Congress | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Families of Iraqis killed during U.S. invasion, occupation to seek compensation from U.S.

    Representatives of families of Iraqis who were killed in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent 8-year occupation say the families are entitled to seek compensation from the United States for damages they suffered during the war. The representatives asked the Iraqi government to prepare a lawsuit seeking full compensation from the United States over “violations by the U.S. forces.” The request was made after the U.S. Congress last week passed a law — Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) — overriding the principle of sovereign immunity.

  • Congress overrides Obama's veto of law allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

    The Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill which would allow families of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia, seeking damages for the 9/11 attacks. The Senate voted 97 to 1 to override the president’s veto, and the House voted 348 to 77 to do so. This is the first time Congress has successfully overruled a veto during Obama’s tenure.

  • JASTA exposes British soldiers, intelligence operatives to prosecution: U.K.

    Britain has expressed concerns to the United States that the Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) legislation which President Barack Obama had vetoed but which has become law after Congress on Wednesday overrode his veto, could lead to the prosecution of British military and intelligence personnel in American courts – and by hostile regimes around the world. U.K. intelligence and security agencies, MI6 and MI5, have warned about the ramifications of JASTA, as it exposes British personnel to lawsuits by American lawyers attempting to prove that U.K.-based jihadists have been involved in terror plots against U.S. targets. Even more worrisome is the fact that the weakening of sovereign immunity could result in U.K. military and intelligence personnel facing legal action from hostile states.

  • How Congress is failing on Zika

    Three times Congress has taken up legislation to fund the continuing response to the Zika outbreak. Three times the bill, which would allocate $1.1 billion to fight the disease, has fallen short of attracting bipartisan support. While Congress delays action on Zika, the number of infected people keeps climbing. As of mid-September, there were over 3,000 reported cases in the fifty states and close to 18,000 when you count in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. One thing the Zika crisis has made clear is that solving emerging disease outbreaks increasingly involves navigating treacherous political waters. Congress’ lack of understanding of the real scope of voucher program – which aims to spur development of new drugs for neglected diseases — compromises efforts to find new ways of encouraging R&D in neglected diseases like Zika. Its inaction when it comes to extending funding for a major outbreak may endanger the health of thousands of Americans.

  • Senators supporting Iran nuclear deal urging greater transparency in reporting on Iran’s nuclear program

    Senator Gary Peters ((D-Michigan) on Friday led fourteen of his colleagues in sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging the administration to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to encourage additional transparency when reporting on Iran’s nuclear program.

  • House committee releases encryption report, laying foundation for a national dialogue

    Terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have sparked a public debate on the use of encryption in the United States because the attackers used encrypted communications to evade detection, a phenomenon known as “going dark.” Earlier this week, the Majority Staff of the House Homeland Security Committee released a new report, titled Going Dark, Going Forward: A Primer on the Encryption Debate. The summarizes the committee’s findings, based on more than 100 meetings and briefings committee staff and members have held with key stakeholders over the past year.

  • Biodefense Panel welcomes key provision in defense authorization bill

    In October 2015, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense found that insufficient federal coordination on strategy, budgeting, and policy; inadequate collaboration with other levels of government and the private sector; and lagging innovation in areas like biosurveillance and medical countermeasure development make the United States vulnerable to biological attacks and infectious disease outbreaks. The Panel welcomed the passing by the House of the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4909, which includes a provision addressing one of the Panel’s most important recommendations.

  • Senate approves bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia

    The Senate has approved a bill which would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi officials for damages. A 1976 law granting states sovereign immunity form such law suits has thwarted efforts by the families of 9/11 victims to use the courts, but the bill just approved by the Senate would circumvent the 1976 law by allowing lawsuits against governments of  countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. President Barack Obama has said he will veto the legislation.

  • Latest European Terror Threat Snapshot released

    Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has the other day released the latest European Terror Threat Snapshot. The product is a periodic Committee assessment of the Islamist terror threat environment across Europe. It supplements the Committee’s monthly Terror Threat Snapshot which examines the broader Islamist terror threat the United States, the West, and the world.

  • Sen. Wyden said he would filibuster efforts to mandate back doors

    Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a critic of the NSA domestic spying programs, said he would filibuster any attempt by fellow lawmakers to require U.S. technology companies to weaken the encryption systems with which they equip their devices. Referring to Apple fight against a court order requiring the company to relax the encryption of iPhone used by the two San Bernardino terrorists, Wyden said that consumers were asking: “Are these for the privacy rights of the dead terrorist?”

  • Travel association to DHS: Tell Congress about visa overstays before tourism is restricted

    The U.S. Travel Association is urging DHS to address people who stay overstay the length of their approved visas before placing new restrictions on visa waiver programs that are designed to boost U.S. tourism. “We should not even begin to discuss further improvements to visa security without much-needed data from the Department of Homeland Security on visa overstays,” the association says.

  • Ryan examining congressional authorization of war against ISIS

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has instructed the House majority leader and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to begin discussions with House members about whether a measure which would authorize war against ISIS would be likely to be supported by a majority of House members. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and many other Republicans in Congress, question the need for such a measure.

  • NSA kept Benjamin Netanyahu under surveillance during Iran negotiations

    As part of the effort by the Obama administration earlier this year to make sure that the negotiations between the P5+1 powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program would not be derailed or obstructed, the National Security Agency (NSA) kept a close watch on Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The agency collected intelligence on Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders in an attempt to learn what moves the Israeli leader was planning as part of his campaign to have Congress reject the agreement the United States was negotiating.

  • WH finalizing executive order tightening background checks of gun buyers

    Sources say that the White House is about to announce a new executive order to expand background checks of individuals wishing to purchase guns. One proposal being considered would designate more sellers as high-volume dealers, closing a legal loophole which allows many sales conducted online or at gun shows to escape existing background check provisions. Two other developments on the gun front: On Thursday, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy said he would sign an executive order which would bar people on the government’s terrorism watch lists from buying guns in Connecticut; in the House, Democrats demand that a 17-year ban on government-funded research into violence involving firearms be ended.

  • Civil liberties coalition condemns cybersecurity bill

    Civil libertarians in the United States have a new ally in the fight against the new surveillance bill now being considered in Congress: librarians. The critics of the bill call it both “unhelpful” and “dangerous to Americans’ civil liberties.” House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been actively pushing for reconciliation of two bills, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA), which passed a Senate vote in October.