WASHINGTON — Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, questioned some of the nation’s top security officials about the rising threats of ISIS affiliates, growing domestic terrorism threats, and cybersecurity during the annual Threats to the Homeland hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs on Nov. 5.
Hassan and other committee members questioned FBI Director Chris Wray, Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe, and National Counterterrorism Center Acting Director Russell Travers.
Hassan began by discussing the rising threat of ISIS affiliates, stating, “Last month I traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and heard firsthand the concerns of our military and embassy personnel about the growing and very real threat of ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. I heard clearly that ISIS-K threatens not only U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but also has designs on striking the U.S. homeland.”
In response, Travers reinforced the importance of targeting ISIS-K: “Of all of the branches and networks of ISIS, ISIS-K is certainly one of those of most concern. ... We certainly share the concerns of both the U.S. military and embassy.”
Hassan thanked Wray for the work of his team in New Hampshire to support houses of worship facing domestic threats, discussing an event she had held in Manchester with the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and faith leaders.
Hassan asked Wray and Travers about the importance of sharing terrorism threats with relevant partners to help mitigate attacks, asking what the “U.S. government need(s) to do amid this rising threat to ensure that intelligence isn’t missed and that it gets to the people who need to know it.”
Wray and Travers discussed their agencies’ efforts to analyze global terrorist connections, including between white supremacists, and in turn ensure that the information is disseminated.
Hassan raised the topic of cybersecurity threats with Wray. “As to ransomware, we are seeing the impact of attacks across the country, including an attack in my home state of New Hampshire,” Hassan said. “Threat actors target every aspect of our communities from health care providers, to our small businesses, and even to state and local governments themselves as they did in New Hampshire.”
In response to her question about federal government efforts to address ransomware attacks, Wray discussed the shift to targeted ransomware attacks on municipalities and the FBI’s work to help victims get their systems back online without paying a ransom.
The day after the hearing, the committee advanced the bipartisan Reporting Efficiently to Proper Officials in Response to Terrorism (REPORT) Act, which Hassan introduced with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to require federal agencies to report to Congress after a terrorist attack, including information about exactly what happened and recommendations to prevent future attacks.
The committee also voted that day to advance bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Hassan to improve the cybersecurity of governments by encouraging them to use the “.gov” domain for their websites in order to make them more secure.
In addition, the Senate recently unanimously approved legislation introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and cosponsored by Hassan, to address cybersecurity while purchasing information technology equipment for the government. The Supply Chain Counterintelligence Training Act aims to ensure that all executive agency officials charged with managing supply chain risks are trained to recognize and mitigate counterintelligence threats posed by foreign nations.