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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.

Jul 20 2014

Hamas bandits

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.



You don’t have to tell us that Republicans and Democrats do not agree on much these days in Congress. Whether the subject is to repeal Obamacare or raise the nation’s minimum wage, Congressional Republicans and Democrats—for the most part—line up along party lines, and it is easy to then assume that all issues in Washington are inherently partisan.

But members of Congress are more than members of political parties. We are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and grandmothers and grandfathers.  And this common bond unites us together stronger than the bonds of partisanship. We absolutely must protect our nation’s children just as we protect the children who are in our homes and in our families.

Last June, Republican and Democratic women members of the House of Representatives joined forces to sign a proclamation that “Our Daughters are Not for Sale” where they declared a shared commitment to end human trafficking and exploitation of American girls.

And thankfully it was not long until the men followed suit with a “Fathers of Congress” event with members from both parties and both representatives and senators coming together for one single purpose: giving their voices to help girls in the United States who are being bought and sold for sex.

As for the two of us, even though we come from different parts of the country and are registered in different political parties, the facts about human trafficking in the United States haunt us equally. Unfortunately, many girls and boys are arrested and charged with prostitution. A child who is not of the age to consent to sex cannot be a prostitute and should not be arrested at all but rather treated for what they are: victims. And the men who exploit children should never be called johns but should rightfully be called child abusers.

A recent study cited by the Department of Justice concluded that at least 100,000 young people are at risk for commercial exploitation.

According to the DOJ, the average age of entry for child sex trafficking victims in the United States is 12-14 years old.

And, not surprisingly, some of the nation’s most vulnerable children are most at-risk of being trafficked. In fact, cities throughout the nation report that the vast majority of child victims of trafficking are current or former foster youth. Additionally, the National Runaway Hotline concluded that one in three teens on the street will be lured into the sex trade within 48 hours of leaving home.

A national problem requires a national answer. Members of Congress from both sides are working across the aisle to advance a number of bills to prevent trafficking, protect and serve victims, and prosecute exploiters.  

For example, the “Justice for Human Trafficking Act” and the “End Sex Trafficking Act” have attracted Democrats and Republicans from across the country and the ideological spectrum because they will greatly increase victims' access to services, curb the demand that is fueling the child sex trafficking market, and punish individuals who purchase underage girls for sex.

To better protect our foster youth from exploitation, there are the bi-partisan “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act” and the “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act.” These bills will ensure that child welfare agencies are better equipped to prevent victimization and provide the appropriate services to foster youth who have been exploited.

These bills will also enable us to collect essential information in order to understand the scope of child trafficking in our states and communities and monitor trends.

When it comes to helping the children most in need, we have removed our partisan blinders to focus on well thought-out and practical solutions.

Now it’s time for Congress to take action and move our bills into law.

Our nation’s future depends on it.

Bass has represented California's 37th Congressional District since 2011. She sits on the Judiciary and the Foreign Affairs committees. Poe has represented Texas's 2nd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Judiciary and the Foreign Affairs committees.



May 12 2014

The PA has not fulfilled its obligations

The Jerusalem Post

The most recent collapse of the tedious and tiresome diplomatic kabuki theater commonly known as the Israeli- Palestinian peace process was wholly predictable.

Once again Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated that he is not prepared to make any real compromises for peace. On the contrary, while Israel was making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians while putting up with the usual US pressure, Abbas signed a pact with Hamas.

Clearly Abbas prefers peace with the terrorist group Hamas over peace with the Jewish State of Israel.

Hamas, lest we forget, is a murderous terror organization that calls daily, as well as in its constitutional charter, for the destruction of Israel. Hamas insists that Muslims are enjoined as a matter of religious doctrine to wage war on Jews and to kill them.

Hamas has fired over 10,000 rockets and missiles at Israel. Over the years, Hamas’ suicide bombers have murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli and American civilians even in the center of Israel’s cities.

It is for this reason that Hamas is designated as a terror organization by the US, the EU, Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan and even Egypt. Hamas does not recognize “human rights” and routinely oppresses women, hangs and murders political opponents, denies freedom of religion to Christians, denies freedom of the press, etc. At every opportunity Hamas leadership rejects the idea of ceasing its terror activities against Israel, or supporting negotiations with Israel, much less recognizing previous diplomatic agreements between Israel and the PA.

This pact between Abbas and Hamas is a direct continuation of the Palestinians’ refusal to advance the peace process negotiations.

In February Abbas rejected the framework principles that were proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, and refused to even discuss recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

Even more telling, Abbas once again materially breached existing interim peace agreements when he had the PA unilaterally apply to join international agreements (a continuation of its previous material violation when it sought and obtained recognition of “statehood” by the UN General Assembly).

Those of us who have been keenly observing this unfold over the years are hardly surprised. The PA has never actually fulfilled any of its obligations under the various interim peace agreements since its founding in 1994. For example, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement continues unabated on a daily basis in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps. Even during the current round of failed peace negotiations Tawfiq Tirawi, the influential Fatah Central Committee member, openly rejected coexistence with Israel and called for a return to violent “resistance”: “I say, from a position of responsibility, not a centimeter of Jerusalem will be liberated unless every grain of Palestinian soil is soaked in the blood of its brave people...

What will bring back Jerusalem are the struggle and the resolve... We have conducted negotiations, while not laying down the rifle. It [the rifle] may be resting but we will not neglect our principles. We will rest the fighter’s rest, but each period has its method of struggle.”

Even more significantly, Palestinian terrorists and terrorist groups continue to freely operate and arm themselves despite obligations that mandate they be stopped and their weapons confiscated. The only substantive efforts the PA has ever made to curtail terrorism have been against those Palestinian factions that rival Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, principally Hamas.

Even then these anti-terror actions were taken only when Fatah feared the power and communal influence of its rivals.

A little review of the Fatah-Hamas conflict is in order here: Fatah is the dominant party of the PLO and the ruling party of the PA; while the PLO has been telling the West that it renounced violence and is committed to peace since 1993, many of its member groups, like Fatah, have routinely engaged in terrorism and violence since then, and continue to tell Arabic audiences that the destruction of Israel is still the endgame. Hamas is the religious party, and offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which continues to be committed to Israel’s destruction, and has never pretended to, or flirted with, alternative positions.

In 2006 Hamas, which is not a member of the PLO, democratically won control of the PA’s legislative body. Tensions between Fatah and Hamas had already been on the rise as early as 2005, but after Hamas’ legislative win in 2006, the two groups began to openly fight; by the end of 2006 the violence was in full swing. Having repeatedly failed to reach a deal to share government power, the fighting and violence between them took another turn for the worse in June 2007. By the time the dust had settled in August 2007, hundreds of Palestinians had been brutalized and killed by both sides, and Hamas had taken total control of the Gaza strip.

Since then the PA has been split into two distinct polities – the Fatah-ruled PA and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Both entities believe themselves to be the one true representative of the Palestinian Arab people.

Since this civil war between them, Fatah has sought to make nice with Hamas multiple times so that they can be unified in their “struggle” against Israel. It is only in this context that the PA has ever curtailed terrorism – all in the effort to prevent Hamas from extending its rule beyond Gaza and knocking Fatah out of its top-dog position. Incidentally, this is also why there have been no PA presidential elections since 2005 and no PA legislative elections since 2006, and why Mahmoud Abbas is in the ninth year of his four-year term.

Since 1994, direct financial assistance from the US to the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has exceeded $5 billion. Since FY2008, US direct assistance has averaged around $600 million: approximately $200m. in direct budgetary assistance; approximately $100m. in “non-lethal” security assistance for the PA in the “West Bank”; approximately $300m. dedicated to project assistance for the “West Bank” and Gaza through US government grants to contracting organizations and NGOs. This doesn’t even consider the billions the US taxpayer has gifted over the decades to the Palestinians via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Yet despite such US taxpayer largess to the Palestinians, the United States has gotten little return on its expenditures.

Under current US law, American financial aid to the Palestinians will be stopped once a unity deal is reached with an unrepentant Hamas. Despite this likely cut-off in aid, Abbas’ PA continues to be more interested in peace with Hamas than with Israel. That suggests a far more robust resonance of the Hamas message and ideology than anyone cares to admit.

Under the circumstances, it seems idiotic to expect Israel to continue to negotiate with any Palestinian government that is playing nice with Hamas. Likewise, it seems absurd for the US to continue both to push this process along, and to subsidize the Palestinians in their efforts. The US would do well to stand with Israel, rather than attempt to push her into folly.

Mar 18 2014

Crime pays - for Palestinian terrorists

The Jerusalem Post

When a Palestinian murders an Israeli or an American in Israel, they can wind up receiving a salary in excess of $40,000 a year, for their crime.

The more serious the crime the more money the criminal receives after going to prison.

Absurd? Yes. True? Yes again.

When a Palestinian Arab terrorist murders an Israeli or an American in Israel, they can wind up receiving a generous salary, in excess of $40,000 a year, for their crime. And if you are a US taxpayer, you are footing part of the tab.

As chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, I recently held a hearing on “Threats to Israel: Terrorist Funding and Trade Boycotts.”

One of the expert witnesses who testified before the committee was Edwin Black, an investigative reporter and New York Times bestselling author. In his detailed and heavily documented account Black explains how this morally outrageous system works.

The United States gives to the Palestinian Authority (PA ) hundreds of millions of US dollars each year, as do other donor countries. The PA then spends this money. One of the PA ’s top budget priorities is to pay the salaries of Palestinian terrorists who have been convicted of murdering, or attempting to murder, Israelis – with higher salaries doled out on a sliding scale.

The more ghastly the atrocity and the higher the prison sentence, the greater the PA salary.

The moment a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror – “violent resistance” is the Palestinians’ preferred propaganda term – against Israel, whether against a soldier or civilian, that convicted terrorist is automatically entered into the PA ’s public payroll to receive a generous monthly salary (to be paid from the date of his or her arrest, not conviction). Salaries range from around $400 a month to up to $3,400 a month – up to 10 times the average pay earned by many working Palestinians, according to Black.

This policy of automatically putting Palestinian terrorists on the official PA payroll is enshrined in official PA public law – known as the “Palestinian Law of the Prisoner.” This law has been unofficially on the books since the PA came into existence in 1993 following the Oslo Peace Accords, and was then regularized, formalized and made official in 2004. The salaries are administered by the PA ’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, established in 1998.

These payments amount to almost $10 million a month in some years and constitute around six percent of the PA ’s annual budget, according to the PA ’s own Finance Ministry. According to Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli-based NGO, the PA paid $100m. to terrorists in 2013.

There is even a semi-official Palestinian watchdog group called the Prisoners Club which ensures the PA ’s compliance with the law and pushes for payments as a prioritized expenditure.

So that even during the PA ’s frequent budget shortfalls and financial crises, these terrorists’ salaries will be paid before any other fiscal obligations.

The Prisoner’s Club was established in 1994, and operates on funds received from the PA budget.

Beyond these official salaries, and periodic bonuses, these terrorists are lauded by the PA and the Palestinian culture as heroes, and their children are accorded special status, including tuition breaks at PA academic institutions.

These payments are not welfare to the families of “violent resistance” fighters, but actual salaries to them, to be disbursed by power of attorney to whomever they, the terrorist, choose – could be to family, a mistress, or even a terrorist organization. The terrorist retains total control of his or her salary.

Indeed the promise of a generous PA salary is itself, perhaps, a cause of Palestinian terrorism. One convicted Palestinian terrorist, Husni Najjar, for example, recently told Israeli police that he planned a second, fictitious terror attack against Israelis because he knew he would receive a hefty salary from the PA if he was imprisoned for it. His previous offense was helping to plan a suicide bombing which was foiled. For this act of terrorism he received about $13,000 in total from the PA in salary. That amount was not enough for him. With his second conviction he was hoping to increase that tenfold to pay for his recent wedding and cover his debts.

Using US taxpayer dollars to reward and incentivize terrorism against civilians is not merely illegal, but sickening and immoral. Money is fungible, however, meaning that the millions of American taxpayers’ dollars we give to the PA frees up an exactly equal amount of millions to be spent in any way the PA wishes, free of all American restrictions.

So in a very real sense, every US dollar given to the PA serves as an indirect American taxpayer subsidy of whatever the PA chooses to spend its money on, including activities that are illegal under US law and activities that the United States otherwise opposes and seeks to stop. This is even assuming – perhaps a very big assumption for a famously corrupt governing authority – that not a single dollar of US taxpayer monies gifted to the PA ’s general budget to help them make payroll is ever diverted or misappropriated directly by the PA for such purposes.

Even more galling, some of these salaried PA terrorists have killed and maimed US citizens! What is to be done? First and foremost, we need to stop subsidizing Palestinian Arab terrorists. We can start by halting all funding to the PA until they abolish the Law of the Prisoner.

Short of this, we can halt all direct budgetary assistance – there is no reason why the US taxpayer needs to help the PA make payroll while such “employees” are on the public paybill.

Paying terrorists for committing crime is absurd folly. American taxpayers and the families of victims deserve better. If anything, money should be going to the victims. In any event, we do not need to pay terrorists to kill Israelis and Americans. They will do it anyway.

And that’s just the way it is.

For many people in the developing world, Valentine’s Day is just another day of hardship. In the world’s poorest areas, throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, millions of people are living without access to basic components of human survival – safe, clean drinking water, and  a clean, working toilet.

The burden of finding and fetching water falls disproportionally on the shoulders of women and girls. Because of cultural taboos, women and girls also suffer more from the lack of sanitary facilities. One in three women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to use a toilet. On their long, daily trek to find clean water for their family, women and girls are in significant danger of gender-based violence.

Women and girls should not have to live in fear every time they head out to collect water or use the toilet, and we should do everything we can to put an end to it.

Thankfully, there is a global movement to take action against gender-based violence on Valentine’s Day. The One Billion Rising campaign seeks to stop violence against women and girls. It calls on people around the world to “harness their power and imagination to rise for justice.”

I’m taking action and want you to do the same. Last August, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and I reintroduced the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (HR 2901), a bipartisan bill that will improve the well-being, education, economic opportunity, safety, and dignity of the 768 million people who don’t have safe drinking water and the 2.5 billion people who live without a basic latrine. By improving our government’s focus on the poorest of the poor and the countries and communities suffering most from water-related diseases, Water for the World will save many lives. Most importantly, it will use current funding for water, sanitation, and hygiene more effectively. It is a smart bill that won’t break the bank.

There is significant support for this bill around the country. People in all 50 states are doing their part, volunteering their time and resources to international safe water and sanitation projects through Rotary clubs, church groups, schools, and charities. I’m doing what I can with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to push this bill ahead on Capitol Hill. Now, I urge you to help me with this effort.

All of us can agree that politics stop at water. It’s a serious issue, but a solvable one. Women and girls deserve to be free from the fear of violence and harassment trying to fulfill basic needs. For this Valentine’s Day and One Billion Rising, join me in taking action.

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

It’s Tuesday morning. A citizen wakes up, writes emails and makes a phone call. 

The person has a meeting soon, so he pulls up Google Maps to figure out a route. 

He then hops into a cab, checks Facebook on his phone, texts his friend and plays ‘Candy Crush’ on his iPhone. 

After the meeting he heads to the office, logs on to his computer and G-chats with a friend about where he plans to go for dinner that evening. 

Later that evening, after dinner, he uploads a photo from dinner on Instagram. Throughout the day, the government was with him every step of the way.

Until last year, most Americans were unaware that their every move could be tracked by Big Brother. 

Through the NSA, the government has the ability to read emails, texts, phone logs, track location and movements, snoop and collect information about individuals through smart phone apps, read g-chats and look at private photos. 

The failure to disclose any of this information until recently is why Americans fear for their privacy. And they should. Big Government kept a big secret.

How did we get here? Over the years, technology has rapidly evolved and given power-hungry, unelected bureaucrats the capability to sift through data and find out more information than ever. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. But the ease of access to this information was too tempting for government. They snooped, and now we know.

The White House claims that the NSA has no interest in monitoring the activity of “ordinary” Americans. But, most Americans have a hard time accepting that. They question the truth in that statement for the simple fact that had Edward Snowden not revealed what was really going on within NSA in the first place; this snooping and spying would still be going on in the dark shadows of government operations. And, equally important, they know that this snooping and spying is still going on today.

Furthermore, NSA’s own internal watchdog revealed dozens of instances where employees misused their intelligence capabilities to spy on people, even ex-girlfriends. Why? Simply because they can.

The secret truth we are learning is that for years the NSA has quietly snooped and spied on millions of people without a warrant or justification to do so. 

In my opinion, illegal activity has occurred.  NSA argues that its employees only carry out the actions necessary to find terrorists and protect our country. They have even claimed that terrorist attacks have been prevented as a result of their actions. 

If this is true, those success stories should be made public. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, I asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole how many criminal cases have been filed as a result of this massive spying operation. 

His answer? Maybe one.  And he wasn’t even 100% sure of that.   

That’s right, the NSA has launched one of the largest data collection programs in U.S. history that monitors who we call, how long we talk to them, who they called, and where our calls were made from, all in order to “maybe” catch one bad guy. 

In any event, the ends do not justify the means. NSA has trampled on the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans. 

The Patriot Act permits targeted surveillance when that surveillance is justified by a court—it does not permit the intrusive activities brought to light by Snowden. 

This old Soviet-style, dragnet approach -- casting a wide net in hopes of catching a big fish -- is not permitted under the law. It is also unconstitutional. It is similar to police searching homes in in an entire zip code looking for one outlaw. 

No judge would permit this but t