legislation. last thing i'll say, and this is probably the most important thing i can say by way of legislation, i cannot deliver for the american public the homeland security that the congress expects of me and my department. as long as i have to live with a sequestered budget. unless congress repeals sequestration, that will have very significant negative effects to our ability to deliver border security, aviation security, maritime security, work with the fbi and others on our counterterrorism efforts, provide protection for our national leaders, and so forth. so, i urge congress to repeal sequestration so that we can do what we need to do for the american people. homeland security is the front line of national security. thank you. >> thank you, secretary. i certainly agree. and we need to reprioritize our budget towards national security and national defense, and the
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cybersecurity. i'm glad we were able to enhance, i think, the senate version. deliver for you so you can do a better job at that important effort. and finally thank you for your recognition of the report itself and the task force. with that, the chair now recognizes mr. rasmuten. >> good morning. like secretary johnson and director comey i welcome the opportunity to discuss the range of threats to the homeland that concern us the most. before getting into that threat in detail we are closely assigned with dhs and fbi and our other counterterrorism community and intelligence community partners in terms of how we view that threat environment. from an analytic perspective i'd start by saying the chances of a
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spectacular large scale attack on the homeland by an overseas terrorist group have been substantially reduced over the last several years and we've collectively achieved that outcome with ct action of al qaeda overseas and through the robust homeland security infrastructure we've developed as a country in the last 14 years. but while we can look with some degree of satisfaction that the work done to reduce the threat of a large-scale mass casualty attack there's still quite a bit to be concerned about on the terrorism landscape and that landscape as you, yourself said, mr. chairman, is in some ways more challenging than ever. it's clear the terrorist operating paradigm has shifted and it's shifted in ways proving particularly challenging as we try to identify and disrupt potential threats to the homeland. there are more threats now than at any time previously. first we are intensively foe kulsed on the threat from isil.
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in our judgment isil has overtaken al qaeda as the leader of the global violent extremist movement and the group views itself as being in direct conflict with the west and that conflict is increasingly being played out not just in iraq and syria but also in other places around the world where isil has declared itself to have a province. the places include algeria, egypt, yemen, saudi arabia, pakistan, afghanistan, nigeria, the caucasus region and the implications f here at home and our homeland threat picture and there are three especially concerning features of isil as a terrorist group in my judgment. the first is the access to resources, extensive resources in terms of manpower and terl and fu materiel and funds and the group it exercises in iraq and syria. and the third, again, is something that you highlighted in your remarks, their access to
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the large pool of individuals from western countries both those who have traveled to iraq and syria and those who have remained in their home countries. when we look for indicators of external operations capability that could threaten the homeland from isil these are the key features we generally expect to see and they are present with isil. secretary johnson also alluded to how we are coming to view the threat from isil and especially the homeland piece of that threat. we've started to view isil's involvement in homeland attack activity as falling along a spectrum. at one end we see isolated individuals who draw inspiration from isil's highly sophisticated media content even if isil leadership is not directly guiding their actions. at the other end of the spectrum something more traditional we assess there are individuals who may receive direct guidance and specific distribution from isil members. more often than not, individuals we see here in the homeland tend to operate somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum
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creating a fluid picture difficult to assess. second, if you look beyond our intensive focus on isil and the threat it poses to the homeland, substantial attention to al qaeda and its affiliates and nodes around the world and despite the unrelenting media attention and focus on isil in no respect would i or our intelligence community downgrade our intention on al qaeda-related threat activity focused in favor of greater focus on isil. when i'm often asked in public settings to identify what my number one terrorism concern is i decline to answer because i would not want our focus on one terrorist threat to suggest that we're not focused on other significant threts that we're confro confronting. we're closely watching for signs that al qaeda's attack capability is being restored ahead of the military drawdown in afghanistan. has been degraded, we continue to watch for and track indications that core al qaeda
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is, in fact, engaged in plotting activity aimed at the homeland. in the statements for the record both director comey and secretary johnson singled out al qaeda in the arabian peninsula for particular attention and that's for good reason. the threat remains at the top of our list of analytic priorities given the group's unrelenting focus on targeting u.s. interests including potentially the aviation sector. beyond yemen, we've also been watching al qaeda's affiliated networks of individuals in syria who may be looking to carry out external operations against the west or potentially the homeland and while we've had public successes in terms of disrupting some of the individuals involved in that plotting from syria, there's clearly more to be done in this regard and the work continues. our third area of priority and my last area i'll mention in my remarks is the growing use of simple opportunity-driven attacks by homegrown violent extremes. that style of attack is clearly proliferated within the last several years. when you look back to 2009 we
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were seeing on average less than two or three of those incidents per year. by last year 2014 that number was a dozen. and to date this year that number of incidents or disrupted plots has already doubled for this year suggesting there are a greater number of hcvs inside the united states and while it's difficult to put precise numbers on that population of homegrown violent extremists here in the united states there's no question in my mind and in the mind of our analysts that this population has increased in size over the last 18 months. in my judgment isil has injected new energy and life into that population of homegrown violent extremists and isil for its part knows it can have a real impact by motivating individuals to act in their own locations by carrying out individual attacks even on a relatively modest scale and that's particularly true of several such attacks were strung together in a compressed time frame. that's a significant innovation in the terrorist playbook, something that al qaeda never quite managed to deploy against
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us. and it requires that we in the counterterrorism community innovate and adamant as well. to conclude, chairman and congressman thompson, i want to assure you and the rest of the commit that we continue to work every day to detect, defeat and disrupt all manner of threats from across this full spectrum of terrorists concerns we have and i look forward to discussing it in greater depth. >> thank you, sir, we appreciate the work you do. the chair now recognizes mr. comey. >> members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today. my colleagues have made clear in their opening statements something that i won't repeat that isil has broken the model. i want to explain why that change in model leads us to talk so much about the challenges we face with encryption very briefly. social media has transformed human experience in wonderful ways. i have no idea where anybody from a fifth grade class at ps-16 in yonkers, new york, today, my kids will know everything about everybody from
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their fifth grade class for the rest of their life. it's good and bad to that. i think on bad it's wonderful. but isil has used that ubiquitous social media to break the model. and push into the united states into the pocket, onto the mobile devices of troubled souls throughout our country and all 50 states, a twin message, come or kill. come to the so-called caliphate and live a life in glory and participate in the final battle between good and evil on god's side and come to the caliphate and if you can't come kill where you are. social media works to connect us. it works as a way to sell cars or shoes or a movie. it works to crowd source terrorism and so starting in the summer of 2014 they really invested in this. and it works. it led to troubled souls convincing themselves that there was meaning for them in syria and iraq or that they should engage in acts of violence in the united states and that investment started to pay dividends and taxed all of our
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resources in the spring of this year when suddenly we had dozens and dozens of cases in the united states of people who were progressing along the spectrum from consuming to acting to killing where they are and thank goodness thanks to tremendous work by the men and women who work for us that was disrupted. we arrested dozens of people during this year to disrupt those plots. the challenge we face is enormous because this broken model, this crowd sourcing of terrorism, means there are hundreds of people across our great country who are troubled who are consuming this poison. we have investigations in all 50 states trying to understand so where are they from consuming to acting. very hard to find them and to evaluate them and it gets harder still. it's not just a nationwide haystack where we're looking for needles. isil makes those needles disappear on us. if they find a live one on twitter they will move them through all the investigations from an end-to-end mobile messaging app that is enscripted
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and then the needle disappears. we know if somebody is really dangerous to us the needle goes invisible to us. that is are very concerning and the reason we are talking so much about encryption in we see in isil and more broadly a conflict between two values everybody in america cares about. we all care about safety and security on the internet, i and nick and jay are huge fan of encryption, right? we want our key data encrypted. it helps the fbi fight cyberintrusions. that value is colliding with public safety which we all care deeply about. we don't have an easy answer. but a great democracy should see when its values are in collision and talk about how we might resolve those two things. there's no easy answer. the good news is we're having productive conversations with local law enforcement which cares deeply about this, with our allies and with the companies who make these devices and offer these services because they are good folks who care about both values. this is a really hard problem


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