white supremacy
A Confederate flag ripples in front of a sign during a rally on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Michael Duncan)

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Homeland Security sent a series of bills to the House floor Wednesday seeking to combat multiple white supremacy demonstrations and strengthen cybersecurity.

The bills cover a diverse range of topics, many of which distribute information and resources to rural communities. 

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

The Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act encourages the Department of Homeland Security to document any flags or symbols used by white supremacy groups. The information compiled would be assembled into a guide and distributed to local, state and tribal police forces. 

U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) offered the bill to help rural communities prepare for future threats posed by white supremacy organizations.

“To date, we are not doing nearly enough to analyze this threat and disseminate that information down to local law enforcement,” Rose said.

Rose also cited the FBI’s January arrest of three members of a Neo-Nazi group who planned to attend Virginia’s pro-gun rally. One of the men arrested was a Canadian fugitive who planned to recruit new members for his group.

White supremacy has terrorized Oklahoma in multiple instances. The lead Oklahoma City bomber connected with multiple white nationalists leading up to April 19, 1995. Last April, a woman was arrested for spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti around Norman and Oklahoma City “to scare other races.”

‘Outmatched and overwhelmed by our cyber adversaries’

Another bill, the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement act, would deploy security advisers to assist business and government stakeholders on strategies for effective protection against cyberattacks.

“Many of our state and local governments are outmatched and overwhelmed by our cyber adversaries,” said U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY). “Providing them with the resources they need to defend themselves is one of our most important missions.”

Last September, hackers conducted a cyberattack on the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System and stole $4.2 million from pension funds. Reports indicate they gained access to the funds through an employee’s email account. As the world moves further into the digital age, the bill aims to ensure cyberattacks will occur less frequently.

While the proposed programs are receiving bipartisan support, representatives worry about the funding they will need to enact the measures, should they pass. U.S. House Committee Chairman, Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) said he disapproved of President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

“It is troubling that, even as we work here today to strengthen DHS’ operations, the president is pushing for a budget that would cut [money] that state and local governments need,” Thompson said.