Sunday, November 22, 2015

Vetting terrorists

This article by the Cato Institute is becoming the go-to response to people who oppose Obama's policy on hosting "Syrian refugees." 

A few observations:

i) He quotes a State Dept. spokesman. But, of course, Foggy Bottom is just a mouthpiece for the Obama administration. That's not a credible, independent source.

ii) His sleight of hand by framing the issue in terms of all refugees (Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards…), but of course, the question at issue isn't refugees in general, but Muslim refugees in particular. And these are clearly creating problems in the US. Increasing problems as their numbers and political clout increase. 

iii) Then there's the narrowly and cagily worded statement that "only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States."

Needless to say, the immediate concern is not planning terrorist attacks on targets outside the US, but inside the US!

iv) Likewise, the limitation to those "planning" attacks stands in tacit contrast to those who carry them out. In the nature of the case, it's hard to catch those who plan attacks, whereas those who carry them out are typically killed in action. They may be suicide bombers, or they may be shot and killed by police at the scene of the crime.

Naturally they can't stand trial because they are…dead!

v) In addition, the gov't doesn't necessarily or even usually inform the public about attacks that were prevented. In some cases that's because that would disclose methods and sources. And it might create "panic" if the public was aware of how many plots and plotters our intel agencies must thwart every year.

vi) I've read different status on the age and percentage of males. 

vii) He draws a hairsplitting semantic distinction to avoid including the Boston Marathon bombers (Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev) in his analysis. Sure, they may not illustrate a flaw in the vetting system. But that misses the point: it's not coincidental that they were Muslim. And, of course, that's been the common denominator for a string of domestic jihadist attacks on Obama's watch–some successful, some thwarted. 

viii) In addition, the more we invite in, the more we create a surveillance state to monitor them–and everyone else in the process. So this is highly ironic from a libertarian think-tank. Domestic terrorism and domestic surveillance go hand-in-hand. Importing high-risk groups into the country guarantees dragnet surveillance. 

On a related note:

Bauman, who heads the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, also said that the vetting process through the State Department and FBI takes anywhere from 18 months to two years for refugees to be granted asylum in the United States.

i) Does that mean the "refugees" whom the Obama administration is currently imposing on the states have been vetted for 18-24 months? I thought this was supposed to be in response to a "crisis" that started last Spring? 

Likewise, isn't there a distinction between entering the country and being formally granted asylum? In general, just about anyone with a passport can enter the US. Whether they can stay here depends on how the subsequent review process goes. 

ii) Here's another obvious problem with the vetting process: if we really had a rigorous process for vetting "Syrian refugees," then we couldn't specify in advance how many applicants would qualify. Yet the Obama administration has a yearly quota. Indeed, an expanding annual quota. So there's a foreordained number of "Syrian refugees" to be resettled in the US every year. But that makes a mockery of the allegedly rigorous screening process.

iii) Finally:

—Administration officials have acknowledged that checking the accuracy or authenticity of documents provided by refugee applicants against foreign government records can be especially difficult involving countries that don't cooperate with the U.S. government, such as Syria. It can also complicate U.S. efforts to check foreign government records for local arrests or lesser bureaucratic interactions, such as bank records, business licenses or civil filings. "We do the best we can with the information we have," one U.S. official said. 
—FBI Director James Comey told Congress weeks ago that the FBI sees a risk with Syrian refugees and "we will work hard to mitigate it." He said the biggest challenge is that a background check is as only as good as the information available. "That's the challenge we are all talking about, is that we can only query against that which we have collected. And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home but ... there will be nothing show up because we have no record on that person," Comey said.

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