Click here for footage of the hearing.
WASHINGTON – As part of her efforts to keep New Hampshire and the United States safe, secure, and free, Senator Maggie Hassan participated today in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, where she questioned counterterrorism officials about evolving terror threats, particularly stemming from the flight of ISIS fighters from Syria to other countries.
Senator Hassan noted that news reports have indicated that many ISIS fighters fled Syria to other countries, and asked Lora Shiao, Acting Director for Intelligence at the National Counter Terrorism Center, about the current threat posed by ISIS fighters now that Raqqa has fallen – particularly the threat from foreign fighters with western passports who joined ISIS. Ms. Shiao underscored the complexity of the threat, noting that “many foreign fighters have and will stay to fight” and some will try to leave but not necessarily to their home countries.
Pressed by Senator Hassan on the U.S. strategy to address the flight of ISIS fighters, Ms. Shiao said, “certainly when it comes to foreign fighters we’ve been engaged in working to ensure with DOD and with our foreign partners that we have as much information about terrorist identities as possible so we can feed that into NCTC’s terrorist identities data smart environment.”
Senator Hassan highlighted a recent BBC new story suggesting that hundreds of ISIS foreign fighters were given safe passage out of Raqqa Syria through a deal that the U.S. reportedly agreed to. Asked who agreed to the reported deal, Mark Mitchel, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special operations/Low-Intensity Conflict at the Department of Defense, said “those decisions were made by the tactical commanders on the ground,” and pointed to Defense Department efforts to control the flow of foreign fighters in Syria.