Congressman Ted Poe

Op-Eds

CNN

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)Reports Wednesday that three men have been arrested over plans to travel from New York to join ISIS -- and that one of them allegedly posted online about his desire to shoot the President of the United States -- is simply the latest reminder that terrorist groups and their sympathizers are exploiting the freedom of cyberspace.

Earlier this month, ISIS posted a video of its horrific burning of a captured Jordanian pilot. Unfortunately, this was not the first time ISIS has used Twitter, an American social media company, to broadcast its barbaric acts to the world. In August, when ISIS released the gruesome beheading of American journalist James Foley, it also used social media. In fact, ISIS has been using Twitter for years.

Nor is ISIS the only terrorist group on Twitter.

Hamas, Hezbollah and the al Qaeda branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, are all on Twitter. On January 14, the al Qaeda branch in Yemen, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or simply AQAP, claimed responsibility via Twitter for the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 17 people. The group has two official accounts on Twitter.

There are many more examples from such groups, all of which have officially been listed as foreign designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. It's with this reality in mind that on January 27, my subcommittee held a hearing on terrorists' use of social media. At those hearings, experts detailed how terrorist use of social media platforms has long been a problem.

If social media is being used to help radicalize thousands of people and raise millions of dollars from many more, the question all this raises is this: Why is no one shutting them down? Because American companies aren't. And nor is the American government.

    I've heard two arguments for why we should keep the status quo.

    The first -- and easiest to set aside -- is the claim that if the U.S. government were to shut down terrorists' social media accounts, these measures would be violating terrorists' free speech rights.

    My own belief is that the Constitution does not apply to terrorists.

    These thugs gave up their right to free speech the first time they killed innocent civilians. We should certainly not be helping them kill more. But this isn't just my thinking.

    The Supreme Court has already held this to be the case in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, when it ruled that if someone has aided a terrorist organization, their free speech rights were not protected. Indeed, free speech does not apply when it harms others, such as creating and distributing child pornography.

    The second argument is that terrorists' use of social media provides the intelligence community with information that they would not otherwise be able to acquire. But while terrorists may slip up from time to time, they are also aware that by its very nature, social media is about sharing, which means what they say can easily become widely shared.

    Nor is terrorist use of social media a new phenomenon. We have had years to weigh the kind of intelligence that we can gather about terrorist groups against the advantages in messaging and recruitment that terrorists gain from it. And from what I have heard, allowing this public, online jihad to continue has provided no significant intelligence breakthroughs. The fact that there are more terrorists using social media than ever before should say all we need to know about whether they are benefiting from it.

    To put it bluntly, private American companies should not be operating as the propaganda megaphone of foreign terrorist organizations.

    So what needs to change?

    For a start, social media companies themselves need to do more. It is not good enough to only pay attention when bad press threatens a company's public image after something truly horrific is posted online. Instead, companies not only have a public responsibility but a legal obligation to do more. Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that it is unlawful to provide a designated foreign terrorist organization with "material support or resources," including "any property, tangible or intangible, or services."

    That's about as comprehensive as you can get.

    What's more, most social media companies already have terms of service with prohibition of threats of violence that would preclude terrorist use of their platforms. But companies need to do a better job of enforcing their own terms. The lack of child pornography or stolen copyrighted material on social media platforms -- content that is quickly removed if it appears at all -- demonstrates what these companies can do.

    With this in mind, they would do well to consider having dedicated teams that remove terrorist content, and also streamline reporting processes for offensive content so users can easily report terrorist use on their platforms. Companies have the technology and the resources to crack down on terrorists' use of their platform; they just need the motivation to act.

    This is where the federal government can assist.

    In 2011, the White House promised a strategy to prevent online radicalization. But more than three years later -- and despite a summit last week aimed at tackling extremism -- we are still waiting on a that strategy. Without one, the federal government's efforts to combat terrorist use of social media will be as haphazard and lackluster as the efforts of private social media companies. Instead, we need a strategy that clearly articulates our goals and roles, and the responsibilities of each federal agency that needs to be involved, as well as how we are going to work with civil society.

    It is mindboggling to think that those who behead and burn others alive are able to use our own companies against us to further their cause. But that is exactly what is occurring.

    American newspapers would have never allowed the Nazis to place an ad for recruitment during World War II. Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations should not be allowed to use private American companies to reach billions of people with their violent propaganda in an instant, all for free.

    Red State

    Byline: Tony Perkins and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) 

    Last week people around the world were horrified when a gruesome video emerged of ISIS terrorists burning a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. King Abdullah of Jordan responded to these barbaric acts quickly and decisively, promising and delivering a severe response. Meanwhile back in Washington, President Obama responded in a different way. At the National Prayer Breakfast he took to the podium and self-righteously compared the acts of ISIS to Christians during the Crusades as if to justify current day world turmoil and the spread of Islamic jihad.

    He upbraided those of us deeply concerned with the growing threat of radical Islamic extremism. We do not accept the President’s dressing down of Christians. His words almost dismiss the killing of Christians by certain Muslims because of the Crusades—really? Today, in the year 2015, terrorists are beheading and burning people alive in the name of their religion. They are indiscriminant in their murder—killing other Muslims, Jews and Christians. The President is timid and refuses to call it what it is—murder in the name of radical Islam.

    Mr. Obama charges us not to forget our mistakes, yet he seems intent on ignoring our successes – successes so remarkable that they constitute a good measure of America’s exceptionalism. He also warns us not to forget that some professing Christians have, in the increasingly distant past, sometimes used their espoused faith as a pretext to justify evil. No true Christian affirms brutality or bigotry in the name of Christ nor, more importantly, do the teachings of Jesus give them warrant. One is left to wonder to whom the President’s pointless and hostile rebuke directed and if, in making it, he even gave a thought to the hundreds of thousands of Christians now living in crowded poverty after being driven from their homes by ISIS – or to those thousands mourning the savage slaughter of their loved ones by that same Islamic movement.

    He might answer that his intended target was those who claim Islam is intrinsically violent and that, in fact, ISIS, the Boko Haram, Hamas, the French terrorists and their ilk are theological aberrations.

    The great majority of Muslims in the world are not terrorists and are as appalled by the actions of their co-religionists as are decent people everywhere. It would be helpful for peace if more leading voices of Islam were more vocal in denouncing this demonic brutality.

    American presidential leadership is sorely needed. A Churchillian leader would not hesitate to lead the way in defining our enemy—radical Islam. A Churchillian leader would more aggressively lead an international coalition of leaders from across the globe – especially those from Muslim countries – to isolate the virus of Islamic terrorism. ISIS is not the only terrorist group, there are several, and they are unquestionably the single greatest threat to peace and stability in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and work to destroy it. Sadly, another Sir Winston Mr. Obama is not. In fact, he can’t even define the enemy. Political correctness trumps reality for this President. The American President has largely been missing in action, and the terrorists know it. Like many of our enemies, the terrorists act the way they do because they no longer fear us. Whether in dealing with Islam or foreign policy in general, President Obama insists on making all things morally equivalent, rendering clear moral distinctions virtually impossible to realize. He condemns religious violence without noting that the persecution of Christians around the world is the great religious crisis of our time.

    The President’s understanding of the world is more reminiscent of a child’s description of the ride on Disneyland’s It’s a Small World, than a sober, honest appraisal of the crumbling of the international order. He is not leading. His tenuous statements about terrorism, evil and the dangers of radical Islam only confuse our friends and embolden the enemies of freedom.

    America is imperfect; we get it, Mr. President. But it is also great and noble, and if we can borrow from history for a moment, it remains what Lincoln called “the last, best hope of earth.”

    Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
    Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) has represented Texas’s 2nd Congressional District since 2005. He serves on the Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary committees.

     

    Newsmax

    Byline: Ted Poe

    It was a cold winter morning in Paris just before lunchtime. Two masked men armed with AK-47s approached a woman standing outside the door of the Charlie Hebdo office, forcing her to let them inside. Once inside the doors, they gunned down the security guard in the lobby and ran up to the second floor shouting, "Where is Charb? Where is Charb?"

    Charb was the nickname for the newspaper’s editor, Mr. Charbonnier. After reaching their target, they executed him and 10 others. They exited the building shouting, "Allah Akbar" or "God is the Greatest." They killed a police officer outside, fled the scene and continued to yell: "We have revenged the Prophet Muhammad!" before getting in their car and speeding away.

    Over the next two days, the French government conducted a massive manhunt for the two masked gunmen. The brothers were on the run for two days until January 9th when police cornered them in a standoff near the Paris’ airport where they held one hostage. Later that day, police rescued the hostage and the terrorists were killed, going out just like they wanted in a massive firefight as "martyrs".

    The two men responsible for the initial attack were Cherif and Said Kouachi, brothers with a long history of terrorist connections. A decade ago, Cherif and Said were involved in a Paris jihadi outfit that worked to send French Muslim men to Iraq to fight Americans.

    Cherif tried to go to Iraq but never made it because French law enforcement arrested him before he could leave the country. In his trial, Cherif said he dreamed of attacking Jewish targets in France before deciding to try to fight in Iraq.

    Having already spent 3 years in pre-trial detention, Cherif was released. While in detention, Cherif befriended Djamel Beghal, a French-Algerian champion of jihad who was jailed in 2001 for planning an attack on the American Embassy in Paris. Cherif was also connected to a 2010 plot to break out an Algerian Islamist from prison who was in jail for being connected with a 1995 wave of bombings in the Paris Métro and on regional trains.

    Perhaps the most dangerous friend the Kouachi brothers made along the way was the late Anwar al-Awlaki — the American born leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. It has now been confirmed that Kouachi met with al-Awklaki in 2011 and that al-Awlaki financed the attack that was apparently in the works years ago.

    Hours before he met his maker, one of the Kouachi brothers, called in to a French TV station to brag about his terrorist connections: "We are just telling you that we are the defenders of the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and that I, Cherif Kouachi, was sent by al-Qaida in Yemen. ... And that I went there and that it’s imam Al-Awlaki that financed me."

    Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has also claimed responsibility for the attack.

    We have heard this story before. Young, vulnerable people across the globe are recruited to travel overseas where they are befriended and brainwashed by radical Islamic jihadists who preach hate and murder. Their terrorist mentors indoctrinate and infect them with the cancer of radical Islam and send them back to their home country to inflict terror and kill.

    The seeds of violent extremism are planted all over the world and the attacks come whether it is days (or in this case years) later. Lately, we have seen this in America where terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) have targeted and recruited disillusioned young people primarily through the Internet and social media. This is one of the most overlooked weak spots in our national security today.

    American passport holders who travel overseas to fight with the Islamic State are not going to come back to open coffee shops; they are coming back to kill. We cannot let them come back at all. That is why I have reintroduced the FTO Passport Revocation Act.

    This legislation would authorize the revocation or denial of passports and passport cards to individuals affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations. The Benedict Arnold traitors who have turned against America and joined the ranks of foreign radical terrorist armies should lose all rights afforded to our citizens. This bill will help law enforcement locate these individuals by preventing them from traveling internationally so that they can be captured and brought to justice.

    Most important, this legislation will prevent turned Americans from entering the United States under the radar and undetected. As we saw in France, sleeper cells that are well-financed by groups in the Middle East have a longstanding order to attack whenever the time is right. We need to act before, not after, they come back to the United States.

    The French prime minister said it best: "We’re fighting a war, not a war against a religion, not a war of civilizations, but to defend our values, which are universal. It’s a war against terrorism and radical Islamism, against everything that aims to shatter solidarity, liberty, brotherhood."

    The Paris attacks are a reminder that the cancer of radical Islam stretches far beyond the borders of the Middle East. The United States must do everything in its power to contain it outside our borders before the fight once again comes to us. And that’s just the way it is.

    Poe is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism.

    The Jerusalem Post 

    By: Rep. Ted Poe 

    All eyes have been on the terrorist army Islamic State (IS) as it slaughters its way through the Middle East. IS is the most infamous villain on the world stage today, leaving Americans more fearful than ever about an attack on the homeland. With shocking headlines of beheadings and mass graves, it seems IS has stolen the spotlight from another world villain, the largest state sponsor of terrorism: Iran.

    For over a decade the United States along with the rest of the UN Security Council has tried – and failed – to reach a deal with Tehran on its clandestine nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear ambitions became public 12 years ago when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered that Iran had covertly violated the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) for years by falsifying reports of its nuclear development activities. Since then, Iran has defiantly marched toward developing a nuclear weapon, while refusing to negotiate in good faith with anyone – especially the United States. Instead, its leaders have continually called for the destruction of America and our ally Israel.

    Iran’s actions over the years are not surprising; after all it is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Using both its own military operatives and its proxy, Hezbollah, Iran has planned attacks around the globe. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps funds, trains, arms, and directs Hezbollah, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist organizations. Hezbollah is the puppet; Iran pulls the strings.

    Finally, after years of Iran stalling and defying calls to halt its nuclear weapon development, the West played hardball.

    In 2012, the US and the European Union implemented sanctions primarily targeting Iran’s banking and energy industries.

    Tehran’s economy felt the pinch. In 2012, the Islamic Republic’s net exports of petroleum dropped to their lowest level since 1990. Its GDP dropped for the first time in 20 years. The Iranian Central Bank acknowledged an annual inflation rate of 45 percent in late July 2013 and many economists believe it was more likely in the 50%-70% range.

    The sanctions worked, and Iran finally came to the negotiating table. In 2013, Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment of uranium in exchange for some relief from the sanctions imposed in 2012. The US and our allies agreed to some relief incrementally over six months. Loosening up on sanctions just when Iran was beginning to feel the consequences of its actions was a monumental mistake.

    Since then, Iranian leaders have been emboldened by the economic relief they have experienced, and they have reverted to their defiant ways.

    Then along came IS. The US and Iran have oddly enough found themselves on the same side of the war against IS terrorists.

    Both nations are aiding the Iraqi government but in different ways. The US so far has fought the enemy from the air. In contrast, Iran has fought on the ground. Iran is well aware that it could be a valuable asset to the US in the long-term fight against IS, especially since the US administration has already publicly said no American boots will be on the ground. In a recent interview with CNN, the speaker of the Iranian parliament said: “Terrorists cannot be destroyed by bombing them. You cannot solve terrorism by occupation. And in order to fight them effectively, you have to choose another method. And you know that we have good experience in that, because we have actually fought against them.”

    The leaders in Iran are now publicly using this fact as leverage in US media outlets, as surely they must be doing behind closed doors. The question is: have they convinced this administration? Apparently they have. According to a troubling New York Times report, the administration plans to bypass Congress and sign a deal with Iran. The report cites a senior administration official who allegedly said, “We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years.” According to the report, the administration believes it has the authority to suspend sanctions without Congress’ approval. This is interesting timing, just days out from the midterm elections. President Obama knows that if the Republicans take control of the Senate, a deal with Iran that allows Iran to continue developing nuclear weapons would not pass either Chamber. This does not give him the authority to unilaterally make a backroom deal with the devil.

    Sanctions have worked; now is not the time to retreat. If anything we should increase them. Just this week, a top advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “Obama is the weakest of US Presidents.”

    Now is the time for the leader of the free world to prove Iran wrong.

    The world, including our enemies, are watching.

    The US must be clear and unequivocal: there will be no reductions in sanctions without verified steps to show that Tehran is abandoning, not just freezing, its nuclear weapons program. Sanctions are what have brought Iran to the table to talk in the first place. But getting to the table is not good enough. Actions speak louder than words, and we have seen Iran’s tentacles spread to terrorist attacks across the world. We cannot trust this country’s leaders, and we should not take any steps to ease the sanctions without verifiable actions by the Iranian regime.

    Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons anyway. It’s our responsibility to the world to make their defiant march forward more difficult, if not impossible.

    Easing sanctions will leave us right back to where we started in 2002. Why? Because without these sanctions and without US leadership, no one will stop them.

    And that’s just the way it is.

    ROLL CALL

    Byline: Reps. Ted Poe and Carolyn B. Maloney

    The headlines are often filled with political battles and partisan attacks lobbed from one side to the other. But on May 20, both parties in the House set aside their differences and stood in support of thousands of young girls in our nation. With a recorded vote, the House passed the Justice for Trafficking Victims Act unanimously. Since then, the bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but is awaiting a vote in the full Senate. Now is the time to move this bill forward, and send it to the president for his signature.

    Letting the calendar run out doesn’t help “Evelyn,” who was abused by her father and thrown in the foster care system. At the young age of 10, she thought she finally found someone who cared for her, “Joe.” Joe, an older man, told her she was loved, fed her and talked to her. He lured her in and then eventually took her to a hotel room where he beat, drugged and raped her.

    Evelyn was forced into a nightmare of emotional and physical abuse. She learned what a pimp was before the age of 12. Her youth was for sale like an object on the Internet. She was taken from hotel to hotel around the country, regularly raped by multiple men. Years later, she was arrested as a prostitute. She was never identified as a victim in need of services and support. Branded a criminal, she was released and sent back to the gross underworld she never wanted to be a part of in the first place.

    As hard as it is to imagine in the United States, a first-world country built on freedom, Evelyn is not alone. Each year, at least 100,000 American children are at risk of commercial exploitation, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Their average age is just 13 years old, and the “industry” is valued at $9.8 billion in the U.S. (second to only the illicit drug trade). Do you know one of them? Do you have any idea if trafficking networks exist in your neighborhood mall, nail salon or local restaurant?

    Human trafficking isn’t isolated to foreign countries or Hollywood movies. It happens in our own backyards. Some victims are brought into the country from overseas with the promise of a good job, while others are American women and young children lured into this life with the illusion of a loving relationship. Some of the victims are runaways, throwaways and foster youth. Regardless of where the trafficking begins, it’s time to say in America it must end. Modern day slavery will not be tolerated in this country.

    We will not turn our backs on this scourge. That is why we introduced the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Our bill implements a new, robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking right here in the United States. It targets demand by treating those who pay for sex with minors and other trafficking victims as criminals. The bill also works to treat the victims of trafficking as survivors in need of help — not criminals in need of punishment. In the Senate, the JVTA was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., It has broad support within the Congress and is endorsed by more than 150 anti-trafficking, law enforcement and child-welfare organizations.

    It’s rare in Washington for a bill to have this much bipartisan support. Now is the time for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. It’s hard to imagine who could be against it. Help rescue child victims from this slavery. Punish the slave traders and buyers and let the world know our children are not for sale.

    CNN Opinion

    By: Rep. Ted Poe

    Editor's note: Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The views expressed are his own

    (CNN) -- Half a million dollars. That's how much it cost Osama bin Laden and his band of extremists to carry out the most deadly attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

    Fast forward 13 years, and bin Laden may be dead, but the threat from Islamic extremists has never been greater. But weapons, surveillance equipment, training, food, lodging and travel all cost money. That suggests that if we want to fight terrorism, then there's one important thing we need to do: Follow the money trail.

    There are pockets of terrorist organizations all around the world, and global terrorism has become a sophisticated and organized criminal enterprise run by radical operatives. We have seen this most recently with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terrorist army that has raised billions through extortion, drugs, bank robbery, kidnapping, and oil smuggling. We also saw this with Boko Haram, which kidnapped hundreds of young girls in Nigeria and then reportedly sold some of them for $12 apiece. Money is power and that is no different in the business of terrorism.

    But while the focus on groups like ISIS has generally been, for example, on their ability to convert the oil fields under their control into cash, there's one source of funding for terrorism that is often overlooked: poaching.

    The illegal wildlife trade is a $7 billion to $10 billion per year business, with the main consumers of this illicit yet lucrative slaughter business being located in Asia.

    Why? In China, for example, some believe that ivory and rhino horns have special healing powers. In Vietnam, a rhino horn is a status symbol, one that they also think can cure a hangover. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a rhino horn sells for $65,000 a kilogram in Asia. That's more expensive than silver, gold and diamonds. That's more expensive than cocaine.

    With that kind of profit available, coupled with the high demand, we have seen poaching rise to astronomical levels. In South Africa, home to 80% of the world's rhino population, the number of rhinos poached rose from 13 in 2007 to 746 in 2013, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. In Central Africa, two-thirds of its forest elephants have been wiped out in the last 10 years.

    It's no wonder that terrorists have identified this lucrative "industry" of systematic killing of African animals as another source of cash to fund their murderous enterprise.

    According to an 18-month investigation commissioned by the Elephant Action League in 2011, the al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab generated between $200,000 and $600,000 a month from tusks. This vast sum of blood money accounted for about 40% of Al-Shabaab's total operating budget. These terrorist poachers not only kill African Animals, but are accused of murdering 60 Wildlife wardens in 2012 as well.

    Other terrorist organizations implicated in the illegal poaching trade include Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria. All of this has been done to obtain money for more criminal activity. After all, not only is the money good in poaching, but the risk of apprehension and the consequences are low.

    Unsurprisingly, terrorists have also taken advantage of the instability and corruption in Africa. They can't operate openly in the world economy because if they do, they are more likely to get caught. So they work under the radar in the black market. That's why we've seen terrorist groups like Hezbollah work with narco-traffickers in Venezuela.

    According to the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, "toothless laws, corruption, weak judicial systems, and light punishments allow criminal networks to thrive on wildlife trade with little regard to risk or consequence." The penalties for those caught poaching are minimal. So for terrorists who are looking to avoid detection, make a lot of money, and not face a lot of consequences if they are caught, poaching is a great fit.

    The nexus between terrorism and poaching, long overlooked, is getting more attention, but not enough is being done. For starters, there needs to be more intelligence gathering to get a deeper understanding of the issue. Our intelligence community has yet to establish a clear understanding of which terrorist groups are the most involved in poaching, how the money flows, and who facilitates the transactions. We cannot effectively counter a problem we do not sufficiently understand.

    Second, the Obama administration needs to clearly define who is in charge and what role the different agencies and bureaus within those agencies will play. Multiple agencies -- from the State Department to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- are involved in anti-poaching efforts.

    Similarly, we don't have an accurate picture of the money we are already spending on anti-poaching efforts because the money gets bundled into broader categories, such as law enforcement support, military training, environmental conservation, etc. We need a cross-cutting budget that outlines exactly how much money we are spending so that we can evaluate whether existing resources are appropriate and sufficient.

    Finally, we need to turn talk into action. Last February, the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking issued a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, but without any sort of implementation plan. Nine months later, we are still waiting. Meanwhile, endangered species are being slaughtered and terrorists are being paid from the sales of endangered species' tusks and horns.

    Preserving endangered species is a noble goal. And, the fact that killers worldwide are using this money to fund terrorism makes it even more urgent that we stop this ruthless criminal enterprise. The collusion of these two evils -- the killing of endangered species and innocent civilians to further terrorism -- is an international issue. The world cannot allow radical Islamists to continue the wholesale slaughter of rhinos and elephants to fund a reign of terror.

    And that's just the way it is.

    U.S News & World Report 

    By: Rep. Ted Poe

    Across the ocean in West Africa, Ebola is "spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially," warned President Barack Obama just a few weeks ago. Over 3,000 people have died and that number is expected to grow. The American people have watched the situation in West Africa deteriorate where things have gotten so bad that Liberia is now ordering mass cremations for bodies of deceased Ebola victims in an effort to stop the spread of disease. But feelings of empathy quickly turned to fear in late September when Ebola hit the homeland, and the first patient was diagnosed in my home state of Texas.

    Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it best: "[T]he viruses don't respect borders." Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian native was able to fly freely here from Liberia. He showed no symptoms on his flight, which is common for Ebola. In order to leave Liberia, Duncan lied on his immigration exit form when answering if he had contact with an Ebola-affected patient. He responded no. In reality, he was exposed to Ebola just days before when he helped transport an Ebola-stricken woman to a hospital. Days after Duncan had reached Texas, the disease symptoms struck, leaving those who had come into contact with him and his family as well as students at several area schools at risk. This understandably has prompted fear of contagion in Dallas and around the nation.

    This week Duncan became the first Ebola death in the United States. Obama has the authority and ability to make sure he is the last.

    [GALLERY: Editorial Cartoons on the Ebola Outbreak]

    Fortunately, There is a law already on the books that gives the president of the United States the authority to ban nonessential –excluding aid workers and military – travel to and from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa. This statute, U.S.C. Title 42 Sect. 265 provides for "suspension of entries and imports from designated places to prevent spread of communicable diseases." Invoking this law would ensure that more Americans are not unnecessarily infected while also ensuring that foreign nationals who are infected with Ebola – whether they know it yet or not – are not able to come into the United States. This is an obvious and common sense way to keep Ebola outside of our borders. That is why I have called on CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden to recommend that President Obama utilizes the power he has to do this until the threat of Ebola is under control.

    The United States would not be the first country to do this. Six African nations have even suspended travel to Ebola-infected nations. British Airways has also suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone – until at least March 2015. But of course, our borders remain wide open.

    The administration has defiantly insisted that a travel ban is not on the table. Instead, travelers arriving from West Africa will have their temperature taken at five of the nation's airports. This is a grossly inadequate solution that will not stop the spread of the Ebola disease. I am no doctor, but as experts have pointed out, it can take up to 21 days for an infected person to show symptoms, so it is more likely than not that infected persons could get into the country, pass the temperature test and show symptoms later, just like Duncan. People in this region are scared and desperate to save their own lives. We cannot rule out the possibility of people who think they could be infected buying a plane ticket to the United States in order to have access to the best health care in the world should they come down with Ebola.

    It's time to be honest with the American people. Allowing nonessential travel to West Africa is putting our citizens at unnecessary risk. Continuing with business as usual leaves our citizens vulnerable to a possible outbreak in the United States. How many people have to die for the president to act and use authority he already has under the law? The health of our citizens should be the main priority of our government. The time to implement this law to ensure Americans are not exposed to Ebola is now. And that's just the way it is.

    THE HILL

    By: Rep. Ted Poe

    In this weekend’s Congress Blog, liberal food policy activist Nancy Huehnergarth asks the question--“Does Rep. Poe want to undermine the financial stability of school meal programs?” The answer is no.

    No, I do not want to bankrupt our school meal programs and let our kids go hungry. This ridiculous attempt to distract readers from the real problem and attack my bill—the BAKE Sale act--deserved a personal response.

    It is no surprise that Ms. Huehnergarth wants the federal food police to dictate what food is sold in public schools.  After all, she was one of the leading crusaders behind the failed ban on Big Gulps in New York. Her war on “Big Soda” did not end there; she also advocates a nationwide “Soda Tax”. Taxing people for buying soda??? Are you kidding me? As we saw in New York, Americans (and our courts) have already rejected the idea of a Nanny State where the government regulates what citizens can and cannot eat or drink.

    As the husband and father of school teachers and the grandfather of 11 young grandchildren, I am well aware of what goes on in our public schools.  I was a football and soccer dad for many years. My kids grew up holding school bake sales to raise funds for team trips to tournaments, new uniforms and other activities.  Bake sales are an American tradition. But recently, the federal food police have come after our schools.

    Nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch programs were first established under the Obama administration in accordance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, regulating all food sold in public schools. However, now the USDA has officially extended its reach, regulating any food sold at fundraisers during the school day (including school bake sales).  Any food sold during school hours must meet the government’s requirements which are listed out in detail in a memo issued by the USDA bureaucrats from their marble palaces in DC. (I wonder if they sell Jumbo Honey Buns in the vending machines at USDA like they do at the White House?)

    The lengthy memo lists out nutrition requirements for everything from peanut butter sandwiches to yogurt, cheese and crackers and of course, the bake sale staple--cookies. If food does not meet their specific calorie and nutrition requirements then it can only be sold during a government APPROVED bake sale.  Government approved bake sales can only occur when a state gives an exemption to a school to sell non-approved food (anything that does not meet the government’s food manual) during school hours. As Huehnergarth points out, states can choose the number of exemptions they grant each year (as long as the feds approve). For example, she says Minnesota has decided to allow schools to request approval for a case-by-case exemption from the Smart Snack fundraising standard. So if the varsity cheerleading team in St. Paul wants to hold a bake sale to raise money to go to their national competition they must first have their school file paperwork with the state to request an exemption. Bureaucracy at its finest.  Some states understandably do not want to deal with the burdensome federal regulations so they have decided to allow no exemptions at all, effectively killing the bake sale. My home state of Texas is one of those states.

    As a result, teachers in my district recently came to me concerned that this new absurd rule will prevent their students from holding various after school activities. Before the government stepped in, students would use funds raised at bake sales to pay for those extracurricular activities. I agreed that the federal government had gone too far, so I decided to do something about it. That is why I introduced H.R. 5417, the BAKE SALE Act. This legislation would simply prohibit any funds from being used to implement USDA’s new ban on school fundraisers and bake sales during school hours. Washington bureaucrats have no business telling any American (no matter what age) what they can and cannot eat.

    One of the Ms. Huehnergarth’s main arguments is that if we continue to allow bake sales in schools, kids will not be hungry and will therefore not buy school lunches, bankrupting our school lunch program. History has proven differently. Bake sales have taken place for decades and students somehow still manage to eat lunch. I know my grandkids rarely will turn down a good meal. If students are turning away their school lunch,  perhaps it’s because this Administration has  regulated food sold in our cafeterias for decades out of existence and replaced it with unappealing government approved food, leaving kids hungry nationwide.

    Congress should not fund any efforts to implement this abuse of government power. The idea that Washington bureaucrats or elitist food policy advocates should determine what our kids eat is arrogance at its worst. Parents and students, not the government should decide this. Despite Huehnergarth’s accusations, I am not the Willy Wonka Congressman wishing to turn our public schools into Candyland. I am just another concerned citizen who is FED up with the federal food police.

    Poe has represented Texas's 2nd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary committees.

    Hamas bandits

    Jul 20 2014

    The Jerusalem Post 

    By: Ted Poe

    As Hamas rockets continue to rain down on Israeli civilians, Israel has once again begun to find itself being portrayed internationally as the villain for defending itself. Lest there be any doubt, Hamas is a band of terrorists. Israel on the other hand is a sovereign nation, and, like every nation, has a natural right of self-defense.

    Unlike virtually every other nation, however, Israel pursues this natural right in arguably the most morally upright and forthright manner in the annals of history. Regrettably, the United States has not done nearly enough to stand with Israel and give the Israeli government a diplomatically protective “green light” to once and for all neutralize the Hamas terrorist threat.

    Iranian-backed Hamas fires rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel defends itself thanks to the Iron Dome, which eliminates many rockets. But Hamas reloads and keeps shooting rockets into Israel. Israel now wants to go after the Hamas bandits. Israel’s rules of engagement are designed to minimize civilian and non-combatant casualties, while still allowing for robust self-defense.

    This protocol is at times a tactical handicap for Israel.

    Israel goes to great lengths to do everything it can to protect civilian lives. When Israel targets a terrorists hiding in “civilian” buildings in Gaza, Israel often warns the local populace of an impending defensive strike, sometimes by dropping leaflets or making phone calls to individual Gazans in the zone. At times, before an actual attack, Israel uses the “knock on the roof” tactic (firing small, precise, non-explosive ordinance at a roof) to urge folks to vacate the premises.

    Hamas, on the other hand, does not value any human life. By all accounts, Hamas urges, and sometimes forces Gazans back into targeted buildings.

    Some reports say Hamas’ command and control operations are located underneath hospitals and schools. They are willing to cower behind women, children, the elderly and the sick. This is a continuation of longstanding Palestinian policy: provoke Israeli defensive counterattacks that will cause civilian casualties.

    The Hamas propaganda slogan declares: “We love death more than the Jews love life.” This routinely forces Israel into the bizarre scenario of caring more about Palestinian Arab lives than their purported champions in the Palestinian Authority. To the international community, however, it appears none of this really matters.

    On Saturday, the UN Security Council issued a unanimous statement calling for a cease-fire and “for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.” The UN insists that Israelis and Palestinians return to the negotiating table “with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on the twostate solution.” This was followed by comments from the UN Human Rights Commissioner questioning the legality of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. He even suggested that Israel deliberately killed civilians in Gaza.

    Unfortunately, more often than not, this has become the response from the UN. History reveals that Hamas has used cease-fires as a “time out” to rearm itself with more Iranian rockets. Then at some “appropriate time,” it shoots them into Israel again. The US is following suit and backing off Israel’s right to defend herself. It, too, wants negotiations.

    The self-righteous international community misses the heart of the matter.

    To place a recognized terrorist organization like Hamas on the same level as the democratic, sovereign State of Israel is not only wrong, it’s nutty. The most important difference between Hamas (and by extension the PLO, since they have yet to revoke their Palestinian Authority unity government with Hamas), and Israel is that Hamas’s goal is the destruction of the Jewish state.

    The international outsiders cry peace, peace, but there can be no peace as long as Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Israel exists because the Jews persist in surviving.

    The United States’ legal, moral and sane response should be to support the Jewish state by encouraging Israel to, once and for all, end the terrorist threat to Israelis posed by Hamas. Hamas must be defeated. This will also protect Palestinian Arab civilian lives. The United States must stand with Israel in this effort. We must work to thwart diplomatic narratives that legitimize Hamas. We Americans must end our own political and financial support for the current Palestinian leadership that supports Hamas. We must make clear to the world that the Jewish State of Israel will, in fact, endure – whether Hamas and Iran like it or not.

    And that’s just the way it is.

    The author is a US congressman (R-Texas), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

    The Daily Caller 

    By: Rep. Ted Poe 

    Norwegian Air International (NAI) recently made headlines with its announcement to launch a low cost airline in the U.S. This may sound great on the surface — who doesn’t want to save money on flights? — until you realize what NAI is intending to do: set up a shell corporation to skirt existing laws and put American carriers at a competitive disadvantage. That’s why I joined 40 of my colleagues in the House and Senate to urge Secretary Anthony Foxx to quickly reject NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit.

    NAI’s parent company currently flies to the U.S. under the name Norwegian Long Haul. That operation was set up like any other airline and as such, it competes with U.S. carriers under the same rules and regulations. My concern is not with Norwegian Long Haul, but with its new affiliated company, NAI. NAI has created a new business model to skirt existing laws in an attempt to evade market forces.

    By registering their planes in Ireland, hiring crew members through Singaporean contracts, and then basing those crews in Thailand, NAI is structuring a flag-of-convenience air carrier that will not be subject to the individual laws of any one country. No U.S. airlines have that option in the marketplace, nor do any other global airlines. In effect, if our government signs off on NAI’s permit, it signs off on this type of business model. That means NAI will have created its own governing structure, one removed from the transparency rules, labor laws, and safety regulations we take for granted today.

    This not only presents legal concerns, but also security ones.

    NAI appears to be just a shell company, created explicitly to avoid U.S. and Norwegian labor, tax, and regulatory laws. Its aircraft, registered in Ireland, have no plans to fly to or from Ireland. This makes surveillance and oversight of the airline difficult. How is the Irish Aviation Authority, responsible for ensuring the safety of the airline’s operation, supposed to effectively ensure compliance with acceptable international standards? This structure resembles the cruise line industry, where ships registered in Panama and Liberia never touch down in those ports. We need only look to the unfortunate Carnival Triumph disaster in the Gulf last year, where hundreds of people were stranded at sea for days with no food, running water, or power to know how that system of safety “oversight” works for American consumers.

    This shell structure also threatens the free market, which requires a level playing field. NAI wants to escape that system for its own gain with an anti-competitive scheme, at our airlines’ and our economy’s expense. For the sake of free and fair competition and to ensure appropriate oversight and security, the Transportation Department should deny NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit.