Republican legislators were shamed, ridiculed, and smeared as racist for questioning whether the U.S. government was properly vetting the influx of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees into the United States. But their suspicions that U.S. agencies’ lax vetting process may have let in national security threats, it turns out, were correct.
A new 34-page redacted report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General confirms that the primary border security agency failed to properly screen, vet, and inspect Afghan evacuees who arrived in the United States following President Joe Biden’s botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Under Biden’s direction and the agency’s Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome programs, DHS brought and resettled more than 79,000 Afghan evacuees into the United States between July 2021 and January 2022.
But because DHS failed to keep a list of evacuees who did not provide documentation and because DHS did not have a backup plan designed to handle influxes like the one from Afghanistan, the inspector Ggeneral said, “DHS may have admitted or paroled individuals into the United States who pose a risk to national security and the safety of local communities.”
As a matter of fact, the OIG report confirmed that DHS let at least two security risks into the country. Both men were detained within a month of arriving in the states, but the inspector general noted that “dozens” of other evacuees made it into the states despite “derogatory information.”
Ultimately, thousands of men, women, and children who did not provide their first name, last name, or date of birth and who provided documents missing key information were still allowed into America. That’s in addition to the 35 evacuees who were allowed to fly to the states despite failing approval for travel and the 1,299 evacuees whose fingerprints were not collected by Customs and Border Protection as required.
“CBP’s use of incomplete or inaccurate data would not have yielded positive matches from intelligence databases if the individuals had derogatory records under a different name or DOB,” the OIG report concluded. “Therefore, DHS and CBP cannot be sure they properly screened, vetted, and inspected all evacuees.”
The inspector general’s office recommended that DHS seek out proof that the Afghan evacuees who made it into the United States were properly vetted and will be routinely vetted until their time in the country expires. The OIG also recommended that the secretary of homeland security “develop a comprehensive contingency plan to support similar emergency situations in the future and account for, screen, vet, and inspect all individuals during unprecedented events when limited biographic data is available.”
Instead of implementing the recommendations, DHS refused to concur with the OIG based on its belief that CBP did and still does screen, vet, and inspect all Afghan refugees in America. The inspector general noted there was not enough evidence to consider that claim legitimate.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended DHS shortly after the report was released, claiming, “That very report did not take into account the key steps in that rigorous, you heard from us, rigorous and multi-layered screening and vetting process the U.S. government took before at-risk Afghans were permitted to come to the U.S.”
DHS isn’t the only agency that may have let potential terrorists into the country. In a letter to the Department of Defense last month, Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ron Johnson demanded that the inspector general determine if “DoD instructed agency personnel to cut corners when processing evacuees” and “abbreviate their [fingerprint] tests in order to promote the rushed evacuation from Afghanistan.”
The GOP legislators said a whistleblower within the DOD reported that 324 people were evacuated from Afghanistan and placed in the United States “despite appearing on the DoD’s Biometrically Enabled Watchlist.” That’s a much higher number than the“50 Afghan personnel in the United States” that the DOD identified in February as being “potentially significant security concerns.”