Sen. Susan Collin’s Remarks Upon Introduction of SB 1959, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, 8/02/07

By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mr. Coleman):   S. 1959. A bill to establish the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise to introduce the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.

Foreign-based terrorism has weighed heavily in the news and in our thoughts for more than a decade. Since the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, we have seen foreign-based terrorists attack our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, a Navy destroyer in Yemen, the World Trade Center again, and the Pentagon. Timely arrests prevented foreign-based terrorists from carrying out a bombing plot directed at the Los Angeles airport and, more recently, attacks targeting U.S.-bound flights originating in England.

This long-standing and still-deadly threat requires continued surveillance and aggressive action, and will for years to come. But we cannot confine our counter-terrorism efforts to attacks organized in and launched from other countries. As demonstrated by the bloody bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal office building in 1995 and by this year’s arrests of suspects in plots directed at JFK International Airport and Fort Dix, NJ, domestic radicalization and violent extremism are also threats to American lives and American society.

The most effective border security will not prevent “home-grown” terrorists from attacking our citizens. We need to better understand the triggers for radicalization and violence in order to counter the threat of terrorists on American soil.

For nearly a year now, Senator LIEBERMAN and I have conducted an investigation and held a series of hearings in the Senate Homeland Security Committee probing different aspects of this domestic danger by examining radicalization in prisons, radicalization trends, the Internet and violent extremism, lessons from the European experience, and the adequacy of government counter-measures.

The harvest of information and insights from these hearings has helped alert us to dangers, guide our oversight activities, and formulate ideas for legislative action. The testimony and evidence we have seen persuade me that we need to undertake an even more in-depth examination of the threats of domestic radicalization and violent extremism.

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act would provide such an examination. It is a companion measure to the bill introduced by Representatives Jane Harman of California and Dave Reichert of Washington in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Harman has been extraordinarily perceptive in understanding the threat of violent radicalization, and her bill’s unanimous approval by the House Homeland Security Committee is a tribute to her leadership.

My bill, like the House measure, includes two key initiatives.

First, it would create a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism.

Second, it would establish a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the U.S.

The Commission would devote itself to a survey of what we know, and what we need to learn, about the social and psychological breeding grounds of extremism, the process of radicalization, the factors that cause people to turn to violence, the processes of recruitment and coordination, and the phenomenon of self-radicalization and “lone wolf” terrorism.

To ensure a broad range of input for the commission, members would be selected for their qualifications by the President, the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate, and the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committees of the House and Senate.

The commission’s final report, to be delivered within 18 months of its initial meeting, would provide a solid base of information and a guide for further research and action against the dangers that we face.

A “final report,” however useful, cannot be the last word in the fight against a threat that has been growing for years and may persist for decades. That is why the bill takes the important second step of establishing a university-based Center of Excellence focused on homegrown terrorism, violent radicalization, and ideologically based violence.

The Department of Homeland Security currently has 8 Centers for Excellence focusing on various aspects of homeland security, such as risk-analysis, food protection, and catastrophic-event preparedness and response.

My bill would empower the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a new center or to expand the mission of an existing center. In either case, such a center will provide an institution dedicated to researching and understanding violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism, and to developing findings that can assist Federal, State, local, and tribal governments in dealing with these threats.

It is vital, that our homeland-security efforts extend to a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the radicalization process that turns people living in our midst to ideologically based violence and terrorism. It is also vital that we create an academically based center to sustain high-quality research efforts on this threat to augment federal initiatives and to expand and supplement Government thinking.

This bill, which closely parallels legislation now moving through the House of Representatives, meets those vital needs. I urge my colleagues to support the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.E

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