If you didn’t see my first post this morning go here.
Then FBI Director Comey told the Senate last year that 300 refugees (about 200 of them Iraqis) were being investigated for possible connections to terrorists.
This is number two in a three part series today on how the Trump Administration has been beefing up vetting and thus slowing the flow of refugees in to the US.
Exclusive: Pentagon raises alarm about sharp drop in Iraqi refugees coming to U.S.
After a lead-in about Pentagon concerns, we learn this:
As of Aug. 15, just 48 Iraqis have been admitted to the United States this fiscal year through a special refugee program meant for people who worked for the U.S. government or American contractors, news media or non-governmental groups, according to data provided by the State Department. More than 3,000 came last year and about 5,100 in 2016. [They are referring to Special Immigrant Visas and note that someone can get in as a refugee if they worked with NGOs, with no connection to the military!—ed]
At the meeting last week, officials examined the multiple security checks that Iraqis must pass, including one background check that all refugees undergo, called the Interagency Check.
They determined the obstacle was a separate process called Security Advisory Opinions (SAOs), which are required for a smaller subset of people – male and female refugees within a certain age range from Iraq and 10 other countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.
The FBI and intelligence agencies conduct the SAOs while the State Department coordinates the process.
At the meeting, the FBI revealed that of a batch of 88 Iraqis it had recently completed SAOs for, it found suspicious information on 87 of them, said the two officials aware of the meeting. Current and former officials said that is a much higher “hit rate” than in past years.
It was unclear to officials what exactly is causing the higher hit rate, and the meeting did not get into the details of the FBI’s screening methodology and how it might have changed.
Not just Iraqis!
Last year, the Trump administration instituted more stringent screening for refugees, including a requirement that they submit phone numbers and email addresses for many more family members than before. That information is now assessed in the SAOs for those refugees who require them.
The countries whose refugees automatically require SAOs before they can be admitted, in addition to Iraq, are Egypt, Iran, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Of course, shamefully missing are Afghanistan and Burma (Rohingya!).