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Yeganeh Torbati @yjtorbati
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Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing with @SecNielsen, @FBI Director Wray, and NCTC's Russ Travers kicks off. Sen. Ron Johnson devotes first part of his opening statement to families/unaccompanied children crossing southern border, now discussing cyber vulnerabilities
In her statement, Sen. Claire McCaskill notes that U.S. has focused on placing border patrol officers along the border but that there are not enough at actual ports of entry to inspect packages and interdict illegal drugs
McCaskill says she also wants an update from Wray/Nielsen about any threats to the security of the midterm elections
As @SecNielsen starts her testimony, protesters silently walk at the back of the hearing room holding up signs that say "Families belong together"
FBI's Wray says the agency is currently investigating about 5000 terrorism cases around the world, and about 1000 of them are homegrown violent extremists, across all 50 states
McCaskill pointedly criticizes fact that not all suspected terrorists are detained, while families/children being held in immigration detention
Asked by Sen. Peters "how long is too long to detain a child?" @SecNielsen responds "we do not at the Department of Homeland Security detain children...but in general the answer is as short an amount of time as possible"
.@SecNielsen says she is familiar with the literature outlining the harm done to children who are detained. She says that it takes time for HHS to find appropriate sponsors for the children. (this has been made more difficult given greater information sharing between HHS/ICE)
Many questions at this hearing on ISIS/cyber/unauthorized migration/etc. I wonder if any Senators will ask about the new IPCC report on climate change, which is also highly relevant to homeland security
Sen. Doug Jones asks about the homegrown terrorism threat, says he considers Birmingham church bombing, Murrah building bombing, Charlottesville white nationalist rally as "homegrown threats" - says he doesn't want threats from "far right" to be overlooked
Wray responds to Jones that the FBI considers those types of threats "domestic terrorism," and says the agency has about 1000 investigations open into this type of threat
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp implores @SecNielsen to do better outreach/engagement with advocacy groups in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador)
Sen. Heitkamp asks Nielsen about CBP staffing at the northern border and what more can be done to recruit officers to work there. This has been a long-running issue/complaint from members of Congress
.@SenKamalaHarris asking Wray about Kavanaugh investigation, and whether the scope of the investigation was limited by the White House or if the FBI had full discretion
Wray responds that background investigations are very different from other FBI investigations...Sen. Harris asks again if FBI had full discretion, and Wray says "our supplemental update...was limited in scope and that is consistent with standard process for such investigations"
.@SenKamalaHarris asks who from the White House communicated with the FBI regarding the investigation, and Wray says it was the White House's Office of Security
.@SenKamalaHarris asks if the FBI looked into allegations that Kavanaugh lied during his testimony, and Wray says it's not something he can discuss. Harris moves on to question Nielsen on child detention
.@SenKamalaHarris asks @SecNielsen to explain previous statements that DHS does not detain children, given recent IG report that CBP sometimes detained children for extended periods as Trump admin enforced family separation policy. (see that report here:…)
Nielsen responds that DHS holds children until HHS space opens up. That space was not available, she says, because "10,000 children were sent here unaccompanied and their parents chose to do that."
Sen. Rand Paul, in middle of questioning Wray about foreign databases being used without warrants to investigate domestic crimes, brings up "Peter Strzok and his girlfriend" and Andy McCabe as examples of officials he doesn't want using/abusing such data
.@SenatorLankford (of my own home state of Oklahoma) asks Nielsen about Bloomberg's supply chain article and threats from China...Nielsen doesn't say anything about the article itself, about which many questions have been raised
.@SenatorLankford asks Nielsen where the US dialogue w Northern Triangle countries is heading. Nielsen says she has asked for regional approach to counter smuggling and making sure the countries are as stable as possible, given role that economic insecurity plays in migration
Sen. Tom Carper asks @SecNielsen about the threats posed by climate change, noting the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes, and mentions the recent IPCC report...Nielsen responds that we have to do more to understand the threats
Been a long time since NCTC's acting director Russ Travers has been addressed, so Carper asks him what he would like to be asked. Travers responds: "what's your single biggest concern about the terrorist threat going forward?" Travers replies, to his own question, "complacency"
That was kinda funny. I'm sure Nielsen and Wray would love to answer questions they get to choose as well.
Sen. Hoeven asks Travers if NCTC is able to attract the talent it needs to do its work, Travers says data scientists are among the hardest population to hire/retain
Under questioning by Sen. Johnson, Travers says Europe has made "vast improvements" in sharing information that is leading to preventing terrorist attacks
Sen. Johnson praises Bloomberg's supply chain investigation, complains that this type of information comes out through the press rather than official sources. Asks Wray/Nielsen when they found out about situation with Supermicro
Wray responds regarding the Bloomberg article "Be careful what you read."
Johnson responds, if the article is not accurate, he'd like FBI to say so. Wray says as a law enforcement agency FBI can't confirm or deny an investigation, and he doesn't want to imply there is an investigation
Nielsen says DHS doesn't have evidence that supports the Bloomberg article
McCaskill says the vast amount of political attention to securing the southern border (in terms of migration) has taken away attention from stopping illegal fentanyl and other opioids from entering through ports of entry
Hearing adjourned following brief round of questioning by Johnson toward Wray regarding FBI accountability
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