It all comes down to trust—trust at this point is a national security imperative. ~ Congressman Max Rose
NEW YORK, NY — May 20, 2019 — Congressman Max Rose, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, gave a speech on confronting terrorist threats of today and tomorrow at the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) annual SHIELD Conference. NYPD’s SHIELD partnership is an umbrella program for a series of current and future initiatives that pertain to private sector security and counterterrorism.
“It all comes down to trust—trust at this point is a national security imperative,” said Rose, an Army combat veteran, “Trust between the public sector and the private sector; trust that if you’re running a major bank, if you’re running a major cyber company, if you’re running a major energy company—that if you share intelligence with the public sector it will not be misused and vice versa. But it’s also trust between communities and law enforcement. Community based policing is the tip of the spear in our counterterrorism efforts. We’ve never seen this before, and it’s worth repeating. Community based policing is the tip of the spear in our counterterrorism efforts. It’s the principle way that intelligence gathering is occurring in this day and age.”
As Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Rose has worked tirelessly to ensure that law enforcement has the support it needs from the federal government to do its job. Rose introduced legislation supported by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to crack down on unregistered and untraceable “ghost guns” by providing local law enforcement with annual updates on the threat posed by the availability of these weapons, which last week passed committee.
Last month, Rose lead a push for increased funding to support New York City’s counterterrorism programs, and he recently called on social media companies to work more closely with law enforcement to prevent the spread of terrorist content on their platforms. Earlier this year, Rose joined the NYPD for a tour and briefing of the city’s needs and capabilities in addressing threats of terrorism. Additionally, Rose is leading a bipartisan effort to educate and build support from new Members of Congress to fully fund and permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
Transcript of Rose’s remarks:
Thank you all for being here. And thank you even more for putting your lives on the line every day and night to keep us safe.
Commissioner [John] Miller, thank you for your incredible leadership.
I come before you today not just as a Congressman, not just as a vet, but also as a fourth generation New Yorker truly grateful for everything you all are doing.
I’ve been a Member of Congress now for six months. During my first 30 days, I was walking around the halls of Congress—and it’s beautiful, it’s ornate—and I’d say, “how did I get here, how did this happen?”
Ever since then, I’ve been looking at my colleagues asking, “how did you get here?”
So that’s some of the challenges that I’m going to talk to you about today: what can Congress do, what should Congress do, and what is Congress capable in this day.
But I’ll also be talking about what I think this Administration should be doing. Because we truly live in an incredible time when it comes to counterterror.
If you think about it this way, this September, soldiers will be enlisting in the United States military who were not born on 9/11. The vast majority of your average infantry platoon, your average infantry company, does not remember 9/11. And nonetheless though, the threat of terrorism is greater now than it ever has been.
Remember 9/11. And nonetheless though, the threat of terrorism is greater now than it ever has been.
And I think if you look at the threat in the last two decades in almost three different stages.
We first saw central training camps with organized groups like Al Qaeda orchestrating attacks from afar, financing them from afar in a centralized manner.
Then we saw the rise of ISIS and foreign fighters moving to and from a centralized caliphate and bringing hateful ideologies and dangerous tactics back to Western Europe and the United States.
And now, one of the greatest threats that we face, is domestic terrorists and lone-wolf shooters who have been self-radicalized on social media. There’s no money trail, there’s no hierarchy, there’s no central command—but it’s an incredible threat nonetheless.
And these aren’t distinguished stages of terrorism, they’re now overlapping threats, and it makes terrorism more dangerous and more complex that it ever has been.
Al Qaeda is resurrecting. ISIS is devolving back into a diffuse terrorist network, but one that is still incredibly capable of orchestrating complex attacks as we’ve recently seen. Iran and other state actors are using non-state proxies like Hezbollah, which considers terrorism its number one instrument of warfare.
Amidst all of this complexity, we ourselves are faced with challenges as a community. We keep putting more and more tools into our toolkit and the dynamic has changed.
It used to be we weren’t gathering enough intelligence. It used to be that we were not partnering enough.
Now, today, the problem is exactly the opposite: we have too much intelligence, too much information—the haystack has gotten so large we cannot even find the needle in it.
Because information in and of itself is not the goal: it’s actionable intelligence.
And the community, and this especially pertains to the federal government who all too often forgets this with 18 different departments entrusted with the roles and responsibilities associated with intelligence gathering.
There was a time not too long ago, in the aftermath of 9/11 especially, where we did not fully embrace the role of the private sector. Today, the domain for countering terror and non-state actors is as much in the private sector as it is in the public—think cyber, for instance.
Our critical infrastructure in this country is largely owned by the private sector: water, transportation, energy. These are principle threats for terrorism and they’re owned by the private sector and they are key targets for cyber.
There are no mandates in place, but there is certainly an expectation that has emerged that the private sector do what it needs to do to protect the American people. Same is true with intelligence gathering. Think of counterterror financing. All too often we’re seeing this flow through the private sector first, and there’s an expectation now that the private sector share information with the public sector.
What we’re also finding is that terrorist networks and criminal networks are not perfectly distinguished. There are very few entities, if any, in the world that consider themselves just a terrorist organization. They’re often involved in gun trafficking, human trafficking, drugs. And this flows down into low level crime as well.
And lastly, to make our challenges even more complex and alarming, we’re seeing an undeniable rise of far-right extremism, white nationalism, and a dramatic rise in hate crimes and acts of domestic violence. So, when it comes to local law enforcement, as well as the federal government, it has to be concerned with every single community.
The days in which we can expect that intelligence gathering associated with counterterrorism would just be associated with one community or one type of community, those days are absolutely gone.
So what do we do, amidst all of this? Well the best tool we have in this fight is close cooperation. It’s partnerships just like in this room, and one of the biggest problems in this country, is that these types of meetings are not happening in other parts of the country. New York City has to set the example and the federal government has to pick up the mantle and make sure that meetings like this are happening throughout the rest of the country.
It all comes down to trust—trust at this point is a national security imperative. Trust between the public sector and the private sector; trust that if you’re running a major bank, if you’re running a major cyber company, if you’re running a major energy company—that if you share intelligence with the public sector it will not be misused and vice versa.
But it’s also trust between communities and law enforcement. Community based policing is the tip of the spear in our counterterrorism efforts. We’ve never seen this before, and it’s worth repeating. Community based policing is the tip of the spear in our counterterrorism efforts. It’s the principle way that intelligence gathering is occurring in this day and age.
Trust building and lowest level empowerment is critical. And it’s interesting, you know, it is a contentious thing to talk about empowering lower levels. It’s a contentious thing to say the lowest levels of law enforcement agencies, the lowest levels of financial institutions, the lowest levels of technology companies should be empowered with counterterrorism responsibilities.
But I think back to the young men and women that I served with in Afghanistan. I was in my mid-twenties, and it was my job to lead 30 men and women in a small outpost in southern Kandahar Province, and I had this one guy, 19-year-old Private Ortiz—high school graduate. And we got called on a basic border patrol mission where there’s three or four guys coming down a mountain with weapons.
So we pull a U-turn and we go and check it out. About 300 yards away, Private Ortiz is my gunner, and he says, “Sir, it looks like these guys are police officers, they’re just not wearing uniforms. They have weapons.”
Now, I trust him, so we get another 100 meters closer and dismount. Turns out that that’s the case. Afghan police officers not wearing uniforms, each of them with machine guns. Private Ortiz, 19 years old, just out of high school, was right. But imagine if he had made the opposite decision: popped off a few rounds, killed two non-uniformed Afghan police officers.
Every single code of military justice, internationally and nationally, would have sanctioned him to do that. Six hours after killing two police officers, Afghanistan—or at least a portion of it—would have started to riot. Hours after that, the President of Afghanistan would have been notified and brief. Hours after that, the President of United States would’ve been briefed on 19-year-old Private Ortiz’s actions. Hours after that, it would be it would’ve been on every major news station in the world.
19-year-old Private Ortiz, well you could just as easily switch that out for 22-year-old police officer Smith in the NYPD. You could just as easily switch that out for any other law enforcement, young officer in America today. Because the level of responsibility and empowerment that we are pushing down is unbelievable and is absolutely required to maintain our public safety, both counterterrorism and otherwise, and we need to embrace that but we also have to respect it. We as a society are not doing that enough. We’re not acknowledging that incredible responsibility that we are demanding of young people in this country, and the threats that we face mandate it.
Now, as we look at this new dynamic, what we’re also seeing though is that there are certain entities in the private sector that are failing us. And I think that we’re particularly seeing that with social media companies.
Think about what has happened over the last six weeks. The shooter in New Zealand pops on basically a GoPro, kills 51 people in a mosque in New Zealand, is livestreamed across Facebook, it stays on their platform for over an hour, it is uploaded over one million times before Facebook takes it down.
So what we did in Congress, in the Homeland Security Committee, is ask them a very basic thing—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube: what do you spend on counterterrorism? What is your resource allocation, what is your personnel allocation?
None of them have given us a clear answer. They’ve spoken in platitudes, they’ve spoken in Silicon-Valley talk, but they have not given us a clear answer beyond telling us that five to ten years from now artificial intelligence can solve this problem.
But we are seeing these threats emerge on social media, and we’ve got to build greater systems for intelligence gathering. Between local law enforcement, the federal government, and social media companies—and we’re not going to put up with this crap for much longer.
It takes a lot for Congress to act, but I’m confident Congress will act if social media companies do not assume these responsibilities.
Not only is their technology failing, but on some occasions and we particularly have seen this with Facebook, it’s even promoting the same terrorist content it’s supposed to be removing. So we have to work with them more to get the job done.
But I also believe the federal government needs to acknowledge the threats we face with words and action.
Because terrorists aren’t only using the major social media platforms, they’re crawling all over the internet, spreading hate and destruction, feeding the radicalization in anonymous forums and chat rooms. This Administration should be doubling down on monitoring and tracking the dark corners of the internet like 8chan, where we’ve recently seen lone-wolf shooters, such as out in California, publicize that they’re about to take action.
Here in New York City as well though we’ve had to deal with decreasing federal funding for counterterror programs that we depend on. Instead of cutting counterterrorism funding to New York City, which this Administration’s budget proposal does, in fact we need to be increasing it.
And Congress needs to be there to provide assistance where it’s needed and oversight where things aren’t working quite as well as they should. And Congress has got to act faster. We’ve see this particularly with drones. This is an emerging threat and to this day, the NYPD and other local law enforcement agencies are not allowed to utilize drone draining equipment. They have to call the FBI, they have to call DHS. This is completely counter to everything I just said, and Congress needs to change it.
The Deputy Commissioner mentioned Floyd Bennet Field. The National Park Service to this day will not give a full lease to the NYPD. The NYPD today cannot build an indoor shooter facility to properly train our officers to protect New Yorkers against a threat because the National Park Service is caught up in bureaucracy.
This is illustrative of a culture in Washington, D.C. that is completely broken. Completely broken, and it is now a national security threat. I don’t think I can put this in any harsher or simpler terms.
So all of this that I’ve said today speaks to how important it is what’s going on in this room. You all are breaking down silos, you’re building trust, you’re learning best practices, and it’s happening quickly. This is a network, as Deputy Commissioner mentioned.
By bringing everyone together, from local, state, federal, private sector—you’re truly leading the way in this effort. Because there is the only way we will protect this city and this country and that’s through trust and coordination.
And for that, I want to again, as a fourth generation New Yorker, as a vet, and as a Member of Congress, thank you all, and thank the NYPD—the greatest law enforcement organization in the history of the world.
Congressman Max Rose represents Staten Island and South Brooklyn which comprises New York’s 11th District.
SOURCE: Jonas Edwards-Jenks, Communications Director, Congressman Max Rose (NY-11).