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Politics and Government

Katko returns from foreign trip with lessons learned about terrorism threat

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John Katko/Facebook
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Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a recent trip to the Middle East

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko has his work cut out for him as co-chair of the Task Force on Terrorist, Foreign Fighter Threat. The Republican just returned from a trip to several countries in the Middle East to get a sense of where problems might lie.

Katko, as part of an eight-member congressional delegation, visited Israel, Iraq, Turkey and some European countries to get a better idea of the dangers posed by foreign fighters -- those Westerners recruited and trained by terrorist organizations.

He says one thing that disturbed him was the security loopholes at European airports.

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Credit John Katko/Facebook
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) meeting with members of the armed forces while on a recent trip to the Middle East

"They still don’t even screen their passengers when they travel from country to country within the European zone. So if you don’t screen your passengers, you don’t have an idea where they came. If a guy flew from Turkey into France for example, then flew to Germany, then flew from Germany to the States, then you’d have no idea he’d ever been in the Middle East,” said Katko.

He says the U.S. is working to get those countries to tighten up travel security.

Katko says another one of the big challenges is reaching those disaffected Westerners who join up with a terrorist movement.

“They don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to be a radicalized ISIS fighter in the United States.’ It’s a process. And we need to have people in communities wherever they area in the United States, to kind of help us identify those individuals who may be starting to gravitate toward that kind of stuff. And that’s the tough part.

During the trip, Katko met with leaders in Israel and Iraq, and got a lesson in what is reality in that part of the world. He called flying into Bagdhad in a military chopper a hairy experience.

“If you’re flying you can look out at the horizon and see smoke and stuff from where ISIS is. ISIS is only 20 miles away. And you can see some the things they’re shelling. And it gives you a feel for what our soldiers and embassy folks go through on a daily basis.  And there is definitely a serious amount of danger over there.”