U.S. House Committee Moves Bills on White Supremacy Symbols, Cybersecurity

Conner Caughlin

A Confederate flag ripples in front of a sign during a rally on Saturday, March 4, 2017.

Photo by Michael Duncan

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Homeland Security sent a series of bills to the House floor seeking to combat multiple white supremacy demonstrations and costly cyberattacks over the past year.

The bills cover a diverse range of topics, many of which distribute information and resources to rural communities.

The Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act encourages the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to document any flags or symbols used by these groups. The information compiled will be assembled into a guide and distributed to local, state and tribal police forces. 

Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) offered this bill to help rural communities prepare for future threats posed by these foreign organizations.

“To date, we are not doing nearly enough to analyze this threat and disseminate that information down to local law enforcement,” said Rose. To strengthen his argument, he cites the FBI’s January arrest of three members of a Neo-Nazi group who planned to attend Virginia’s pro-gun rally. One of the men arrested was a Canadian fugitive who planned to recruit new members for his group.

White supremacy has terrorized Oklahoma in multiple instances. The Oklahoma City bomber had connected with multiple white nationalists leading up to April 19, 1995. Last April, a woman was arrested for spray painting anti-Semetic graffiti on buildings in Norman “to scare other races.”

Another of the bills, the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement act, would deploy security advisers to assist business and government stakeholders on strategies for effective protection against cyberattacks.

“Many of our state and local governments are outmatched and overwhelmed by our cyber adversaries,” said Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.). “Providing them with the resources they need to defend themselves is one of our most important missions.”

Last September, hackers conducted a cyberattack on the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System and stole $4.2 million from pension funds. Reports indicate they gained access to the funds through an employee’s email account. As America moves towards the digital age, the bill will ensure crimes like these will occur less frequently.

While these proposed programs are receiving bipartisan support, the representatives worry about the funding they will need to enact these bills, should they pass. Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said he disapproved of President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

“It is troubling that, even as we work here today to strengthen DHS’ operations, the President is pushing for a budget that would cut [money] that state and local governments need,” said Thompson.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.