Winter 2015 Newsletter
In this issue: foreign fighters, legality of drones, large scale venues and events
Foreign Fighters – Potential Terrorists Return Home
“The State Department, along with other agencies of the United States government, is deeply concerned about the threat posed by foreign fighters, who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to participate in the conflicts there. The intelligence community estimates that since January 2012, over 16,000 Foreign Fighters have travelled to Syria from more than ninety countries, including the United States. We are concerned that these trained and battle-hardened fighters will try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.” Robert Bradtke, Senior Advisor for Partner Engagement on Syria Foreign Fighters Bureau of Counterterrorism, Department of State, made these statements before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Joint Subcommittee hearing, “ISIS and the Threat from Foreign Fighters,” in December 2014. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, “The terrorist threat we face is increasingly decentralized, self-motivated, and may be harder to detect.” Some Members of Congress have supported and/or sponsored bills to deny or revoke passports for U.S. citizens fighting or planning to fight abroad for foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The worry is American IS fighters may leave Syria or Iraq, return to the United States, and conduct attacks in their homeland, similar to recent terrorist attacks made by returnees to Paris and Brussels. A White House fact sheet stated “Our approach brings together homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, military, capacity building, and information sharing efforts.” How can the United States best deter and protect against this threat?
- American Foreign Fighters and the Islamic State: Broad Challenges for Federal Law Enforcement
- (No) Papers, Please: No Passports for U.S. ‘Foreign Fighters’
- Islamist Foreign Fighters Returning Home and the Threat to Europe
- One Flight Away: An Examination of the Threat Posed by ISIS Terrorists with Western Passports, Hearing Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, Second Session, September 10, 2014
Photo credit: Freedom House CC
Legal Issues Surrounding Drone Use
The increased number and usage of unmanned aircraft raises legal questions about the information they collect, trespassing claims, crossing international borders and what constitutes appropriate surveillance. Additionally, drone usage has raised questions regarding regulation. For general information about drones, HSDL analysts have created a Featured Topic on Unmanned Systems. The documents below have specific relevance to legal topics surrounding unmanned aircraft.
- Da Vinci’s Children Take Flight: Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the Homeland
- Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses
- Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into Modern Policing in an Urban Environment
- Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues
- Droning On: American Strategic Myopia Toward Unmanned Aerial Systems
- Future of Unmanned Aviation in the U.S. Economy: Safety and Privacy Considerations
- Domestic Aerial Surveillance and Homeland Security: Should Americans Fear the Eye in the Sky?
Large Scale Venues and Events: Homeland Security Challenges
Sports events. Theme parks. Conventions. Concerts. These and other large-scale gathering places and events have multiple organizers, thousands of attendees, garner headlines and media coverage, and consequently become homeland security concerns. Planning for mass gatherings involves cooperation across a wide range of homeland security disciplines. As an example, DHS was the lead in coordinating a partnership of over 13 federal offices and agencies to assist state police in security operations at the 2014 Super Bowl. The HSDL has a wide range of documents and resources providing guidance and information for large scale event planning including two related Featured Topics: Mass Gatherings and Mass Evacuation. Review these Topics here.
- Committee on Homeland Security Majority Staff Report Examining: Public Health, Safety, and Security for Mass Gatherings
- Changing Homeland Security: A Strategic Logic of Special Event Security
- Commercial Facilities Sector-Specific Plan: An Annex to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan 
- Special Events Contingency Planning: Job Aids Manual 
- Sports Venue Security: Public Policy Options for SEAR 4-5 Events
- Mass Gathering Security: A Look at the Coordinated Approach to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey and Other Large Scale Events
Homeland Security Commemorations and Anniversaries
As winter moves into spring, there are several commemorations and anniversaries of significant homeland security events. Featured below are select incidents affecting the U.S., accompanied by pertinent HSDL documents. For the full list, visit the Upcoming Homeland Security Events calendar .
- 2/26 Anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
- 3/11 Anniversary: 2004 Madrid Train Bombing
- 3/11 Anniversary: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster
- 3/20 Anniversary: Sarin Gas Attack on Tokyo Subway
- 4/03 Anniversary: Arrest of Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski
- 4/15 Anniversary: Boston Marathon Bombings
- 4/16 Anniversary: Virginia Tech Shooting
- 4/17 West Fertilizer Company facility explosion in West, TX
- 4/19 Anniversary: Waco Siege Ended
- 4/19 Anniversary: Oklahoma City Bombing
- 4/20 Anniversary: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- 4/20 Anniversary: Columbine High School Shooting
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