U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) today spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the Embassy Security Act (the 2014 State Dept. authorization), which includes provisions of his International Megan's Law legislation to limit to one year the length of U.S. passports for convicted sex offenders.
The following are excerpts of his remarks on the Floor, September 28, 2013:
"On Tuesday of this week, my subcommittee staff director Greg Simpkins and I returned from a four-day trip to Nigeria, including the city of Jos, the scene of recent fire bombings of Christian churches by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of Nigerian Christians and some Muslims as well. Boko Haram—like al Shabaab, the cowards who slaughtered Kenyans in a shopping center in Nairobi last week—poses serious and escalating threats to indigenous Africans and American personnel overseas.
"The Embassy Security Act—like the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 that I authored—is designed to significantly enhance protection at our missions abroad. Significantly, the law that I authored a dozen years ago came to the floor on the heels of al Qaeda bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. I chaired the hearings following that tragic loss of life, but it is clear that the promised action following those earlier attacks has not been fully implemented—there are significant security gaps that must be remedied—more than a decade later. We seem to have failed to learn the lesson from earlier terror attacks, even after the latest in Benghazi.
"The bill before us today contains a number of important provisions, most especially very serious and necessary security upgrades for our embassies and consulates abroad. Our embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, was constructed with the upgrades recommended by earlier legislation—I saw that firsthand this week—but so many older facilities do not meet those high standards including lifesaving setbacks from roads and thoroughfares. Chairman Royce’s bill will address the remaining gaps in essential security features at our overseas posts.
"This bill also addresses the designation of high-risk, high threat posts with contingency plans for more effectively meeting those threats. It calls for a strategic review of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security so that life-and-death decisions are made with more deliberation and care. We cannot continue to take the kind of chances and make the kind of flawed decisions that unnecessarily resulted in the death of four Americans in Benghazi consulate last September.
"I am especially appreciative that the Committee accepted my amendment to limit to 1 year, or such time as the Secretary of State shall determine appropriate, the period of validity of a passport issued to a convicted sex offender. In 2008, the General Accountability Office found that some 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to known registered sex offenders each year. That gave these predators 10 years to travel to places like Bangkok, and other sex tourist destinations to abuse innocent little children. Poverty worldwide has increased the number of places these convicted pedophiles can frequent, but this bill will give the Secretary of State the authority to mitigate their travel.
"I would hope that when the International Megan’s Law is reintroduced, it will gain the support of this House because it would provide even more tools to prevent these criminals from exporting their reprehensible activity abroad. Megan’s Law provided a national database of convicted pedophiles, and combining that with the enhanced authorities to limit passports in the bill we consider today, our government will have the ability to more effectively prevent these predators from circumventing our domestic surveillance by taking advantage of children in other countries."
The relevant language in the bill:
SEC. 213. AUTHORITY TO RESTRICT PASSPORTS.
(a) In General- The Secretary of State is authorized to--
(1) limit to one year or such period of time as the Secretary of State shall determine appropriate the period of validity of a passport issued to a sex offender; and
(2) revoke the passport or passport card of an individual who has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in a foreign country of a sex offense.
(b) Limitation for Return to United States- Notwithstanding subsection (a), in no case shall a United States citizen convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in a foreign country of a sex offense be precluded from entering the United States due to a passport revocation under such subsection.
(c) Reapplication- An individual whose passport or passport card was revoked pursuant to subsection (a)(2) may reapply for a passport or passport card at any time after such individual has returned to the United States.
(d) Definitions- For purposes of this section:
(1) SEX OFFENDER- The term `sex offender' means an individual who is listed on the National Sex Offender Registry established pursuant to section 119 of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (42 U.S.C. 16915).
(2) SEX OFFENSE- The term `sex offense' means a sex offense as defined in section 111(5) of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (42 U.S.C. 16915).