HARTFORD – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, today outlined four anti-terror proposals in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium.

Murphy released the following statement:

“Our hearts ache for the people of Brussels today, just as they ached for Parisians last year. It’s in the face of such incomprehensible violence that all nations should look inward and recommit themselves to doing more than mourn for the loss of life. We must act.

“There is nothing more important to my job as Senator than keeping the people of Connecticut safe. But campaign rhetoric and empty tough talk isn't going to protect anyone. The best way we can prevent ISIS from launching a successful attack here is to address the real security gaps that exist in our immigration laws while refusing to engage in the kind of discriminatory policy that will just feed extremist recruiters. That’s why I’m laying out a series of achievable recommendations to boost transatlantic security and save lives.

“Over the past six months, it’s become clear that the anti-terror capabilities of our European partners are too often overmatched by an ever-evolving enemy hiding in plain sight. It’s not enough to master the ability to investigate a terrorist attack – 21st century law enforcement agencies must use every tool in their toolbox to prevent attacks from happening at all. That's why the U.S. must aid our European allies in investigating and tracking terror suspects, supporting continent-wide information sharing, and ensuring that if European authorities know something, U.S. law enforcement agencies know it too.

“Europeans are our steadfast allies in the fight against ISIS. They’ve shown a commitment to our shared values and united purpose in this fight. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to protect their security, but we must demand these commonsense reforms to also protect our own.”

Murphy's four key recommendations:

  • Congress should pass legislation mandating increased information sharing as a prerequisite for participation in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens of member countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa.  Currently, many European nations participating in the VWP do not meet U.S. standards for sharing critical information needed for international counterterrorism efforts into databases for European and American law enforcement agencies. The U.S. should pass reforms requiring states who wish to continue participation in the VWP to fully implement existing information sharing agreements, share intelligence about foreign fighters, and meet DHS standards regarding their ability to collect, analyze and share data concerning dangerous individuals. 
  • The European Union (EU) must pursue a comprehensive, continent-wide, transnational counterterrorism effort, with authority to track threats across borders. Earlier this year, Europol formed a new European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), but it is not clear that the new effort has the resources and intelligence capabilities to function effectively. Aided by 40-50 staffers, the Centre is an important foundation for an expanded pan-European counterterrorism capacity and it has potential to serve as an important coordination mechanism, but its effectiveness will still depend on the willingness of local and national authorities to contribute intelligence. EU member states have historically been reluctant to cede sovereignty on key issues related to defense and law enforcement. The last six months have underscored the urgent need to adapt along with ever-evolving threats. Terrorist groups work and communicate across borders, so EU counterterrorism officials must do so as well.  
  • The United States should provide a greater level of skills training and technical expertise to assist the EU in standing up a more robust counter-terrorism platform. The passage of the Judicial Redress Act and pending signing of the umbrella law enforcement agreement should alleviate privacy concerns and serve as a good foundation for additional cooperation.
  • EU member states must resist the temptation to put up walls (literally and figuratively); the threats are just as likely to come from their own citizens as outsiders. To that end, European leaders must develop localized countering violent extremism strategies. We should help the Europeans to devote more resources and attention to immigrant neighborhoods, and work with local leaders and immigrant advocacy groups to counter the drivers of radicalization – disenfranchisement, lack of opportunity, discrimination, social isolation, etc. In the current environment, these circumstances are getting worse, not better, and Europe needs to find ways to reverse this dangerous cycle.