House backs bill to use testimonials to combat terrorism

The House passed a bill Tuesday requiring the Department of Homeland Security to usetestimonials from former extremists and other social media messages to combat "Hollywood-style propaganda" used by the Islamic State and other militant groups to recruit new members.

The bill was approved, 322-79, and now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., the bill's chief sponsor, said it would help prevent attacks such as a shooting at a Chattanooga reserve center last year that killed four Marines and a sailor. The FBI said the killer was inspired by foreign terrorists.

"Foreign terrorists are using technology to radicalize Americans at a troubling pace that continues to increase," Fleischmann said, citing estimates that more than 200 American have traveled or attempted to travel to fight with the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

"ISIS is luring Americans with empty and false promises that do not reflect reality on the ground in Iraq," Fleischmann said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State group.

All 79 votes against the bill were from Democrats, including some who said it wrongly omitted white supremacists, militias and other groups that have killed more Americans in recent years than foreign terrorists.

"This bill ignores the fact that domestic terror groups — just like foreign terrorist organizations — kill Americans and are a threat to the homeland," said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "Countering violent extremism should be our top priority and we have a duty to ensure that our efforts to stop this extremism are focused on all terrorist threats — foreign and domestic."

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said the bill does not mention the Ku Klux Klan or other hate groups. The measure would do nothing to prevent attacks like the mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., in which a white supremacist killed nine people at a black church, or the incident in which an abortion foe killed three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, Coleman said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., asked whether GOP supporters of the bill were "afraid of offending some right-wing nuts out there," including an armed group that took over an Oregon wildlife refuge earlier this year. "I really think some of these right-wing groups are a threat our nation," DeFazio said.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said lawmakers "spoke with a bipartisan voice: We will not be intimidated, and we will take immediate steps to ramp up security at home and abroad."