WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today asked top national security officials about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, strengthening efforts to counter the flow of drugs across the border, and the state and local cybersecurity grant program that she established, during the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s annual Threats to the Homeland hearing.
International Terrorist Threats
Senator Hassan began by asking about Al-Qaeda’s capacity to threaten the U.S. a year after the Afghanistan withdrawal: “To the extent that you can discuss it in an unclassified setting, what is the National Counterterrorism Center’s assessment of Al-Qaeda’s capability to threaten the U.S. homeland?” and asked the FBI Director about this as well.
FBI Director Christopher Wray discussed his concerns about having adequate information about Al-Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan, as well as Al-Qaeda’s and ISIS’s ability to inspire attacks.
Drugs Smuggled Across the Border
Senator Hassan then spoke about the ongoing flow of illegal drugs across the southwest border, which ultimately helps fuel the substance misuse crisis in New Hampshire.
“Every week a new drug seizure along the border makes headlines, but the flow of drugs across the southwest border is unrelenting,” said Senator Hassan. “The drugs that DHS seizes accounts for just a fraction of the total that criminal organizations attempt to smuggle into our country.”
Senator Hassan went on to ask Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alexander Mayorkas about what the Department is doing to stem the flow of these illicit drugs.
“So it is a fact that the smugglers seek to transport controlled substances, illegal drugs into the United States, primarily through the ports of entry through trucks, vehicles, and the like,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “And what we have done is we have surged technological resources that can most effectively detect the effort to smuggle those dangerous substances into our country. Specifically, for example, non-intrusive inspection technology, which has remarkable x-ray capabilities that can be implemented very, very swiftly. We have deployed forward operating labs so personnel scientists can detect the controlled substances and we can affect the seizure immediately and refer to law enforcement the persons who have sought to smuggle them. What we need is more resources like that.”
Senator Hassan previously worked with her colleagues to pass into law the bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which has provided critical tools to Customs and Border Protection to help detect and intercept fentanyl and other illegal synthetic opioids. Senator Hassan also led a field hearing in Manchester through her role as chair of the Emerging Threats subcommittee to examine ways that Congress can help support law enforcement’s efforts to stem the flow of drugs into communities, including at the southern border, and she continues to push for additional resources to help intercept illegal drug trafficking.
State and Local Cybersecurity
To finish, Senator Hassan spoke about the state and local cybersecurity program that she created as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law to strengthen state and local government’s cybersecurity and protect critical infrastructure such as public schools and water utilities.
When asked about what the Department’s goals are for this first year of grants, Secretary Mayorkas shared that “we are so grateful for that grant program… This first year of its implementation, we are dedicating $185 million in resources to state and local governments. This is all about building their capacity to enhance the security of the cyber ecosystem.”
Senator Hassan is leading bipartisan efforts to strengthen cybersecurity at every level of government. Senator Hassan successfully secured her bipartisan amendment in the Fiscal Year 2022 defense bill that is now law to ensure that the National Guard can help state and local governments and businesses improve their cybersecurity. In addition, Senator Hassan worked to pass into law her measure to create a Cybersecurity Coordinator in every state to help federal, state, and local governments, as well as schools, hospitals, and other entities, coordinate and better protect their systems against cyberattacks.