In the wake of a Department of Defense whistleblower’s allegation that the federal government allowed hundreds of potential terrorists to enter the country, two U.S. senators sent a strongly worded letter to the Biden administration.
One of those lawmakers, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), also addressed the issue during a judiciary panel hearing this week on Capitol Hill.
Specifically, he asked FBI Director Christopher Wray if he could confirm that 324 Afghan refugees admitted into the U.S. following last year’s military withdrawal from that country were included in the Department of Defense’s security watchlist. The official number released by the Pentagon in February was 50.
Wray offered a nebulous response in which he only confirmed that the bureau is “engaged in the effort to investigate potential terrorist activity and any number of them would potentially involve people who came from Afghanistan.”
Other Senate Republicans similarly peppered the FBI director with pointed queries related to the security threat posed by Afghan refugees.
Ranking Judiciary Committee Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), for example, wanted to know if the bureau was capable of locating the individuals who were on the watchlist. The response did not inspire much confidence.
“We have a lot of information about where people are located,” Wray replied, but acknowledged that he could not “sit here right now and say we know where all are located at any given time.”
In addition to his letter requesting additional information from the Pentagon, Hawley used the recent committee hearing to point the finger directly at the Biden administration, asserting: “We know that hundreds of people potentially connected to terrorism are loose in this country.”
His letter, which was cosigned by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), offered a frustrating portrait of the insufficient vetting measures that U.S. officials took when allowing Afghan refugees into the country.
NEW whistleblower allegations – hundreds of Afghan evacuees who appeared on DOD terror watch list allowed to enter the U.S. @SenRonJohnson and I lay out what we’ve learned pic.twitter.com/zBHlVB0ujE
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) August 4, 2022
The senators cited the whistleblower’s allegations that personnel with the Department of Defense and National Security Council were instructed “to cut corners when processing evacuees in Afghanistan and at staging bases in Europe.”
Furthermore, authorities are accused of rushing through the fingerprinting process and failing to take prints from all 10 fingers of Afghan evacuees.
“Finally, it is alleged that personnel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who work on vetting evacuees have been authorized to delete old biometric data, whenever they personally believed that such information is out of date,” the senators wrote. “This is a troubling development that could threaten national security and public safety.”