Peters Convenes Hearing With Top Officials Examining How Homeland Security Threats Have Changed Since 9/11

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing with top officials to examine how threats to communities in Michigan and across the nation have significantly evolved since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks twenty years ago. Peters and the witnesses discussed the need for national security agencies to not only continue to address foreign terrorism, but to also increase their efforts to combat new and persistent threats such as domestic terrorism, including white supremacist and anti-government violence, and cyber-attacks. During the hearing, Peters also raised the importance of our nation’s border security and asked what the Administration is doing to ensure safe and secure trade and travel at our nation’s Northern border and the appropriate treatment of migrants at the Southern border.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid testified before the committee.

“It was out of the ashes of 9/11 that the Department of Homeland Security was created, with one primary mission, keeping Americans safe from all threats. In the 20 years since those horrific attacks, the threats to our nation’s safety have become increasingly complex and widespread,” said Peters during his opening remarks.

Peters continued: “The scale and severity of the security threats we are facing today can be daunting, and given the increasing strains placed on the Department of Homeland Security, we must ensure they have the resources and personnel to effectively carry out all of their critical missions.”

To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, click here. For text of Peters’ opening remarks as prepared, click here.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ first round of questions, click here. To watch video of Senator Peters’ second round of questions, click here.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ closing questions and remarks, click here. 

Both the FBI and DHS have stated that domestic terrorism driven by white supremacist and anti-government ideologies poses the most lethal kinetic threat to our nation’s safety. Recent alarming incidents include a plot last year to harm Michigan’s Governor and the January 6, 2021 attack against the U.S. Capitol. Following these kinds of dangerous incidents, Peters pressed Wray on what steps the FBI is taking to combat the use of social media to plan domestic terror attacks. The Senator also committed to continuing his longstanding efforts to address the rise of this grave threat. As a part of these efforts he recently pressed the Chief Executive Officers of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for more information regarding their companies’ policies to monitor and remove extremist and conspiracy content that advocates violence.

Peters asked Mayorkas and Wray about how the Administration is working to implement a coordinated strategy to deter cyber-attacks that continue to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders and Americans – and what better information cybersecurity and law enforcement agencies need to hold bad actors accountable for targeting American networks. Peters also pressed Wray on recent reports that the FBI withheld the digital key necessary to unlock the computers of hundreds of businesses and organizations that were the subjects of the Kaseya cyber-attack for almost three weeks, possibly costing businesses millions of dollars. Peters has led the charge in the Senate to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity defenses, including by securing several provisions in the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill to help protect the American people from online threats.

Peter also pressed Mayorkas for additional transparency on when the Administration will start to ease travel restrictions with Canada at Northern border land crossings, and urged him to ensure DHS clearly communicates the criteria the Administration is using to make these decisions to Northern border communities. Peters made clear to the Secretary that these border restrictions have come with significant personal and economic consequences for Michigan’s cross-border communities. Peters and a group of his Northern border Senate colleagues recently urged President Biden to allow vaccinated Canadians to travel to the U.S. through land ports of entry.

Peters also raised concerns with Mayorkas about how DHS is addressing recent and troubling images and reports of possible mistreatment of migrants at the Southern border. As an unprecedented number of migrants continue to seek safety and security in the United States, Peters has continued to work with the Administration and his colleagues to ensure that our nation’s borders are secure, and that migrants are treated humanely and given a timely review of their asylum applications.