Michael McCaul, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives, joins Jane Holl Lute, president and chief executive officer at the Council on CyberSecurity, to discuss the growth of ISIS, foreign fighters, and threats to U.S. homeland security. McCaul describes the pressing need for cooperation with Turkey and other countries to control the movement across borders of radicalized individuals seeking to join ISIS. McCaul cites the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) oversight by over one hundred Congressional committees and explains how this slows legislative action and threatens homeland security.
HOLL LUTE: Well, thanks, everyone, for coming. This is a very special opportunity that we have this evening to speak with Chairman Mike McCaul, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House of Representatives, re-elected representative from the 10th District in Texas, which extends from Austin to Houston. I'm from New York City, so I get a little credit for getting those facts right.
At the outset, I'd just like to remind everyone—this session is on-the-record, and we're going to have an opportunity for a conversation with Chairman McCaul over a range of issues that are before his committee and certainly front of mind for the American public.
We'll have an opportunity after about thirty minutes of conversation to open the floor to questions. I'll remind everyone to stand, identify yourself, your affiliation, and get to the point of the question so that we can involve as many audience members as possible in the dialogue and conversation.
But, welcome, Chairman McCaul.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Jane. Thanks for having me.
HOLL LUTE: Congratulations. It's great to see you again.
MCCAUL: You, too.
HOLL LUTE: We had an opportunity to work a lot together on issues for Homeland Security. And I guess I would just kick off by saying, what in your view are probably the highest issues front of mind with respect to homeland security? There's a lot going on around the world—violent extremism, foreign fighters, the question of cybersecurity, and others. Where do you think the highest priority issues will be for your committee, particularly looking forward into the next session.
MCCAUL: I mean, first, let me say thank you for your service in the department serving as deputy secretary and also sort of ground floor getting the NCCIC, which is the Cyber Command within DHS, up and running, critically important, and that's one of the top issues that I'll be talking about.
I think, you know, we—I think we look at cyber, but we also—the foreign fighter issue, ISIS, the secretary of homeland security, obviously, has stated this is probably one of the biggest threats to the homeland for many reasons. Unlike Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan under the Taliban, with caves and couriers, now we have a very sophisticated social media enterprise that governs territory, owns it, has a lot of money, $1 million to $3 million a day in oil that comes in, very vicious and brutal in their tactics. That's why core Al-Qaeda denounced them.
But the growing threat that I see is—from the source—they basically have taken over large swaths—as everybody knows—of Syria and Iraq. From there, they can train. I think right now they're looking at establishing what they call the caliphate, but there are groups within this structure, like the Khorasan group, that are very intent on external operations. And I think everybody—we couldn't talk—we couldn't have had had this discussion three months ago. It was highly classified and now everybody knows who ISIS or ISIL is, and the Khorasan group.
The sort of 'good news bad news' is the bombings have been—the strikes have been fairly effective with the high-value targets, for example Mr. Drugeon, the French individual who was the premier bombmaker in Syria, tied to AQAP, of course AQAP an (inaudible) premier bombmaker there, we believe was taken out.
The bad news is, we're still getting 1,000 foreign fighters per month, even post-bombings, which is what we had prior to the bombings, pouring into the region. The concern is the ease of access and travel—which Homeland Security focuses on—through Turkey. We're working with the Turkish government to get better cooperation. In fact, I talked to the secretary yesterday and the deputy secretary today. We have CBP now in Turkey, and Turkey—Turkish officials are actually in Washington today, getting trained by us.
So there is some better level of cooperation, not where we want it to be, and it's identifying those individuals with good intelligence first and foremost, and then keeping them off airplanes, keeping them out of travel through Turkey into western Europe, where they can, through the visa waiver program that you're familiar with, fly into the United States.
These are very radical jihadists, as everybody has seen from the beheadings. I'm glad the president has taken action. I think secretary Johnson recognizes the seriousness of this.
What are the real threats that I see coming from ISIS and the Khorasan group? Khorasan, externally, wants to put bombs on airplanes; they're developing technologies to get through our screening, which is why twenty-five airports have been enhanced, and they're screening overseas.
But they're also very good—ISIS is very good—at training for small-scale operations that are very difficult to stop, as you know. Bringing in tactics of IED devices like we saw with the Boston bombing. I think it's going to be very hard to stop this. And I'll end with this—because I know I'm talking a lot—but the greater threat as I see it, as well, is not just Iraq and Syria, the source of a lot of these problems, but now this expansion like a spider web into other parts of what they call Al-Qaeda affiliates, now pledging allegiance to ISIS. Which you've had at the center of this is core competition now between Zawahiri and core Al-Qaeda, and now ISIS and Al-Baghdadi—Baghdadi.
That's a dangerous competition, because the more the competition is driven, the more they want to be successful in hitting the West. And so Zawahiri, I think, is losing in this campaign, if you will, to win over Al-Qaeda affiliates. The Al-Qaeda affiliates are going, it seems like, are every week going over to ISIS, including AQAP.
So Zawahiri's losing that game, and so he may try to do something more drastic to get attention but needless to say, we're looking at countries—not only just Iraq and Syria—but now the Al-Qaeda affiliates in Egypt now have pledged their allegiance to ISIS. Libya, Mali, Yemen...and this is all the greater caliphate that they want—they envision—to take over.
HOLL LUTE: So let me zoom out a little bit, because you've put a lot of meat on the table, of things to talk about. So from a strategic perspective, what you're describing, in terms of ISIS capability, is something frankly no government can do.
I mean this may be a symptom of a problem, not the problem in and of itself, but a problem for which there does not seem to be a lot of answers. But this organization can attract mostly angry young men from everywhere. It can send them anywhere, because these are people who feel like they belong nowhere. That's a strategic problem that every government has to deal with.
How would you grade the international response? And what do you think, more specifically—I mean, you touched on greater border control, greater aviation security. One of the lessons we learned from Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber from 2010, was that in homeland security, we needed to connect our immigration authorities with our security authorities so that we could know sooner who or what is coming here. To a large extent, great strides have been made. The volume of TSA is 2 million people a day. A million people cross our borders. This is a problem on a scale few other countries have.
So in the first instance, you've talked about a few countries, how they're addressing it, how they're cooperating or not, perhaps, with our efforts to know more to protect this country. Develop that idea a little bit.
MCCAUL: Well, I mean, first, identify—I mean, you're absolutely right. It's—typically, although they're recruiting women now, which is a little scary, but typically, it's the young, disaffected male Muslim that's looking for a cause in life. And it goes to—and they want to join the fight. And it's hard to stop it. It's growing so fast, and they prey on vacuums of power and they turn into safe havens, which in turn can be turned into external operations. And that's from a homeland standpoint the greatest concern we have.
From an ideology standpoint, you know, I had dinner with Larry Wright, the author of "Looming Tower"—you know, he's from Austin, a good friend of mine—and we were talking about this very issue. How do you stop that at its core? I mean, how do you—how do you reach out to them to stop them from doing this? And that's a whole other issue we could probably talk about for thirty minutes, in terms of the war of ideology and how do you deal with education and culture and poverty and those issues that breed terrorism.
But to your, now—dealing with the immediate threat, you know, how do we stop it? One of the vulnerabilities I think we have is that—while they may be on a terrorist watch list in Europe, if they're a European citizen, they do not vet against that list. So that's a real vulnerability. The visa waiver program, I applaud the secretary for enhancing some of that, but that's another I think vulnerability.
And again, the ease of access through Turkey. Turkey needs to cooperate better with us. Turkey—I met with Erdogan. I was actually in Turkey last April and met with him as he was transitioning from prime minister to president. And he does play a little bit of a dual game, I think, with us. On one hand, he says he's cooperating. On the other hand, our intelligence services say he's not.
I do think with them—ISIS in Kobani right on his doorstep, he's looking at a greater threat. He doesn't want to fight with the Kurds, because the Kurds are a threat to him, but he wants to take out Assad. The whole thing is a very complicated sort of mess, but we want to enhance our—the watch list—you know, because homeland is all about travel and keeping people off airplanes. Identifying them—we don't have that human intelligence capability right now that I think we need to do that.
And I think it's a greater threat, really, to the U.K. and Europe, but that threat can easily come into the United States, as well.
HOLL LUTE: So let me address that in particular. I was the lead negotiator for the United States with the European Union on—what some have said will be the last big data-sharing agreement between the U.S. and Europe. I certainly hope not—for passenger name records, PNR. And there's been a call among some countries in Europe, but certainly, you know, to those in control of airports where we see the global movement of people passing through, to develop national PNR systems. Do you think that kind of ability to collect traveling information and to share it more widely would be a foundational element of any better global response to this threat?
MCCAUL: Oh, sure. And I think, you know, the E.U. has certain privacy elements that are different from ours.
HOLL LUTE: That are different.
MCCAUL: And we have to negotiate with the European partners to develop that. In fact, even Canada had that issue. And we're working with them. And after we saw, you know, the Canadian attacks, as of recent—we'll probably talk more about homegrown violent extremists I'm sure in a minute, but that's of great concern, as well.
But I think—not to get into more of the military, there's a war of ideology that has to be dealt with in a lot of other different ways and then there's a kinetic war going on. And I think the greatest vulnerability right now and the strategy, the airstrikes I think are effective, but they're never going to win unless you have an adequate ground force. We don't have that right now. And I'm not quite sure where that's going to come from.
The idea of vetting the Sunni moderate—training them—sounds good against the Sunni extremists. And they ought to be able to clean up their own backyard, if you will, and not the United States have to be the savior all the time or try to win it for them. However, I don't know where this ground force is going to come from.
And Turkey has that capability, but they're not willing to deliver. Jordanians want to put that in there. The Saudis, frankly, don't have that capability. They have the air power that's helping us. And let's not kid ourselves. The financing that's come out of the Arab nations has created some of this mess. It seems to me they ought to bear some of the responsibility.
HOLL LUTE: So let's connect this, though, to the problem that you said is closer to home, certainly for the United States, for Canada, you mentioned, Great Britain has a particular problem with individuals who may return, who are maybe sent back and who can travel freely. There was a tragic bombing in Brussels, Belgium, by a returning jihadi fighter.
How do nations cope with this reality that their own citizens are finding this ideology attractive, finding it possible to travel? As you mentioned, there's a particular premium placed on heinous violence that's attracting a type.
MCCAUL: Well, they have a very sophisticated propaganda campaign that I think is globally influencing the jihadists worldwide. And that's very dangerous. And it causes people to do very dangerous things. And so what we're also seeing is people from the refugee camps escaping and going through—we call it the Trojan horse, and then infiltrating through Europe. And these things are—I mean, I was a federal prosecutor head of the Joint Terrorism Task Force—very difficult to detect, deter and disrupt these small-scale types of attacks.
But the radicalization piece is what concerns me the most, because it's the hardest thing to stop. And literally, I mean, no pun intended, but it's gone viral over the Internet. And I've never—you know, the threat—the narrative—you know, not to, you know, get too political, but the narrative has always been to downplay the threat, you know, that Al-Qaeda is on the run and it's over and let's pull out. And the fact is, the threat level—as I've gotten briefed as chairman of Homeland Security has actually gotten worse. And I think that's self-evident with the culmination of ISIS.
And then when the executioner beheaded the American journalists, then all the American people understood that, my god, these people are really evil. It's not over. And it has to be dealt with. And I think the president had a very difficult time kind of wrapping his head around ISIS and what to do about it, because it didn't fit with the narrative of his campaign and it didn't fit with his legacy. This is not the legacy he wanted. But unfortunately, it's real. And it has to be dealt with.
HOLL LUTE: From the very beginning of the first administration, I can speak from my experience, the—the president himself emphasized the need to address the potential for homegrown violent extremism and where—and try and understand how the federal government could add value. We derived a program that had several parts, one of which was to try and break down barriers that isolate communities, lawful residents in this country need to be incorporated into the fabric of American society. How can we work with state and local authorities and with the private sector and with faith-based groups to achieve that?
On the other hand, we also want to strengthen the hand of law enforcement to understand and prevent violent acts before they occur in this country. Let's turn to that a little bit. What's the—what's the sense in Congress about the need to address any potential for circumstances here?
MCCAUL: Well, we dealt with this in the Boston bombing case. I mean, that's a textbook case for the FBI and Homeland Security, of a person who can radicalize, who did travel, as the Russians warned us, to Dagestan, I think radicalized with the Chechen rebels, came back and pulled off one of the worst attacks since 9/11.
And, you know, it's the ability to monitor in—protecting privacy, but in public forums monitoring chatter, websites. It's the ability to do community outreach to the mosques, like in—in Tamerlan's case, had we had better outreach to the mosque, where if the mosque had been giving us information, they would have told us that he was kicked out for extreme radical views. We saw that in the Oklahoma beheading case, as well. You know, and we saw that—this New Yorker who just took an axe—it could be as simple as that.
And what do you call that? Do you call that workplace violence? Criminal? Act of terrorism? I don't know how you label all this. I see—if it's driven by a religious ideology, extremism, that to me is a form of terror that has to be dealt with. And these smaller cases are very difficult to stop, as I said.
I think the key, though, is community outreach, particularly to the Muslim community. I've always said that the most effective weapon against radical Islam are the moderate Muslims who we can work with, particularly in—not only in the United States, but I think overseas these imams that have the capability and the power of religion to spread the word that this is not acceptable in their faith, their articles of faith, not acceptable conduct.
That can have an impact. I don't think we're fully utilizing that as a tool, though.
HOLL LUTE: Final question, because we shift gears a little bit. You know, one of the challenges in homeland security is to sort of balance the duality of the inherent missions. You know, on the one hand, let's just use borders as an example, we certainly want to keep out people or things that might be dangerous, but on the other hand, we want to welcome those who enrich our culture and our economy and we want to expedite legitimate trade and travel with the rest of the world. How do we strike that balance? Is it—is it achievable at any point in time? Is it a trajectory over time? You know, it's—it's kind of a tricky question, and it's one that the men and women of DHS wake up with every day.
MCCAUL: It's a—it's a—I mean, it's a balance of security and commerce. You know, coming from my state, we have the longest miles of border with Mexico, and we—our GDP—I mean, we—the—thanks to NAFTA and the trade and commerce we have with Mexico, as I think—I think, you know, rose—all boats have risen, you know, by that tide, and I think that that's—we want to encourage that—that trade and commerce helps both economies, which at the end of the day helps the immigration issue.
On the other hand, we want to make sure we've got control over what—who is coming in and know who's coming in versus who's coming in to work versus for other reasons. And there are many threats down there that we want to keep out of the United States, just as there are many threats trying to get on airplanes trying to fly into the United States.
The ISIS threat is more likely to come from an airplane flying in, either blowing up the airplane over the United States or getting a jihadist into the country to carry out attacks. There are external operations, I would say, reportedly underway that we need to stop from occurring. It is of concern.
I would argue that the Canadian border is—I mean, we've seen two attacks already in Canada and the U.K., French, you know, sort of, I think, connection to Canada makes Canada a prime source for this, as well. The flights to Canada and then the proximity of New York, which we all know is still the number-one target.
HOLL LUTE: So you mentioned Canada and Mexico. I'll use this as an opportunity to plug a recent report of the Council on North America and taking what the late Bob Pastor called an intermestic view, we're all in one region.
Let me turn quickly to cyber while we have a few more minutes of conversation between the two of us. I've had the privilege of working with you closely as the department built out its cyber capability. On the one hand, in cybersecurity, I think it's a term everybody's heard, not everybody understands what it means. You certainly do. On the other hand, we want to, again, reduce our vulnerability to attacks. In this regard, you mentioned the NCCIC, the center of centers regarding information sharing. I think inquiring minds want to know, you know, you authored legislation and championed legislation. Where do things stand with the Senate? What's the likelihood that we'll have some movement on a cybersecurity bill, with all of the elements that address not only the need for basic hygiene, strengthening the role of DHS, the manpower, workforce issue, and some acknowledgement of the challenges facing the private sector?
MCCAUL: Well, you know, I'm an eternal optimistic, and I know lame-duck sessions are not always productive. And this is certainly not—has not been a productive Congress. But I don't think we can afford to wait when it comes to cybersecurity. I think that every day we wait, if an attack occurs—and we're getting hit every day—but if a greater attack occurs, it's going to be on the head of Congress for not acting.
You did your part with DHS on the ground floor to build this institution. But it needs to be authorized by Congress. And the authorities are very important. A good example is Bleedheart, as you know, hit networks across the nation and homeland had to, you know, get permission slips for six days to respond to it. That is putting the nation at greater risk. And it's Congress that's doing that. And it's our responsibility to fix that problem.
So my bill, as you know, authorizes the NCCIC, which provides a safe haven or safe harbor for the private sector through the sixteen ISACs, or sixteen critical infrastructures, to participate on the NCCIC floor to get that information, the threat, malicious code information that the federal government has, but also back from the private sector where about 85 percent of that is, but also importantly, so—enable them to share across sector lines, which they don't really do effectively right now.
I was just briefed in the SCIF in a classified briefing on threats from Russia and China. And I can tell you, they're getting more and more malicious. And they're getting more and more destructive, including Iran, who, as you know, shut down 30,000 hard drives in Saudi Aramco energy, simultaneously hitting our financial sector. These are very serious issues. And I don't think many members of Congress understand the gravity. You know, Mike Rogers is the chair of Intelligence, and I try to educate members about the gravity of this issue and why it's important to pass this legislation.
I will say, to answer your question—I know I've been a little bit longwinded—but in the Senate, we've had very fruitful and good-faith negotiations with our counterparts, where we're to the point where I think we've got about 80 percent of what we are trying to achieve. We're hopeful that they will pass that in the Senate and then send it back to the House.
HOLL LUTE: Well, I certainly—I share that hope. I know Senator Carper himself is committed to this, as is Senator Coburn. There's also, I think, a very important set of messages beginning to come out of Congress about the need for basic hygiene. I mean, we know the actions to take to prevent 80 percent to 90 percent of the most common attacks. We're just not doing it. And so I guess this would just be a plea for Congress not only to enact legislation, but to continue to lend its voice to sensible behavior.
Let's open it to the floor. We have about thirty minutes. Again, let me remind everyone, this is an on-the-record session. I'd ask you to identify yourself, stand, and take your question to the point. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Thank you. Richard Downie from Delphi Strategic Consulting. Thanks for a great discussion so far, Mr. Chairman. One of your priorities, I know, is border security. And right now, we're in a situation where the president has said he's going to take executive action on immigration, and the Republicans at this point are saying, look, we really can't do that until—one of the reasons is until the border is secure, amongst other things.
I wonder, could you talk to us about what—what does a secure border look like? And what would it take to get us from here to there? Because there are some people who are saying that, you know, this is the safest border that we've ever had. What does a secure border look like? Thank you.
MCCAUL: Well, you know, I met with Jeh Johnson, the secretary, two days ago, went over his border plan. I submitted my border plan to him. I'm hopeful that we can bring these two plans together and look at legislation, talk to the incoming chairman on the Senate side. He wants to pass identical legislation, as well.
What does it look like? That's a great question. You know, before we've had metrics of 90 percent apprehension, this and that. I think the bottom line is that I would argue it's not secure. We had radar technology in one of the most secure sectors—that was the Tucson sector, has the most technology, and we found that we were only apprehending about 44 percent, so that's less than half. That's not where we need to be. We need to be at a higher number.
Rio Grande Valley, probably most exposed, so it's San Diego, great fencing and technologies, Tucson, great technology, and the Rio Grande. We had 60,000 children pass—cross over.
I think it's achievable in a two-year timeline, I've been told, if we have the—the right technology. We have military assets from Afghanistan that we're redeploying right now down there. That's kind of one of those things that you knew it when you see it, but we're not going to be able to measure it until we can see it. And the only way you can see it if you can see it from the sky, from the air. We need that situational awareness from aviation assets, so we have sensor surveillance on the ground, aviation assets from the air to see what we are apprehending and what we're not.
And the closer that gets to 100 percent, then we know that we're getting a more—a border that's more operationally under control. And it's got to be flexible and mobile, because the cartels move around.
I think—and this is the—it's going to be a very—I'll be honest with you, politically, a very dicey situation, and I warned the secretary that, you know, quite honestly, I asked if they would hold back, that the American want confidence we have security before we move into this next phase, which a lot of members of Congress believe we need to do that.
But if we don't have that security piece now, if you look historically, when we've done this in the past, 1986, we had a huge illegal influx, and we didn't have the security piece. When the president issued the deferred action against children, we had a huge influx that we saw last summer. It's just a cause and effect that I think historically is true.
So that security piece, it has to be—we have to move forward on. I think the secretary gets that. And I think in good faith, he wants to move forward. And I think they just want to do it all at once, and that's where you're going to see a difference across the political spectrum and how—how do we do this?
I think we've wasted a lot of time. I had a border bill passed unanimously—unanimously—one of the only bills in the Congress passed—out of my committee, border security, a year-and-a-half, almost two years ago, and it got—it went nowhere because of this whole toxic nature of immigration reform.
HOLL LUTE: So I have a question right here and then one right over there in the back.
QUESTION: Hi, Bill Courtney from RAND Corporation. Is cybersecurity in a proper proportion in U.S. diplomacy with countries that are countries of concern? Are there any examples of U.S. diplomatic engagement with such countries where diplomacy has actually led to appreciable reductions in cyber threats?
MCCAUL: And this is a great issue for the Council on Foreign Relations, is, you know, when I worked on the—I was one of the co-chairs of the recommendations to the 44th president, CSIS report, it's one—it remains one of the most—in terms of cyber reports, one of the most downloaded reports.
And we talked about international treaties and how we need to work with, you know, foreign countries in terms of bringing this threat down. I would argue—to answer your question in a short order, I would say no, we have not. I think we've attempted to negotiate with China, we've attempted to negotiate with Russia, but the threat level gets greater.
And in the past we've seen Russia and China play more of the espionage—you know, theft of IP—intellectual property—why invent when you can steal it...we see the Russian credit card...you know, this hits all the way from the kitchen table to the White House, these threats, but what we're seeing—you know, Iran, it's this ability to shut things down that concerns—they say, what keeps you up at night? Is the ability to shut things down, you know, power grids, water supply, critical infrastructures.
And Jeh knows this a lot better than I do, but it's that ability that Iran is trying to develop that concerns me. But we're seeing an evolving trend that's even more disturbing now coming out of countries like Russia, from not only just a theft standpoint or espionage, or rather a destructive threat.
HOLL LUTE: Well, I think your question—just if I might be permitted a word—on this—on the diplomacy and cybersecurity, I think we have to come to grips—every government around the world has to come to grips with the fact that, you know, in 1995, there were 16 million people online. And 80 percent of them were relatively affluent Americans. And today there are 3 billion people online. And the rest of the world's population is not going to take twenty years to come online.
This is having a social effect that's forcing governments to try and figure out how to do business differently with each other and with their populations. It's a reality everyone's dealing with.
Yes, Mr. Chairman?
MCCAUL: And if I could add, Bill, I mean, you can—the thing that is concerning to people in the intelligence community and homeland security is the ease of access to buy this stuff now. I mean, you could easily buy this malware and this capability to shut thing—I mean, it's easily accessible over the Internet.
One of my, you know, extrapolating that, right now, we're not seeing an immediate threat from this, but when you look at groups like ISIS that are getting very sophisticated over the Internet, you know, the idea of them being able to acquire this technology, that's quite honestly readily available.
HOLL LUTE: It's a real dimension that has to be taken account of. Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Reba Carruth from Georgetown University. Thank you very much for your presentation. I have a two-part question. Given the openness of universities in the West in general, and the United States in particular, how do you see the role of dual-purpose biotechnology and biowarfare coming together with the cyber threat? I mean, that's—we never talk about that.
HOLL LUTE: Is that your two-part—and what's the second part of your question?
QUESTION: Yeah, because the other part of it is, given the fact that universities are part of the globalization process, where you—you know, you recruit people, faculty, students from around the world, they're working a lot of times on scientific things, the scientific things have technology that are dual-purpose. And now we're in a situation very quickly where we have antibiotics that don't work, we have resistance across the rest of the anti-microbial drugs, and we're working with people who may or may not be trying to achieve the same goals with technologies that can go either way, with biowarfare.
MCCAUL: Yeah, it's—and that—you know, chain of supply issues there. Dual technology—I remember when I was at Justice as a federal prosecutor, in public integrity, we were looking at, you know, the export of this satellite technology to China, right? In the cyber realm now, you could have this malicious—this sort of malware embedded in some of these technologies.
What concerns me the most is we don't really know what we don't know, and we're not sure how embedded some of this malicious malware could be and these products that are coming in and how much they could have embedded in technologies in the United States, including our military. And this chain of supply is really important as we buy parts from overseas.
QUESTION: Infrastructure (OFF-MIKE) you know what I mean (OFF-MIKE)
HOLL LUTE: Well, certainly from a department's point of view, you know, all of these dimensions, you know, in the S&T part of the department, these are questions. The whole—you know, the very different character of bio and chem as a problem, to deal with the internationalization of science, the dual-use question, highly politically charged, also technically difficult. The open marketplace, you know, the introduction of billions of us online, you know, billions of machines, trillions, uncountable numbers of transactions, making things infinitely more complicated, how about a thought or two on kind of the changing relationship between government and the private sector for some of these problems?
I mean, in Homeland Security, the public-private partnership is a way of life, a way of doing business, whether it's at the ports, among the sixteen critical infrastructures, as you cite. Where are the possibilities for really some creative thinking and problem-solving generally, not just in chem bio?
MCCAUL: Well, you're talking about security and trade and commerce and balancing those things. And I think the outreach that DHS does to the private—with the private sector, less in a regulatory way, but in a partnership way—and I'll give you an example on the cyber realm, what my bill—you know, we—there are some who say, well, DHS needs to regulate the private sector in terms of the sharing of this information. And I can't think of a better way to kill an information-sharing partnership than to regulate it, because no private sector company is going to want to share with the regulator, because they have the power to hurt them.
And so I think a true information-sharing arrangement is more of a partnership, which is what our bill tries to develop. And going into the areas that you were discussing, as well, that's where DHS can really play a role as a partner, rather than a regulator.
I mean, certainly, you know, if EPA is regulating you as an energy company, you're not—you're going to be less willing to share. We want to incentivize the private sector to share in the information, not scare them. And so I think that's the right approach, and that's certainly—after 500 meetings that we've had with the private sector, they made that very clear to us that that was the right way to go.
HOLL LUTE: Another dimension of your bill addresses the need for talent and manpower for cybersecurity and homeland security, but really it issues a call to the nation, that this an area where we need to do better. How about the role of education, the role of educational institutions beginning at the grammar school level, primary school? I guess we don't call it grammar school anymore, but the primary levels, all the way through, encouraging women, for example, to enter this field, minorities and others in opportunities in high-tech, but also the possibility for creative thinking about careers in government or opportunities in government without making it a career? Your bill, I think, you know, again, calls this out as one of the essential elements, the human component of cybersecurity.
MCCAUL: Sure. Yeah, and we have a workforce provision. Centers for excellence I think are great, you know, opportunities to train young people to get into this growing field. And when I have a lot—young people tell—ask me, you know, what field do you recommend I get into? Cyber is probably one of the most, you know, growing faster than anything. And we need that talent pool.
We particularly, as you know, Jane, need it at DHS. NSA has always been kind of the place to be, right? And what we're trying to do, as you know, is have NSA detailed over to DHS, but also find ways with the workforce provisions in our bill to incentivize people to come to DHS to work.
You're competing with jobs that—you know, they can make twice as much in the private sector than they can with the department. But we have to instill in them the sense that they're doing something for their country. And it's really a sense of patriotism to encourage them to do—to do a few years or to do scholarships, where they will give you a scholarship program and then, in turn, you have to agree to serve for X number of years with the department. And it's a great experience for them. And many of them, as you know, Phyllis Schneck from McAfee actually came to DHS to provide her expertise, so that revolving door can be very, very helpful.
I would argue that, thanks to your great work, Jane, and then Phyllis and others coming in, that the capability of DHS has in the last five years just grown exponentially to the point where it's really gained the members of Congress's confidence, including Tom Coburn, who you and I have talked to extensively, sees the value of this model and what DHS can do.
HOLL LUTE: I think we all realize, though, that certainly no federal department nor the federal government by itself can do all that needs doing in this space. And so, again, your emphasis on incentivizing the private sector, you know, there are those who still think—Chairman Wheeler of the FCC said, look, you need to—you know, to his community, you need to get your act together. You need to work with us to figure out credible information-sharing means.
It may sound arcane. It may sound, you know, highly specialized and really for the—for the privileged few, but it is a common challenge that, you know, again I think industry is on notice to respond, as well, because the federal government can't do all that needs doing in this space.
MCCAUL: And it needs to be a value-added to the private sector for them to share their information. And, again, 80 percent, as you know, 85 percent is in the private sector. Everybody thinks that the federal government has the keys to the kingdom. We do have some pretty federal—I mean, foreign intelligence that we can share, but also the idea of sharing it in real-time—because the threat is so evolving that if we don't share it in real-time, the value of that threat information goes down. So we've been working with the NCCIC to try to make this almost, you know, light speed.
HOLL LUTE: You know, so people used to ask me, I spent a career in national security, what's the difference between national security and homeland security? And I said, you know, national—homeland security is obviously a part of national security, but the national security approach is sort of strategic, it's centralized, and it's top-driven. Homeland security is transactional, decentralized, and bottom-driven, by the states, by the municipalities, and there are 535 members of Congress who think they're experts in homeland security, because they are, because they come from the homeland.
As you look into the next Congress, where do you sense the mood of the country is? Where do you think the priorities for work lie? I mean, we have an opportunity now with the chairman of House Homeland to give us a steer or a hint into the initial things you'll take on.
MCCAUL: Well, just to echo what you said, the difference between national security, as we see it with—whether it's the IC that doesn't have jurisdiction domestically, or isn't supposed to, then we have the military, that, you know, that oversees—but Homeland has a unique role, obviously, to protect the homeland and the American people, and also has a built-in relationship with the private sector, with the state and local police authorities, with the fusion centers and the communities to protect the United States and its homeland. And so it's a very different role, and it's more integrated within the United States.
Top agenda items will be pretty much what we're discussing. I think border security, given the executive actions that possibly could be coming down will be really front-and-center to start taking on this issue. We may end up offering our own immigration reform version. There's a lot being debated right now in anticipation.
And I think the cybersecurity piece, depending on what I get done in the lame-duck, even if we get some of the stuff done, we're going to have to continue to provide that—not only oversight, but legislative action on cyber. This will be a continuing project.
An authorization bill—believe it or not, the Department of Homeland Security has never been authorized, which is absolutely insane, because the jurisdiction is so messed up. I'll be candid about it. I'm trying to work right now to fix some of this. It's frustrating as the chairman.
And our investigation I think into the foreign fighter issue, to better protect Americans from ISIS.
Ebola, you know, that's been an issue of late—been of interest. I chaired a hearing in Dallas, where the Duncan case occurred, two days after he died, and we also want to keep these biological threats also outside of the United States, as well.
You know, the way I see it, my job is—you look at all the threats out there, as you saw when you worked there, and the Homeland mission is to keep it outside, whether it be ISIS, Ebola, you know, cyber.
HOLL LUTE: We have time for—yes?
QUESTION: Hi, Dan Kaniewski at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. Mr. Chairman, you mentioned the threats from overseas, ISIS and nation-states, and you just hinted at your frustration—maybe not, more than hint—about your frustration about a different threat, a threat to your jurisdiction. I think few people in this room understand that over 100 committees and subcommittees oversee the Department of Homeland Security in Congress. Can you give us a few examples of how that potentially puts us at risk as Americans?
MCCAUL: Well, number one, when the secretary of homeland security has to report to all these different committees, he's spending more time preparing for testimony than protecting the American people. And that detracts from his core mission. And not only him, but the deputy secretary and the director of ICE and the director of CBP and on and on within the department, John Pistole, who we unfortunately just lost, director at TSA.
I'll give you one specific example that I think is very unfortunate. And it was the cyber bill that I passed, got held up for months by another committee for no other reason than petty jurisdictional fights. Months. And it's still an issue as I speak.
As I'm working this out with Tom Coburn and Senator Carper, to get a bill out of the Senate that mirrors the bill that we passed in the House, this issue remains as I speak. Why is that—why is that a big deal, right? Why is that important? Because as I talked about, the Bleedheart case is illustrative, because when that was happening, these networks were getting impacted, all across the country, and DHS—it took them six days to get these permission slips, if you will, to respond. That is a real threat to—and crisis to the United States of America, and it's a crisis that we could legislatively fix. And yet we're blocked because of petty jurisdictional arguments.
HOLL LUTE: Got to get past it. Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: I'm Wendy Frieman. I'm from nowhere. You both referred to in passing to all the children coming across the border that we heard so much about earlier in 2014. What happened to them? Who is worrying about them on your committee, in the—somewhere else in your branch, in the executive branch? What about these poor children who—no fault of their own are in this horrible position?
MCCAUL: Well, they're in the United States. And under the 2007 law, unaccompanied minors are put into the—they go from—they're processed. And I was down at these centers, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley sector, and I saw a lot of, you know, cute little girls and babies. And I saw some seventeen-year-old male children that weren't so cute. And I'm not sure what they'll be doing in the United States.
But to answer your question, the 2007 law requires that CBP turn them over to HHS, Health and Human Services, as a ward of the state, and then, from there, process them into the country to any known relatives. And what we found is a lot of relatives were, you know, transferring money down to Central America, where the conditions are very grim. I mean, the poverty, the violence, any human—from human nature, we can understand why—but the money is provided—these three Guatemalan girls I talked to, the grandmother, the mother, wired $7,000 per person to get them into the country. The journey is a very dangerous one through Mexico. They actually give the girls contraceptives, because they will get abused on the way up, physically and otherwise. And so it's not a healthy journey.
But to answer your question, the ones that came in are—have been processed, and they have—we have found homes for them in the United States. Now, the social cost is there, because we have a duty to educate. Spanish is not even their first language. Most of them are native Indian dialect. And so we have to, you know, deal with that in a humane and compassionate way. But that's—under the 2007 law, that is required by federal law.
HOLL LUTE: Did I have a question here in the second row? Yeah. Yes?
HOLL LUTE: Identify yourself, please.
QUESTION: Ben Fernandes. You talked a bit about the different jurisdictions of all—is there any hope that we're going to be able to reduce the number of committees that DHS report to? I know that's been something we've been trying to do for a while.
MCCAUL: And I'll be honest with you, it's very timely you raise that question, because we're intensely involved in that right now, in dealing with other—committee chairmen, the speaker of the House—it should have been done a long time ago. It's harder to do now, because it's too entrenched. It's too institutionalized. It's hard to do because other chairmen will block it based on jurisdictional basis in a rules package, and then when we get to the floor, we can't get to 218.
It's something that early on—this committee is a compromise—a political compromise. It's a product of a political compromise with numerous committee chairmen. It was never fixed.
Now, when I talk to Peter King, for instance, you know, looking back, like, why wasn't this fixed, you know? Well, you know, Denny Hastert promised me that in the next rules package, he would fix it, and then we lost the majority and that went by the wayside. Benny Thompson offered it, the ranking member, or then-chairman, before the Democratic Caucus—I believe with Pelosi's support, and it got shot down.
So it's had a really tortured history. I'm trying to deal with this. I could offer it in a rules package on the floor and I would get shot down. So we're trying to deal with it behind the scenes with the relevant committee chairmen to work this out and incrementally change this for the better, but it is very frustrating. It's a very powerful committee in terms of the profile and the subject matter. But it's frustrating in terms of the ability to legislate.
If I could just finish, that will be fully demonstrated when we—and I talked to the speaker about this, as well—when we introduce an authorization bill for the first time. Then we will see how difficult it is to marry all the committees that will have to authorize this thing and put it all together in a patchwork.
And he was actually very encouraging that you should do that. And if they don't play ball with you, then we can yank jurisdiction. But it will demonstrate how difficult it is. And then we'll get it to the floor, hopefully, but I think that will be a productive exercise.
HOLL LUTE: Yes?
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Richard Wood from the British Embassy. Thank you, Chairman. As you suggested, we've had our problems in the U.K. with radicalized indigenous youth and committing terrorist acts in the U.K. And what we've found is, as you pointed out, that they're becoming increasingly radicalized through social media, they're finding messages that appeal to them as disaffected youths, and they are finding contacts through which they can join jihad through social media, as well.
I just wonder, do you see any tension between the increasing privacy that regular citizens want from the Internet and our need to stop terrorism and find how to counter radicalization through looking at social media?
MCCAUL: You know, it just depends on whether the social media is in the public domain from a privacy standpoint. I think the U.K. had more stringent privacy protections that I know your prime minister, in light of the threats and the cells that were busted in England, in London, that were there, has lifted some of those restrictions.
And I think wisely so, because I'm very concerned about U.K., France, Belgium, you know, talking about the mosque that was blown up. The proximity to Turkey, where Europe is and exists, really makes—I think puts the U.K. right in the bullseye along with Western Europe. And you're seeing not only that, but the fleeing of refugees and the immigration into the U.K. of this population that is more easily—can be more easily radicalized over the Internet.
Tamerlan, you had the black flags of Khorasan video on his website and a lot of radical jihadist stuff. Had the FBI picked that up, we may have taken a second look at him.
I think—so the same is true. I don't—I'm not quite sure about the U.K.'s ability to monitor websites. I know our FBI has—as long as it's in the public domain can, but we only have so many resources.
And I think DHS—and I know Secretary Johnson is really trying to reach out to communities, to the Muslim faith, to the mosques to say, you know, if you see a warning sign that someone's radicalizing in your mosque, like a Tamerlan, please report that. You know, the Times Square bomber wasn't found by law enforcement. You know, it was a vendor that called.
I mean, so—it's also about, you know—it may sound corny, but if you see something, say something.
HOLL LUTE: I'm a New Yorker. It's not corny at all. And...
MCCAUL: It's very true.
HOLL LUTE: We successfully took that program nationwide, without, you know, scaring everybody into sort of some social effect. I mean, we—it was something that really is a success story. I can also say that during my time in Homeland Security, and I know it's been continued by the deputy since, we had a number of bilateral homeland dialogues with the British, the Germans, the E.U., certainly Canada, Mexico, and others, recognizing that we need to pool our strengths to share this burden.
MCCAUL: And I think—I think the—what—you know, as I talked to the Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Johnson yesterday, as well, the outreach to Turkey was encouraging, because, quite frankly, in my meetings, I was not encouraged. And the reporting I was getting that it is wide open, easy access.
But for the first time, our—you know, CBP officers are in Turkey. And the Turkish officials are in the United States and D.C. right now getting training by Homeland Security. And that's a pretty positive development.
HOLL LUTE: It is a positive development. We have time for one more short question. I just would like to remind everyone this has been a session that's on-the-record. Any final thought from anyone? Oh, yes, sir. Well, yeah, before we go bound for seconds, anyone else? Please.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) second bite of the apple.
HOLL LUTE: As long as it's short.
QUESTION: Thank you. Richard Downie. And this—and it gets back to—this isn't quite under your direct responsibility necessarily, but you—you got at a bit of the strategy we're doing in Iraq and Syria. You know, the president's objective is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. Do you believe that the strategy that we're currently implementing or at least trying to move forward with is actually going to accomplish those objectives? Thank you.
MCCAUL: You know, I voted for the strategy. I went to the Pentagon. The Joint Chiefs—you know, I got briefed on the vetting, you know, and the Saudi camps and the vetting and the training and all that. It's going very slow. The Free Syrian Army almost doesn't exist anymore now, been completely overrun by Al-Nusra and ISIS. Who are we going to be training and vetting? And that has not gone very well, I'll be honest with you.
And even if it did go well, you're talking about a fighting force of 5,000, you know, ready in a year of time, when you're talking about 50,000 ISIS and 1,000 foreign fighters coming in per month. So the math doesn't add up on this.
Couple that with the fidelity of those who have been trained and vetted. Are they really our friends? And I think it's—our special forces would have to go in with them for the fidelity purpose, that they're not going to defect and take arms we've given them to Al-Qaeda. So it's very, very tricky and very dicey.
And my biggest worry is that—you know, my dad was a bombardier on a B-17 and did the air campaign with many other—in advance of the D-Day invasion. They did a great job. But it took a ground force landing at Normandy to win. And the same concept holds true to this.
And without a requisite ground force to respond to the airstrikes, we'll never be able to hold that—we can bomb it, but then we have to hold it. And I don't—that's the weakness of the strategy, as I see it, is we don't have the capability to hold it without a ground force. And I don't know, again, where that ground force will come from, if the Arab nations will not—and Muslim countries—will not step up to the plate with that—those forces.
Then, it takes it to, well, do we put our, you know, troops on the ground there? I don't think most Americans want to see that, but I do think we have to put all options on the table and not telegraph what we're not going to do to ISIS, because you're basically telegraphing—you know, you never tell your enemy what you're not going to do. And that's precisely what I think we've done.
HOLL LUTE: Well, I have to tell you, after, you know, a thirty-six-year career in the public sector, most of it in national security and some of it in homeland security, you can count on one hand the people that have the facility of talking with equal knowledge and conviction about domestic issues and the implications of what's going on around the world. Chairman, it was a tour de force.
So, please join me in thanking Chairman McCaul after a really good session.