The Associated Press reported Friday that, in a leaked document, entitled “Citizenship Likely an Unreliable Indicator of Terror Threat,” “Analysts at the Homeland Security Dept.’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States.” This account was designated “The Big Story” by the AP even while admitting that it was a “draft document.”
The report is very obviously a draft; it looks like a photograph taken on someone’s iPhone of some papers lying around on a desk—or perhaps filched out of a wastebasket. It’s unsigned, undated, has no agency seal at the top and hasn’t even been proofread for grammatical errors.
The AP helps to interpret the murky conclusions, saying the report “concludes that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011.”
That last is easily disproven, as you’ll see below.
The AP is right, to this degree: the report does dispute the core premise of the president’s immigration Executive Order 13769: that we can best limit the risk of admitting potential terrorists by temporarily barring entrance from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, while crafting an “Extreme Vetting” system. The timing of the report’s release demonstrates that disputing the president was the intention.
Draft document looks suspiciously like more sabotage
In a statement Friday, Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen criticized the report as incomplete, reported the Associated Press:
“While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency sourcing,’ Christensen said. ‘The ... report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Ms. Christensen said:
“It is clear on its face that it is an incomplete product that fails to find evidence of terrorism by simply refusing to look at all the available evidence,” she said, according to The Journal. “Any suggestion by opponents of the president’s policies that senior (homeland security) intelligence officials would politicize this process or a report’s final conclusions is absurd and not factually accurate. The dispute with this product was over sources and quality, not politics.”
To this writer, the leaking of such a document is clearly political, likely from faithless subordinates.
According to the AP article, “the report was drafted by the staff of the Homeland Security Department's Intelligence and Analysis branch at the direction of its acting leader, David Glawe.”
It remains a mystery just who leaked to the press an obviously unfinished draft, when the president had asked for a full risk assessment, including classified data, from the entire intel community the White House has at its disposal. But it clearly was released in order to discredit the president’s replacement executive order on immigration, expected Wednesday.
In a Real Clear Politics video from January 31st, Glawe seemed okay with the concept of the pause in travel from the seven nations, which points toward disloyal underlings deliberately seeking to discredit the president and kill any effort to limit access to America. For, if the courts have said you can’t bar a religion, and the draft document says it’s useless to bar people from dangerous nations, then Trump might as well drop the whole effort.
The Associated Press commented that “The draft document reflects the tensions between the president's political appointees and the civil servants tasked with carrying out Trump's ambitious and aggressive agenda. Trump has repeatedly complained about leaks meant to undercut his policies and suggested he does not trust holdovers from the Obama administration.”
Ironically, it was not President Trump who chose the seven nations, but his predecessor, President Obama.
The origin of the list of seven nations
The choice of the seven countries originally came from a list compiled under the Terrorism Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which restricts travelers who have visited or are nationals of certain “Countries of Concern.”
Congress’s analysis of the Act explains that “the purpose of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is primarily a counterterror and national security program.” So, it is not unreasonable to use the nation list established by the Act as a reference.
Under the heading “IRAQ, SYRIA, OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY OR AREA OF CONCERN,” the Act allows an alien to use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) only if the alien “has not been present, at any time on or after March 1, 2011, [in] Iraq or Syria, or “a country that is designated by the Secretary of State… [to have] repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
By definition, the latter applies to:
Iran See Dept. of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, p. 300 and Sudan. See p. 301.
So, the Act itself established Iraq and Syria as permanent “Countries of Concern,” and the Secretary of State as the authority that added Iran and Sudan, using the criterion “state sponsor of terrorism.”
Exceptions apply and DHS may issue waivers on a case-by-case basis.
On January 21, 2016, a joint release of the DHS and the Dept. of State implemented the Act by restricting from the VWP:
Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 … and nationals of VWP countries who are also dual nationals with any of those countries.
The Terrorism Travel Act also provides for “the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence” as the authorities to add, within 60 days “other Countries or Areas of Concern.” The criteria are:
- whether even having visited the country raises the likelihood that “the alien is a credible threat to the national security of the United States.”
- whether a foreign terrorist organization has a significant presence in the country or area
- whether the country or area is a safe haven for terrorists.
The DHS Secretary is required to make an annual review of such countries.
Clearly at least three nations on the list meet all the criteria:
Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. [See: Dept. of State: Terrorist Safe Havens 2015]
On February 18, 2016, DHS issued a release saying:
The Department of Homeland Security today announced that it is continuing its implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 with the addition of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries of concern….
The three additional countries designated today join Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries subject to restrictions for Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals.
The draft document is utterly inadequate to inform a security position
First, the report is ever so incomplete, and puddle-shallow. We get an early warning in the first paragraph, where it proclaims: “This paper does not assess the threat of domestic terrorism.”
Significantly, it utterly ignores the question of whether vetting people coming from the seven countries is practical or even possible. But, upgrading the vetting is the main point of E.O. 13769. After all, if we had perfect vetting, we could accept people from anywhere and at least not have to worry about terrorism or extreme cultural behavior.
The AP reported that Homeland Security spokeswoman “[Gillian] Christensen said the countries were also selected in part because they lacked the ability to properly vet their citizens and don't cooperate with U.S. efforts to screen people hoping to come to the U.S.” However, this factor is unmentioned in the 3-page report.
The DHS draft document says it drew on “a DHS study of Department of Justice press releases on convictions and terrorist attack perpetrators killed in the act” from March 1, 2011, to January 31, 2017:
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, at least 82 primarily US-based individuals, who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related federal offense inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, according to a DHS study of Department of Justice press releases on convictions and terrorist attack perpetrators killed in the act. [Grammatical error is in the original.] … Slightly more than half were native-born United States citizens. Of the foreign-born individuals, they came from 26 different countries, with no one country representing more than 13.5 percent of the foreign-born total.
The top seven origin countries of the foreign-born individuals: Pakistan (5), Somalia (3), and Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Uzbekistan (2).
Of the seven countries impacted by E.O. 13769 that are not listed above, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen had 1 each, and there were no individuals from Syria.
The draft document, therefore, concludes a total of only eight people from the seven countries on Trump’s list were convicted of a terrorist act or killed in its attempt. But Jessica Vaughan, of the Center for Immigration Studies, reports that during that span of years seventeen individuals were convicted of serious terror crimes. Sixteen are listed in an online Excel file she provides. See lines 3–19; exclude line 8, which is not a terror offense. The information was extracted from a June 2016 report by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.
She also notes that “Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who attacked and wounded 11 people on the campus of Ohio State University in November 2016,” is not included in the file. “Artan was a Somalian who arrived in 2007 as a refugee.” That makes seventeen—not eight.
DHS’s draft document contradicts DHS conclusions from only a year ago.
One of the “Key Findings” of the mysterious draft document is: “Terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen pose a threat of attacks in the United States while groups in Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan remain regionally focused.”
Yet, on February 18, 2016, DHS reaffirmed that the four nations defined as “Countries of Concern” under the Terrorism Travel Prevention Act of 2015—Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan are still Countries of Concern and added “Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as “Countries of Concern.” (See the description of the Act, above.) This established the list of seven countries in the president’s EO 13769. So: Iran, Libya Somalia, and Sudan could not “remain” only regional threats.
This report, like the absurd statement from former, mostly Obama officials that was submitted in the disastrous Virginia trial will, no doubt serve as an exhibit in lawsuits, sure to arise when the president releases his new immigration EO this week—and as fodder for the hostile media.
- Given the origin of the list of seven nations, prior to the release of the new executive order, the Departments of State and Homeland Security should release notices updating the list of nations they have added under the criteria in the Terrorism Travel Prevention Act of 2015—either verifying they have not changed since February 18, 2016, or making changes as needed.
- Reasons for inclusion of the countries should be included, as well as why this list is appropriate for a temporary travel ban, pending establishment of new vetting procedures.
- Regardless of any resultant legal action, developing “extreme vetting” methods, and training personnel should go forward immediately.
This incident points up the absolute necessity of cleaning out disloyal Obama holdovers, or this kind of sabotage will continue. Mr. Trump declared he wanted to create jobs; that’s one way to generate job openings.