NEW YORK CITY – Ahead of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan joined bipartisan members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for a field hearing at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. The hearing focused on the current state of homeland security and what needs to be done to keep Granite Staters and all Americans safe. Hearing witnesses were three former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretaries from the Bush and Obama Administrations.
“Like many of the people on the panel, I have a lot of memories of 9/11 and I think the most significant one for me is the feeling I had when I picked up my then-eight-year-old daughter from school and realizing how much her world had changed,” said Senator Hassan. “As I sit here I am once again overwhelmed by our country’s profound loss that day, and the sacrifices made by first responders, by the military, and civilians and their loved ones. In some ways 9/11 changed our country forever, but our response reinforced who we are: we are strong, we are kind, we are resilient. And at times and places such as this one, we are reverent, and we will fight for and protect our freedom.”
Senator Hassan began her questioning asking the former DHS secretaries about protecting houses of worship in New Hampshire and across the country from terrorist threats. “No one of any faith should have to fear for their life when they visit a house of worship for reflection or prayer,” Senator Hassan said. “Over the past months, I have visited with houses of worship in New Hampshire and heard about the disturbing threats that they and their community members have received…[One rabbi] says as she leads her congregation during those minutes when the doors are open, she wonders, is this the night we die?”
Following up on the $150,000 federal grants that Senator Hassan and the New Hampshire congressional delegation announced last month that will go to seven New Hampshire houses of worship to strengthen their buildings’ security, Senator Hassan said, “These funds help, but not all who applied for the grants were able to get them and there is much more to be done to keep houses of worship in New Hampshire and across the country safe, secure, and free.”
The Senator asked the DHS secretaries about what more can be done to protect houses of worship, and they discussed law enforcement presence at houses of worship especially around major holidays and trainings and drills for houses of worship and their members should an attack occur.
Former DHS Secretary Johnson also recommended increasing the federal grants to houses of worship. Senator Hassan is a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that would increase this funding and further secure nonprofit and faith-based facilities against potential terrorist attacks.
Senator Hassan also raised the importance of cybersecurity, and ensuring that state and local communities have the information they need to protect against cyber threats.
“Recent ransomware attacks designed to cripple government operations have targeted nearly every level of government, including Strafford County in New Hampshire and cities across the country. Is there more the federal government can do to assist state and local governments in deterring, preventing, and recovering from cyberattacks?” asked Senator Hassan.
The former DHS secretaries discussed the importance of helping to mitigate risk, increasing communication about potential threats, and raising awareness about phishing emails and other attacks. Senator Hassan recently introduced bipartisan legislation to update and improve federal agencies’ cybersecurity, and make additional cyber defense resources available to state and local governments.