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Opening Statement As Prepared For Delivery By Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli For Senate Hearing On Threats To The Homeland

Release Date: 
September 24, 2020

Good morning Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Peters, and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

I am here to discuss the myriad of threats facing the American people and our homeland. In 2020, the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security have carried out their protective mission with professional excellence as our nation faces unprecedented and dynamic challenges.

From the pandemic, to riots, to natural disasters, the Trump Administration has ensured that our personnel have the vital support and resources they need to address evolving threats, while continuing to fulfill our enduring, no-fail missions.

DHS has a clear mandate from President Trump:

at all times, in all decisions, in all dangers, to keep the safety and prosperity of the American people as our first priority.

Today I will briefly comment on three national threats that deserve specific attention: Civil Unrest, Domestic Terrorism, and Transnational Criminal Organizations.

When we talk about domestic terrorism, we are talking about threats or acts of violence carried out against people and critical infrastructure in the U.S.

to advance an ideological agenda or coerce policy or social change.

These are generally conducted by Americans and not linked to foreign terrorist organizations.

Americans have the right to believe whatever they want, but there is no right to carry out acts of violence to further those beliefs. That is when we move from protected speech to domestic terrorism.

When the civil unrest by violent anarchists dragged on for months in Portland, Oregon; and local leadership refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement, DHS defended the federal courthouse without hesitation. Despite being pelted with IEDs, Molotov cocktails, fireworks, metal pipes, and more, our federal officers were resolute, sustaining more than 340 injuries in the course of their duties.

Lawlessness has festered in too many of our communities—from Chicago to Seattle, Minneapolis to New York, even Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Department will always uphold the right to peacefully protest, but there is no Constitutional right to loot, to burn, or to assault others.

President Trump has made it clear that we cannot and will not allow acts of violence, intimidation, or chaos to prevail in American streets.

Beyond illegal immigration at our borders, we are also contending with the most deadly organizations in the western hemisphere: the Mexican drug cartels.

To put it in context, the power of these transnational criminal organizations is so great that it is a destabilizing force to many governments in our hemisphere. Their attempts at drug smuggling and human trafficking—not to mention their regular, brutal, and violent tactics—must be addressed.

Last year in America, we lost 71,000 Americans to drug overdoses. Consistently the majority of these deadly drugs and opioids are produced and smuggled by criminal organizations across our Southern Border.

Working daily to decrease the flow of illegal drugs, DHS has seized four million pounds of hard drugs. It’s worth noting, we’re on track to seize roughly the same amount of drugs in four years, that it took eight years for the previous administration to seize. 

Transnational criminal organizations and their allies are not content profiting off the destruction of lives through the drug trade—they are also destroying lives through human trafficking.

The brand new 330 miles of border wall in high-impact sectors pushes human traffickers and drug smugglers to locations where we’re best equipped to catch them—Ports of Entry. It makes their transnational efforts much harder and makes America safer. That is another reason why this Administration’s delivery on the promise to build the wall is so very important.   

Finally, while I addressed election security at length in my written testimony, I do want to reiterate that our goal at DHS is to ensure that American voters decide American elections.

Finally, we do need legislative help from Congress in at least two areas.  We need the authority to designate transnational organized crime at a level below a foreign terrorist organization, but above U.S. criminal law.   And, we need the authority to address the drone threat in an appropriate manner.  We can’t keep studying the problem, we need to be able to take them down, especially at airports, the borders, and sensitive sites.

The threats facing our homeland are vast and varied. But I can promise you, the men and women of DHS are committed to rise and face the evolving threats of tomorrow, embracing their duty to safeguard the American people.

Thank you. I am now happy to take your questions.

Last Published Date: September 24, 2020
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