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Pfluger Opening Statement in Hearing on Terrorist Financing

July 22, 2021

Pfluger Opening Statement in Hearing on Terrorist Financing

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX), Ranking Member of the Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statement in a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Terrorism and Digital Financing: How Technology is Changing the Threat.”

Ranking Member Pfluger’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate you holding this hearing today and thank our witnesses: Assistant Director Jeremy Sheridan from the Office of Investigations at the Secret Service, Assistant Director John Eisert from Investigative Programs at HSI, and Acting Deputy Under Secretary Stephanie Dobitsch from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. I am looking forward to an informative and productive discussion on this very important topic.

This hearing is especially timely, with American troops in effect fully withdrawn from Afghanistan, and the Taliban rapidly taking control of Afghanistan’s provincial districts – reportedly occupying about a third of the country including key border-crossing areas. Afghan security forces are surrendering, and the Taliban is beginning to fight for some of the provincial cities. There has been public reporting that the Afghan government could collapse within six months of our withdraw. All this to say that foreign terrorist organizations are alive and well. Not only are they present overseas, but they are growing, and as we all know Afghanistan is only a portion of the widespread and diverse terror threat landscape. If they are given the opportunity to cement their presence overseas, I have no doubt that their next goal will be to launch an attack on U.S. soil.

Those who served in Afghanistan saw firsthand the death and destruction that terrorist organizations cause. It is absolutely imperative that the war on terror be fought on foreign soil. We must guarantee that foreign terrorist organizations do not have the resources to expand their operations and bring the fight to the homeland. Cutting off their access to financing is absolutely critical.

Terrorist financing is not a new issue. Whether a transnational criminal organization, foreign terrorist organization, or money launderer, we have been confronting this problem for decades. But crypto currency is a new tool that terrorists and other criminal enterprises have at their disposal. Unfortunately, Congress has not always been known for our ability to stay one step ahead when it comes to the latest technological advances, but when we’re confronting the issue of terrorism financing, playing catch-up is not an option. During a conversation I had earlier this week with Assistant Director Sheridan and Assistant Director Eisert, they mentioned that relative to the entire terrorist financing world, crypto currency transactions account for about 1% of cases. That tells me we are having this hearing at exactly the right time – before this is a systemic problem. We are now in the position to provide our agency partners with the resources and authorities they need to confront this proactively, as opposed to reactively.

That is what I am most looking forward to hearing about today – how do we ensure that crypto currency transactions continue to be 1% of the problem. And what does DHS need from us in Congress to best situate themselves to combat this threat.

Coming out of this hearing I also hope to understand what we should expect going forward. Although this is a small portion of the problem now, do we foresee that changing? If it is suspected to grow – how much and how can we minimize any growth.

It has been almost 20 years since 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists coordinated the hijacking of four commercial airlines, flying them into buildings which were recognized worldwide as symbols of American strength and accomplishment, taking 2,977 innocent lives. Thus far we have successfully prevented an attack of the magnitude we experienced on September 11th. As long as I serve my country, whether in uniform overseas or here in Congress, I will do everything in my power to ensure that what happened on 9/11 does not happen again and I am confident that my fellow Members on the Homeland Security Committee feel the same way.

I am looking forward to working with Chairwoman Slotkin and the other Members of the subcommittee to ensure that we are providing the Department with all of the tools necessary to minimize the threat caused by terrorist financing and successfully protect the homeland.

I thank our witnesses for their willingness to appear before the subcommittee, today, and I yield back the balance of my time.