Portman, Grassley, Inhofe Demand Update from FBI on Afghan Evacuees Flagged for Security Concerns, Denounce DHS’s Continued Failure to Use All Vetting Tools

Pentagon Report Previously Found Dozens of Afghans Who Posed Security Risks Entered the U.S., Many Now Cannot be Located

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, requested an update from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray on the screening and vetting of Afghan evacuees. Specifically, they draw attention to evacuees who resettled in the U.S. under Operation Allies Welcome now that the FBI has been given data regarding Afghans with national security concerns. 

As President Biden’s botched and chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal unfolded, the administration circumvented the normal refugee resettlement process. The senators raise concerns based on a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Defense (DOD), which found that, as a result of the administration’s rushed and haphazard process, evacuees had not been vetted using all of the tools and data available to the DOD. 

“We are aware of at least 50 Afghan evacuees paroled by DHS into the United States that were later identified by DOD as having potentially significant security concerns that would not qualify for parole or admission onto U.S. military bases used as temporary housing for evacuees. The OIG explains that ‘significant security concerns’ include individuals whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devices and known or suspected terrorists. In addition, at least 28 of these evacuees could not be located once they were flagged by DOD,” the senators wrote, citing directly from the DOD OIG’s February report. 

Despite the DOD OIG’s findings earlier this year, Portman, Grassley, and Inhofe express concern that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still is not utilizing the DOD’s tactical database to screen Afghans for potential security concerns. 

“We are concerned that any failures on the part of DHS to use every database to screen for derogatory information could cause a serious breach of homeland security. Accordingly, we request that you provide us with information about those evacuees flagged by DOD and steps the FBI has taken to adjudicate their derogatory information, including locating individuals currently within the United States. In addition, we would like to know how the FBI is addressing the counterterrorism threat posed by Afghan parolees that have not been screened by DHS against the tactical database,” the senators concluded. 

Last December, the senators successfully pushed the Biden administration to provide a report on their vetting process for Afghan evacuees. 

The full letter is available below and here. 

Dear Director Wray: 

We are writing to request information regarding the screening and vetting of individuals evacuated from Afghanistan through Operation Allies Refuge and those resettled in the United States under Operation Allies Welcome. 

On February 15, 2022, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Defense (DOD) released a report entitled, Evaluation of the Screening of Displaced Persons from Afghanistan. The report revealed that Afghan evacuees were not vetted against all available DOD tactical data prior to being paroled into the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Use of DOD’s tactical database would help to identify known and suspected terrorists prior to evacuees being paroled. We are aware of at least 50 Afghan evacuees paroled by DHS into the United States that were later identified by DOD as having potentially significant security concerns that would not qualify for parole or admission onto U.S. military bases used as temporary housing for evacuees. The OIG explains that “significant security concerns” include individuals whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devices and known or suspected terrorists.4 In addition, at least 28 of these evacuees could not be located once they were flagged by DOD. 

On May 4, 2022, DOD officials informed us that they provided the FBI with a spreadsheet containing information on all the Afghan evacuees flagged as potentially significant security concerns. DOD also indicated that, while DHS continues to parole additional Afghans into the United States, DHS is still not using DOD’s tactical database to screen Afghans for derogatory information. Since Afghan parolees are no longer being housed on military bases, DOD no longer has a force protection mandate to carry out the additional screening that would better protect our homeland security. 

DHS’s failure to use every database to screen for derogatory information has caused a serious breach of homeland security. Accordingly, we request that you provide us with information about those evacuees flagged by DOD and steps the FBI has taken to adjudicate their derogatory information, including locating individuals currently within the United States. In addition, we would like to know how the FBI is addressing the counterterrorism threat posed by Afghan parolees that have not been screened by DHS against the tactical database. Please provide us with this information no later than June 9, 2022. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response. 

Sincerely, 

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