Congress mentality to terror-proofing US: ‘We acted’

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Congress quickly came together in the spirit of bipartisanship to address the November Paris terror attack, but it’s having problems doing the same for the most recent acts of terror.

Before the start of the winter holidays, Congressional leaders came together to bolster the visa waiver rules by shoring up screenings for travelers from certain countries.

But Capitol Hill hasn’t shown that same sense of urgency following the December 2 San Bernardino massacre by a husband-wife team of Islamic terrorists, which resulted in 14 dead and raised concerns about the lax fiancée waiver program.

Although four months have passed since that attack on a local government agency Christmas party, no new legislation has been sent to the White House to modify that program’s rules.

The Hill reported:

One of the shooters in the San Bernardino episode had entered the United States on a fiancée visa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, vowed in December that he’d “soon” introduce legislation addressing visa screenings –– a message reiterated by his office last month. But no bill has yet emerged, let alone passed. Judiciary Republicans are instead now fighting to put new restrictions on Obama’s Syrian refugee program –– a partisan bill that has no chance of winning the president’s signature.

The reasons for the slower response –– after San Bernardino versus Paris–– are both practical and political, according to security experts and sources on Capitol Hill.

 

Because Congress’ response to the Paris shootings came after San Bernardino, both the public’s and congressional perception is that they’d already covered that — even though Paris and San Bernardino two distinct sets of concerns.

Matt Mayer, a national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute refers to Congress’ mindset as a “one-action-covers-the-bases” — even thou it doesn’t.

“Congress’s mentality is: We acted,” Mayer said.

Yet another reason that Congress has yet to act on the San Bernardino shooting is that by the time lawmakers returned from their winter recess, that attack was already fading from memory — especially in light of the raucous 2016 presidential race, and the beginning of their own bids for re-election.

Additionally, the legislation that was enacted following the Paris attack was proposed by Rep. Candice Miller long before that incident. The Michigan Republican’s bill totally eliminated visa waivers for foreigners who’d visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan within the previous five years.

“When you have the one-off case of a fiancée visa,” Mayer said, “it makes it seem like such a niche issue.”

But if it happened before, it can happen again.

However, the issues surrounding the San Bernardino case are a bit more complicated than the one in Paris.

“There was no public social media profile of the wife here to collect or monitor,” said a House aide familiar with the debate, referring to the shooter who immigrated on the fiancée visa, “so there is no straightforward or easy fix.”

Another issue San Bernardino created was the “encryption” quandary of the terrorists’ iPhone, and the very public battle that resulted between the FBI and Apple.

It’s “frankly stunning” that Congress hasn’t acted yet, Mayer said and warned that should it fail to do so lawmakers would face “the very real political problem of not having acted in the face of the slow drip” of worldwide terrorism.

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