The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has ordered an investigation to find out how a former Iraqi insurgent fighter was able to lie about his identity and get through the United States’ ‘extreme’ vetting process.
Federal legislators aim to find out why the terror suspect’s pending arrest was called off just over a week before the 2016 presidential election.
In a Monday letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote, “When [Joint Terrorism Task Force] and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas sought to prosecute this refugee, the local law enforcement and prosecutors allegedly ‘met resistance’ from officials within the National Security Division’s Counter-Terrorism section in Washington DC. The ‘resistance’ allegedly occurred a few weeks before the 2016 election, and local authorities believed the lack of progress in this case was handled inadequately.”
According to Fox news, the suspect, whose real name was not released, was encountered by U.S. Special Forces during operations against American troops in Iraq. The man later entered the U.S. through the refugee program, and his activities sparked an investigation by JTTF members who sought to charge him with visa fraud while further charges against him were explored.
Sources point to the case to illustrate the challenge of vetting people with scantly-documented histories from countries where there are few official records.
Earlier this week, U.S. officials reported that almost a third of the FBI’s 1,000 ongoing domestic terrorism investigations involve people admitted to the country as refugees.
“Refugees are admitted to the U.S. based on the story they tell of persecution, and they are not required to produce identity documentation or other types of documentation,” said Claude Arnold, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, who asserts that the refugee program is susceptible to abuse by terrorists.
If the person seeking entry is a persecutor, he would have specificity in his story that matches information obtained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services personnel adjudicating the events.
ISIS has conquered entire cities in Iraq, raising the risk of identity theft and document forging.
“That creates great potential for an ISIS fighter to assume a false identity and engineer a refugee claim,” Arnold added.
The most recent travel ban issued by President Trump does not include Iraq because the Iraqi government assured the United States that they will provide information necessary to help properly vet refugees.
“In the case of Iraq, when we had troops on the ground, we were able to get intelligence on bad actors,” Arnold said. “Now we rely on the Iraqi government to not only obtain the intelligence but also to relay it to us.”
A case often cited by supporters of extreme vetting involved two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who were convicted in 2013 of plotting to help Al Qaeda. The men also encountered additional charges after their fingerprints matched those found on IEDs used in Iraq to kill U.S. soldiers.
Arnold warned that politics should not be a barrier to achieving security and justice.
“Letting the terrorists into the country through the refugee program can result in citizens and residents being harmed. We cannot afford to make that mistake,” Arnold said.