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Testimony

Terror in Europe: Safeguarding U.S. Citizens at Home and Abroad

Testimony for Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs
5th April 2016

Download the full testimony here

Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Carper, and distinguished members of the committee, on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, it is an honor to appear before you to discuss the heinous terrorist attacks in Brussels, and their implications for U.S. security.

The Brussels attacks and their aftermath have exposed several key weaknesses in Europe’s security infrastructure that leave the continent vulnerable to terrorism and inhibit European states’ ability to effectively counter threats posed by the Islamic State (popularly known by the acronym ISIS) and al-Qaeda. These weaknesses also endanger our own homeland security and U.S. interests in Europe. Some of the most significant challenges facing Europe include:

  • European authorities’ capacity to manage the dual challenges posed by migrant inflows and foreign fighters. Europe’s migrant crisis has overwhelmed European law enforcement and security agencies, which are struggling to police migrant communities, prevent and contain crime against migrants and other manifestations of a nativist backlash, and gather intelligence on incoming migrants. At the same time, thousands of European nationals have joined ISIS and other jihadist factions in Syria and Iraq, and dozens to hundreds of these foreign fighters have returned to Europe, with some infiltrating migrant inflows to gain entry to the continent. European security agencies are ill equipped to manage these dual challenges.

  • Security coordination in Europe. Intelligence sharing between European countries continues to be inadequate, as bureaucratic obstacles and turf battles inhibit governments from sharing critical information with one another. Some European governments also struggle to share information even within their own intelligence community. These problems can be exacerbated by the lack of border controls within the Schengen Zone, which has helped jihadist operatives move between countries undetected.

  • Security at civilian nuclear facilities in Belgium. Though the Belgian government has made progress in recent years in securing its nuclear facilities, concerns remain about the country’s ability to protect its nuclear material, as well as personnel who work at these facilities. ISIS has demonstrated an interest in gaining access to Belgian nuclear facilities and acquiring nuclear material.]

  • Threats to transportation infrastructure and soft targets. ISIS has instructed its operatives to carry out mass casualty attacks against civilians in Europe, and the group has sought to cripple the European economy by striking tourist sites and transportation infrastructure.

European states will need to address these issues head-on in order to prevent large-scale attacks in the future. The U.S. government can play an important role in providing a roadmap for European states to follow, supporting European security reforms, and bolstering European states’ ability to combat jihadist threats.