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The “Combat Terrorist Use Of Social Media Act Of 2015” Just Passed House—Schumer Launches Effort To Get Senate To Pass It Immediately

Schumer Says Two Recently Exposed Rochester Terrorist Links–And the San Bernadino Terror Attack—Show Social Media Is Playing Direct Role In How Terrorists Inspire, Possibly Coordinate Attacks

Feds Need A “Status Update” When It Comes To Analyzing Facebook Posts and Other Rapidly-Evolving Social Media Methods Of Global Terror Groups like ISIL

Standing at the Rochester Public Safety Building in Rochester, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his support for new legislation that will modernize the way in which the federal government deciphers, disrupts and decodes the rapidly-evolving social media methods of terror groups and terror suspects, like ISIL and others. This bipartisan legislation, known as the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015, recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now on its way to the Senate. Schumer said the legislation will update efforts the U.S. government uses to scan and investigate the social media sites of those with pending visa applications and those the federal government believes are likely to plan or carry out domestic terror attacks. In addition, Schumer provided more details on the legislation and spelled out how it would help reform the ways in which the federal government combats the rising role of social media in the fight against terrorism.

“The federal government needs to constantly improve the way in which it deciphers, disrupts and decodes the rapidly evolving social media techniques of terrorist organizations and groups. Simply put, the feds need a ‘status update’ when it comes to analyzing Facebook posts and other social media methods of terror groups, and this legislation will help get us there,” said Schumer. “This legislation would require the federal government to refine the way we assess and utilize social media. Our government has the capability to stay on top of these terror groups—and we do a fine job, as the recent arrest here show—but we can do this more and must do more because the terrorist communication and recruitment via social media platforms is growing and metastasizing. We must refine our strategy to better screen social media activity in order to ensure the safety of all those that live in the United States.”

Schumer continued, “I applaud federal law enforcement and intelligence officials for thwarting these two attempted attacks in the Rochester area – and we must guard against those looking to attack innocent residents in the future. It is clear that our law enforcement and intelligence officials are hard at work and doing a good job, but the double threat of home-grown radicals and recruitment of lone wolves via social media means we must do even more to stay ahead of these terrorists.”

Schumer said these two attempted attacks in the Rochester area alone highlight the fact that lone wolves can threaten the safety of the United States and citizens in small communities and cities just like Rochester. Schumer explained that over the New Year’s Eve holiday, federal and local law enforcement arrested a Rochester area resident named Emanuel Lutchman after it was discovered he planned to abduct or kill patrons in a local bar in Rochester. Law enforcement has said the man allegedly communicated online with someone he believed to be a member of ISIS to discuss planning attacks in the United States. Media reports have detailed that Lutchman had a Google Plus account and a YouTube account which he used to stream videos of the terror group and shared recruitment clips designed to radicalize and call potential supporters to arms. His profile pictures for both accounts even depicted the ISIS flag, according to law enforcement.

Schumer also mentioned that in December, not even one month ago, another Rochester resident, Mufid Elfgeeh, also pleaded guilty to using multiple social media sites to recruit for ISIS, including Facebook. According to reports from the Associated Press, the suspect utilized 23 different Facebook accounts to “seek donations and declare his support for violent jihad and allegiance to the Islamic State and its leaders.” During his court proceedings, Elfgeeh acknowledged that he attempted using social media to liaise between a man whom he believed was a rebel commander in Syria and ISIS forces. Elfgeeh will be sentenced in March.

Schumer said that instances like these prove the U.S. is thwarting domestic terror threats, however more can and should be done to zero-in on the new social media methods lone wolves or terror groups utilize to self-radicalize and to lure Americans and others into terror networks. Schumer also noted that the recent, deadly terror attack in San Bernardino demonstrates how screening social media sites may play a vital role in promoting safety measures in visa processing, another area where Schumer has voiced support for changes to standard procedure. One of the shooters, Tashfeen Malik, entered the country on a fiancé visa program, also known as the K-1 visa. Schumer said that, as part of the standard operating procedure, the Department of Homeland Security should screen the public social media postings of those applying for such a visa.

Therefore, Schumer today pushed for his colleagues in the Senate to pass the Combat Terrorist Use of‎ Social Media Act of 2015, which was introduced by U.S Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and recently passed in the House of Representatives. Now that this bill has passed the House, Schumer is urging passage of the bipartisan bill in the Senate, as it would help strengthen and ensure intelligence gathering and the safety of Americans. Schumer said he would work to create a bipartisan coalition to pass this needed legislation. Schumer went on to say that even employers do social media checks on potential employees and that it makes sense for our government to do the same when it comes to potential visa holders and lone wolves who are believed to be recruiting for ISIS via social media platforms.

Schumer was joined by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “As recent events have once again reminded us, the threat of terrorism is a pervasive reality at every level of our society.  Any place can be a target at any time, whether it’s an office party in San Bernardino or a nightclub in Rochester. But rather than live in fear, we must ensure our national security and local public safety agencies have every available tool at their disposal to keep us safe. The Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act is one of those tools, and I want to thank Senator Schumer for stepping forward and demonstrating the necessary leadership to make sure this tool is put into use as soon as possible.”

Schumer said this legislation must pass the Senate so the federal government can better gather and assess terrorist social media messaging. Schumer also mentioned the bill would require the U.S. to go on the offense with its own social media strategy to disrupt the recruitment and communications of terrorists groups with a more direct plan of action. Specifically, the legislation would require the federal government to determine the best ways in which the U.S. can decipher, disrupt and decode the methods terror groups employ to spread their radical message. Schumer said tightening up the way in which the U.S. combats terrorists and terrorist organizations’ use of social media is a key issue that must be addressed.

The Schumer-backed legislation would require federal officials to deliver the following:

  • ·         An assessment on how social media is utilized in radical movements in the United States and abroad;
  • ·         An evaluation on how terrorists and terrorist organizations use social media in their causes;
  • ·         Proposals on how to combat and counter the use of social media to persuade, by terrorists and terrorist organizations;
  • ·         Assessments of the intelligence value of terrorism in social media.

The legislation would also require the Administration to enact policy that would enhance the ability for the Executive Branch and Congress to work together with social media companies to ensure efficiency of this strategy as laid out in the President’s 2011 Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Schumer said these steps must be taken if we are going to continue to thwart attacks and gather intelligence.