Only a small number of the Afghanistan evacuees who came to the U.S. following President Biden‘s decision earlier this year to withdraw U.S. troops from the country were vetted in addition to being screened, according to a memo drafted by Senate Republicans, a report said.
The alleged lack of vetting of most of the evacuees – which would contradict a Biden vow in August – represents a break from a longtime U.S. policy on refugees, the report said.
While the Biden administration screened the more than 82,000 refugees through terrorist and criminal databases, officials failed to use information gathered from interviews, the memo said, the Washington Examiner reported, citing sources, and around 75% of those allowed in the U.S. weren’t American citizens, visa holders, applicants or green card holders.
“They created a brand-new, out-of-cloth screening process just for this population,” the source, who requested anonymity, told the Examiner. “And then they told everyone, ‘This is what you follow.’ DOD [the Defense Department] was such a heavy part of this, and they follow orders. And so, they’re like, ‘OK, here’s the checklist. I’ll do exactly what the checklist says — no more.’ So, that’s how it happened, but it was centrally managed via DHS [Department of Homeland Security].”
The source said it was a “significant” departure from standard refugee screening. Vetting became a requirement after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In August, Biden promised evacuees would be vetted.
“Planes taking off from Kabul are not flying directly to the United States,” Biden said in a statement at the time. “They’re landing at U.S. military bases and transit centers around the world. At these sites where they are landing, we are conducting thorough scrutiny — security screenings for everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.”
“We are conducting thorough scrutiny — security screenings for everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.”
— President Biden statement from August
President Biden delivers remarks on the end of the war in Afghanistan from the State Dining Room at the White House on Aug. 31, 2021. (Getty Images)
The vast majority of the evacuees weren’t vetted because only a small number were flagged by U.S. databases and only those people were further examined by officials, the memo said, according to the Examiner.
The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement to the Examiner, claimed it had performed “rigorous, multi-layered and vetting” on the arrivals from Afghanistan.
“As with any population entering the United States, DHS, in coordination with interagency vetting partners, takes multiple steps to ensure that those seeking entry do not pose a national security or public safety risk,” DHS officials told the newspaper. “The rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process involves biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from DHS and DOD, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional intelligence community partners. This process includes reviewing fingerprints, photos, and biographic data for every single Afghan before they are cleared to travel to the United States.”
DHS didn’t immediately respond to Fox News’ after-hours’ request for comment.
Robert Charles, a former assistant secretary of state during the administration of former President George W. Bush, addressed the vetting issue Friday during an appearance on “FOX and Friends First.”
“That means you’ve got 73,000-plus that you really should have been vetting and that takes time,” Charles said.
He called the situation a “double tragedy.”
“We’ve left Americans and visa holders and [Special Immigrants Visa] holders and permanent residents and former employees of the embassy back in Afghanistan and we pulled out 73,000 that we really had no basis for pulling out.”
He added that new threats weren’t likely to be flagged on a database, necessitating additional screening.
“We have to be right 100% of the time. The bad guys only have to be right 1% of the time,” Charles added.
“We have to be right 100% of the time. The bad guys only have to be right 1% of the time.”
— Robert Charles, former Bush administration official
Another source told the Examiner, “If someone from Afghanistan were to present themselves at our southern border, which in and of itself is a disaster, they would be flagged for further follow-up and have an interview. Unfortunately, in this new system that they set up specifically for this population, the majority of these folks did not get any sort of in-person interview.”
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