CALLING FOR THE RELEASE OF AUSTIN TICE; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 180
(House of Representatives - November 12, 2019)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages H8777-H8780]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Morelle). Under the Speaker's announced 
policy of January 3, 2019, the gentlewoman from the District of 
Columbia (Ms. Norton) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of 
the majority leader.

                             General Leave

  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
include extraneous material on the subject of this Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from the District of Columbia?
  There was no objection.
  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize my equal partner in this 
Special Order, my very good friend from Texas, Representative Al Green.
  Representative Green represents the parents and, for that matter, the 
place where Austin Tice, the person about whom we are speaking today, 
was born.
  He and I have partnered because Austin Tice, though born in Texas, 
moved to the District of Columbia. Like many in the House and Senate, 
we have grave concerns about Austin Tice and want to express those 
concerns and call upon those who are keeping him in Syria to let him 
  Mr. Speaker, I can't say enough about how strongly bipartisan this 
matter is--bipartisan, yes--and bicameral. There are dozens upon dozens 
of Members of the House and the Senate who have written the President 
to ask him to do all he can to bring Austin Tice home from what we 
believe is captivity in Syria.
  Despite the difficulties our country is having, as I speak, with 
Syria, this, we

[[Page H8778]]

believe, is not a lost cause. In fact, we are encouraged that there are 
Americans who Syria has let come home. Sam Goodwin is one. Canadian 
Kristian Baxter is another.
  So we do more than hold out hope that we can bring Austin Tice home.
  So, let me explain who Austin Tice is and why he has attracted such 
concern and interest in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
  First of all, I want to pay tribute to his mother and father, Marc 
and Debra Tice, who have never lost hope that they can bring their son 
home, have visited Members of the House and Senate, and have never 
stopped seeking his return to the United States.
  Let me tell you why he is of special concern to me. Austin Tice not 
only lived in the District of Columbia and will continue to live here 
when he returns; Austin Tice was a U.S. marine. He served in the Armed 
Forces of the United States.
  When he came home, he enrolled in Georgetown Law school and had only 
a year to go when he left the law school, because he so yearned to be a 
reporter, and went to Syria in the early days of the civil war.
  Now, because he didn't speak to a lawyer first, he entered Syria 
without a visa. That is why he is being held. It is not the kind of 
reason you would expect someone to be held in a foreign country.
  After all, Syria holds more American hostages, than any country in 
the world or any group that is holding people--we think about half a 
  You wouldn't think that not having a valid visa could be anything but 
easily corrected, but he has been there, we believe--now he will turn 
38, or he may have turned 38 by now--for 7 years with no word from him.
  And that is why we come to the floor of the House tonight, because we 
are very concerned because we cannot be in touch with him. Despite 
working through the appropriate intermediary, the Czechoslovakian 
embassy, we have not been able to receive word.
  Austin Tice left for Lebanon, by car, from Damascus. Then he fell 
into rebel hands and was detained at the checkpoint. That is the last 
we have heard of him.
  January 3, the very first day of the 116th Congress, my partner and I 
introduced a resolution for Syria to return Austin Tice, and that was 
as soon as the House commenced this session.
  Frankly, I am concerned that, as I note in our House resolution, that 
there has been a video clip on YouTube. That clip shows Austin Tice 
blindfolded and being prodded up a hillside by masked militants.
  You can imagine, since we haven't heard from him since, why we are on 
the floor this evening.
  The Syrian Government has not acknowledged that they are even 
detaining Austin Tice or his whereabouts. Officials of the United 
States, however, believe that Austin Tice is alive, and they believe 
that he is being held either by the government of Bashar al-Assad or by 
some group affiliated with that government.
  The FBI has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to 
the return of Austin Tice, and we are pleased that so many journalism 
organizations are working for his return.
  It is important to note that Austin Tice was anything but a 
combatant. He was a journalist. He only went to Syria because he wanted 
to talk with the people who were living through an awful civil war. He 
was freelance, so he wasn't working through any powerful media, and his 
concern and his interest in journalism is what drove him, not any 
undermining of Syria or even views on the Syrian Government. He was 
acting as a journalist to find out what was happening.
  Now, we recognize that Syria does not have a policy of never 
releasing American citizens. We refer to Sam Goodwin, 30 years old, who 
also made a mistake. He crossed--just like Austin Tice, he just made a 
mistake. He crossed the border from Iraq into northeast Syria without a 
visa because he was trying to visit every country in the world, all the 
innocence of that. And it was that kind of innocence that I think we 
should assign to Austin Tice because he is much like Sam Goodwin in 
that regard.
  We call upon the Syrian Government to understand Austin Tice in that 
context, the naivete of a young man without legal advice, simply 
seeking knowledge, not seeking to undermine a government or to in any 
way interfere with the government.
  There are others who have been held and who are believed to be in 
custody whose families are beginning to speak out. It is important to 
note that many families whose relatives are held in Syria do not speak 
out because they are concerned that, in doing so, they will be acting 
against the best interests of the family member held.

  So, you can see how concerned the parents of Austin Tice must be that 
they have felt they had to speak out after 7 years.
  Bear in mind that the United States has leverage with Syria, because 
this country is the largest single humanitarian donor to Syria. We are 
providing or have provided more than $8 billion in humanitarian 
assistance for those displaced inside of Syria and the region since the 
start of that crisis in Syria.
  The U.S. Government itself is supporting emergency food assistance, 
shelter, safe drinking water, urgent medical care, humanitarian 
protection activities, and other urgent relief. And I believe, if the 
Syrian Government understands or considers humanitarian aid from the 
United States, they will see that they have nothing to lose by freeing 
this American citizen.
  Last month, the President told reporters that he himself was 
interested in working on securing the release of hostages in Syria. 
However, we do not know what action the President has taken and call 
upon him to become involved, as he said he would.
  The only intervention we know of is his intervention into the 
captivity in North Korea of Otto Warmbier, but by the time he got home, 
it was too late, and he died shortly after being released.
  However, we believe that this Austin Tice is alive and can, in fact, 
come home safe to us.
  We believe that, in any negotiations with Syria, the fate of our 
hostages should be front and center. We are pleased that Senator 
Lindsey Graham has indicated exactly that as well, again showing the 
bipartisan and bicameral concern about those being held in Syria.
  On August the 11th of this year, Austin Tice's parents wrote an op-ed 
that appeared in papers around the country on the birthday of Austin 
Tice. They said: ``We wish we could remind him of how glad we are he 
was born, how blessed we are to be his parents, and how truly we 
believe the world is a better place for having him in it.''
  Those are the words of his parents.
  We are on the floor of the House today to speed Austin Tice home.

                              {time}  1945

  Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my partner to come to the floor now, 
Representative Al Green, who, of course, is the Representative from the 
home State of Austin Tice's parents and where Austin Tice was born and 
  I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Green).
  Mr. GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for more 
than her kind words. I thank her for her many years of service here in 
the House of Representatives. She has acquitted herself as a 
Congressperson par excellence: Yale, M.A.; Yale, L.L.B.; in Congress 
for, lo, these many years, yet not able to vote as other Congresspeople 
  Mr. Speaker, I believe that the gentlewoman and I will see the day 
that she will cast that first vote. I thank her for all of her 
endeavors. I especially thank her for what she is doing for Austin 
  The Tice family, Marc and Debra, are the equivalent of family with 
me. I have known them for many years now. I know how sincere they are 
with the efforts to bring their son home.
  I know of their trips to Lebanon. I know that they have corresponded 
with people that some of us might not find suitable for such 
correspondence. But because they want their son, they are willing to 
talk to anyone who has intelligence that might lead to his return.
  I know that they have made a difference in the lives of others who 
have friends, relatives, children, if you will, captured because they 
have worked with the State Department to help fashion protocols. They 
have worked with two Presidents. They want their

[[Page H8779]]

son home, but they also want to see justice for all persons who are 
being held captive.
  Their son, Austin, is an all-American lad, at 38 years of age now. I 
am 71. Anybody under 71 is young to me.
  He is an all-American person, if you will. Yes, he has served his 
country in the military. Yes, he was an Eagle Scout. Yes, he did attend 
Georgetown, Georgetown Law, as a matter of fact. Yes, he was a 
freelance journalist.
  He was one of those persons who would dare to go to distant places, 
dare to risk life and limb so that we might know the truth about 
circumstances in places where the eyes of cameras do not pierce.
  Yes, he was a person who had the courage, intestinal fortitude, to go 
into Syria without the consent of the government. I wish he hadn't done 
it, but I understand why he did it. I understand that he wanted to let 
people know about the conditions.
  I am not sure that he went with preconceived notions, but I am sure 
of this: that he would tell the truth, that he would present the truth, 
that we would know the truth, whatever that truth might be.
  I regret that he has been held captive now for some 7 years. He truly 
is a great American.
  But more than this, for me, he represents the son I never had. I have 
no children. But if I had a son, I would want him to be like Austin 
Tice. I would want my son to have the courage to not measure his life 
by days and years, not measure his life by heartthrobs, passions, and 
tears. I would want my son to use the truest measure under God's Sun, 
and that is, what for others in your lifetime have you done?
  Austin Tice was trying to help somebody. He wasn't there to help 
himself. He wanted to help others. That is the kind of son I would like 
to have, a courageous person who would dare to go where others dare 
not, a person who understood the risk but also understood the need.
  Sometimes people like this have to stand alone, but they know that it 
is better to stand alone than not stand at all.
  He is a hero. I miss him. His parents miss him. This country misses 
  I would ask that those who can reach the proper authorities in 
Syria--perhaps it is the President. Perhaps there are people who can 
get to the President. But I would ask that you would send this message: 
As a gesture of goodwill, let Austin Tice come home. As a gesture of an 
attempt to span some chasms that have been created, let us bring Austin 
Tice back.
  This could be the genesis of something bigger than we know, giving 
Austin Tice his freedom.
  I can tell you this: There are some Members of Congress who will be 
appreciative. There are American people who won't forget it. And there 
is an opportunity available to mend some fences.
  I pray that this word will get to the appropriate authorities.
  Mr. President, if this word gets to you, I would have you know that I 
am the kind of Congressperson who is willing to come to Syria. I am 
willing to come and be there to thank you and to welcome Austin Tice 
back into the hands of an agent of the United States Government.
  This is a great opportunity. I beg that we take advantage of it.
  Mr. and Mrs. Tice, I want you to know that we have not given up. We 
will not give in. We want Austin returned, and we will do everything, 
and we will leave no stone unturned, until this takes place.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for the time.
  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I don't think there could have been a more 
eloquent statement than the statement we have just heard from my good 
friend, Al Green.
  I am inclined to believe that if the Syrian authorities were 
listening, even they could not resist the eloquence, the depth of 
Representative Green's very intelligent but heartfelt statement.
  I know that statement is much appreciated by Austin Tice's parents, 
who have had to go these 7 years alone, with only your help as their 
Member of Congress.
  I am also grateful to the Members of Congress who, after all, don't 
necessarily represent anyone connected with Austin Tice, as Al Green 
and I do, for their generosity in coming to the floor. I would like to 
call upon Representative Lori Trahan from Massachusetts to ask her to 
say a few words at this time.
  I yield to the gentlewoman from Massachusetts (Mrs. Trahan).
  Mrs. TRAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from the District 
of Columbia (Ms. Norton) and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Green) for 
their dedication to the Tice family.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call attention to an issue of critical 
importance for our country. Our fellow American, Austin Tice, is in his 
eighth year of captivity in Syria, where we believe he was unjustly 
detained and is reported to be held by the Syrian Government or its 
  Austin was risking his health and safety as a freelance reporter, 
endeavoring to shed light on the suffering of the Syrian people for the 
world to see. His reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, 
McClatchy, and other news outlets.
  As a fellow graduate of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, 
Austin was also a former Marine Corps captain who served tours in Iraq 
and Afghanistan. Austin was no stranger to risk.
  Regardless, he knew the importance of the work he was undertaking. 
His dedication to service represents the very best our country has to 
  There is every reason for us to believe that Austin is still alive, 
and I have joined with my colleagues to call on our administration to 
use the full resources of the United States Government to bring Austin 
  I had the privilege of meeting Austin's parents, Marc and Debra, a 
couple of months ago. I am awestruck by their hope, their perseverance, 
and their commitment to seeing their son returned home once and for 
  I am comforted that there is strong bipartisan support behind this 
effort. I know we can get this done if we work together.
  I again thank the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia. I 
appreciate so much her organizing this Special Order and a coalition of 
bipartisan legislators to keep focus on this very important issue. We 
won't stop until we bring Austin Tice home.
  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from Massachusetts 
whose relationship with Austin Tice--she didn't know him, but there is 
a school tie there.
  It shows you that people, when they hear about Austin Tice's 
captivity, are inclined to the eloquence of Mrs. Trahan, who just spoke 
about him, spoke about him without knowing him, spoke with such 
enviable and praiseworthy remarks.
  I thank her so much. I know that I speak for his parents in thanking 
her as well.
  Mr. Speaker, I now want to introduce one of my good friends from the 
region. We were so pleased to welcome her into our delegation, and I am 
anxious to hear what she has to say because she, too, is neither from 
Texas nor the District of Columbia, and yet, with selflessness, she has 
asked to express her views on the captivity of Austin Tice.
  I yield to the gentlewoman from Virginia (Ms. Spanberger), my good 
friend, at this time.
  Ms. SPANBERGER. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Holmes Norton for 
organizing this Special Order. I am grateful for the comments that she 
has made.
  To the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Green), his passionate plea to see 
Austin Tice freed was moving, and I am proud to associate myself with 
many of his comments.
  I rise today because Austin Tice has been in captivity for 2,647 
days. Those have been 2,647 days of fear and anguish for his parents, 
his friends, his classmates, and his community. They have also 
represented 2,647 days of Austin's remarkable life and his 
determination and his will to live despite his captivity.
  Austin is a journalist with a deep sense of service. He is also a 
veteran. Seven years ago, he traveled to Syria to report on the plight 
of Syria's children. He wanted to shed light on the consequences of a 
complex and unrelenting war on the youth of Syria. And in Syria, he was 
abducted. It was that 2,647 days ago that he was abducted.
  He remains held in Syria, and we have every reason to believe that 
Austin is still alive. He is being held in

[[Page H8780]]

Syria. In September, I joined a letter sent by Republicans and 
Democrats directly to the President of the United States. In that 
letter, we called on the administration to use every diplomatic tool in 
our toolbox to secure Austin's safe return home.

                              {time}  2000

  Austin's parents have been among his strongest advocates. They have 
made countless trips to Washington, D.C., and across the Middle East 
working to secure his release. They have been pillars of strength as 
they have fought to bring their son home.
  I had the opportunity and the honor to meet Marc when he was in 
Washington, D.C.; and to see the tenacity and strength and devotion to 
his child was awe inspiring. It also makes me understand how he could 
be a parent to a young man who would go out and seek adventure and seek 
truth and seek information as a journalist.
  It is my hope that we can come together as a body to bring Austin 
Tice home. I never met Austin Tice, but I am in awe of his story as an 
adventurer, as a journalist, as a veteran, as someone who has traveled 
the world seeking information and stories.
  I have been compelled to take part in this event tonight, and I thank 
my colleagues for their tireless efforts on behalf of Austin Tice, 
their work to bring him home, their work to bring a voice to his story 
and knowledge of his continued capture and detainment in Syria. I thank 
them for their work, and I look forward to continuing, in small part, 
to work with them where I am able, where I can be of aid to bring 
information and light to Austin's story and to continue to be an 
advocate to bring him home.
  It is my hope that in some days we will be able, here on the House 
floor, to celebrate the homecoming of an American, of a veteran, of a 
journalist, of a man who sought to tell the story of children in Syria.
  Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank my good friend, 
Representative Spanberger, for those compelling remarks. Once again, we 
are hearing from a Member who, as she says, did not know Austin Tice.
  I hope that Debra and Marc Tice, when they see Representative 
Spanberger give such eloquent and intelligent and deeply felt remarks, 
are comforted to know that they are not alone in seeking the release of 
their son.
  Mr. Speaker, there are a number of Members, not to mention all of the 
many Members of the House and Senate, who have signed on letters to the 
President for help with Austin Tice, but it is worth noting again that, 
on the very first day of Congress, Rep. Al Green introduced H. Res. 17.
  That resolution, introduced with Representative Al Green, sought, 
from the very beginning of the 116th Congress, to draw attention to 
Austin Tice, and we will not cease drawing just that kind of attention 
until we have learned where Austin Tice is and when he is coming home.
  The resolution that we introduced expressed concern over the 
detention of Austin Tice and laid out many of the factual matters that 
the Members have offered here today. In that resolution, we not only 
expressed our concern regarding the detention of Austin Tice, we asked 
the State Department and the intelligence community and the interagency 
Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell to jointly continue investigations and to 
pursue all information. We have every reason to believe that that is 
being done by our agencies.
  We encouraged, in our resolution, the State Department and the 
Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to engage directly with 
Syrian officials to facilitate Austin's safe release. In our 
resolution, we encourage the State Department to work with foreign 
governments known to have diplomatic influence with the Government of 
Syria, and we request the State Department and the intelligence 
community to continue to work with and to inform Congress and Austin 
Tice's family regarding his safe release and his condition at this 
  We, I think, in bringing this very young man to the attention of the 
American people, we have shown our concern and have shown that we 
remain hopeful.
  In this case, no word is good word; it is word, that he is alive, we 
believe. The best word would be word to the parents, Debra and Marc 
Tice, that he is on his way home safe and sound.
  Let me pledge on behalf of the many Members of the House and Senate 
who have written the President, let me assure these parents, Marc and 
Debra Tice: This Special Order devoted to your son, Austin Tice, is not 
the end of the work we will continue to do until we bring your son, 
Austin Tice, home. We appreciate the devotion you have shown as 
parents, and we mean to honor that devotion by continuing to do all we 
can in the Congress to make sure that Austin Tice is returned to you 
safe and sound.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlelady from the 
District of Columbia, the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, for leading 
this special order today on the life of Austin Tice.
  In November 2016, I had the privilege of meeting for the first time, 
Austin Tice's mother, Debra. It was at the Newseum, where Reporters 
Without Borders and the Newseum were launching a campaign that ran a 
banner on the Newseum's facade featuring Austin.
  The banner was showing on the International Day to End Impunity for 
Crimes Against Journalists. The banner had a simple message next to a 
photo of Austin's face, ``Held captive for being a journalist since 
August 2012.''
  Austin Tice is the only American journalist being held captive in 
Syria. The banner at the Newseum is supposed to continue to run until 
he is safely returned home to his family.
  Today, November 12, 2019, Austin remains in captivity. I had the 
privilege of meeting his parents Marc and Debra Tice in September. They 
brought me up-to-date on Austin's captivity, and the many efforts to 
press for his freedom.
  Austin Tice is a graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service 
and many of Georgetown's students and faculty have taken up his cause. 
He served as a Marine officer and returned home to study at the 
Georgetown School of Law. But when he saw the carnage inside Syria, he 
felt a calling to report on the Syrian human crisis. Working as a 
freelance journalist and photographer for McClatchey newspapers, his 
images, interviews and reports soon appeared in the Washington Post, 
McClatchey, Agence France-Presse and other news media.
  He intended to leave Syria after his 31st birthday, on August 11, 
2012, after he filed his last story. On August 14th, he left for 
Lebanon by car from Damascus. Shortly after, we know that he was 
stopped and detained at a checkpoint, most likely in rebel control. 
Five weeks later, a video was posted on a pro-government website by 
people who appeared to be Islamist militants. There has been no contact 
with his captors.
  Marc and Debra continue their efforts to find and release their son. 
The State Department believes that he is still alive. Other countries 
have offered their services as intermediaries. And national and 
international campaigns have been mounted to support him, his family, 
and the many other journalists from many nations who are in captivity 
or held hostage around the world.
  Congress has sent several letters, introduced bills, and like today, 
taken to the floor of the House of Representatives to raise his case 
and declare our sympathy and solidarity with his family, friends and 
  We will not stop until Austin is free and reunited with his family.