Today, 13-year Department of Homeland Security veteran, Philip B. Haney, released an open letter to Members of Congress, writing that he, “no longer [has] the confidence this administration can adequately vet or screen refugees or immigrants from Islamic countries.” (full text below)
Since becoming a whistleblower, Haney has met repeatedly with Members of Congress and their staffs in closed-door sessions, warning them of both the inadequacies of the Obama administration’s screening processes and the shut down of his investigation into extremist groups tied to both perpetrators of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
On Fox News, Haney described an ill-advised action by DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to terminate an investigation into groups associated to the Deobandi Movement and other Islamist groups. “This investigation could possibly have prevented the San Bernardino jihadist attack by identifying its perpetrators, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, based on their associations with these groups.”
An Open Letter to Members of Congress:
In the aftermath of the most devastating and lethal jihadist attack in the United States since 9/11, Americans are rightly angry their government will not face the problem of Islamic terrorism honestly. I know this first-hand.
During my 13 years at the Department of Homeland Security, I worked tirelessly to identify and prevent terrorism in the United States. As a recognized “founding member” of DHS, it was among my responsibilities to raise concern, not only about the individuals primed for imminent attack, but about the networks and ideological support that makes those terrorist attacks possible.
I investigated numerous groups such as the Deobandi Movement, Tablighi Jamaat, and al-Huda as their members traveled into and out of the United States in the course of my work. Many were traveling on the visa waiver program, which minimizes the checks and balances due to agreements with the countries involved. But the scrutiny we were authorized to apply was having results. This investigation could possibly have prevented the San Bernardino jihadist attack by identifying its perpetrators, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, based on their associations with these groups.
Almost a year into this investigation, it was halted by the State Department and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. They not only stopped us from connecting more dots, the records of our targets were deleted from the shared DHS database. The combination of Farook’s involvement with the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah Mosque and Malik’s attendance at al-Huda would have indicated, at minimum, an urgent need for comprehensive screening. Instead, Malik was able to avoid serious vetting upon entering the United States on a fiancé visa—and more than a dozen Americans are dead as a result.
The investigation was not stopped because it was ineffective, it was stopped because the Administration told us the civil rights of the foreign nationals we were investigating could be violated. When did foreign nationals gain civil rights in the United States, especially when they are associated with groups we already know are involved in terrorist activity? Based on what I have seen in the Department of Homeland Security, I no longer have the confidence this administration can adequately vet or screen refugees or immigrants from Islamic countries.
I took my story to the American people last week. Remarkably this week, DHS’ former acting under-secretary for intelligence and analysis, John Cohen, told ABC News that under the direction of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, potential immigrants’ social media activity was off-limits to those responsible for screening.
Just as they did when they halted my investigation in 2012—which could have provided key intelligence and potentially saved over a dozen lives—DHS described a potential “civil liberties backlash” if the law enforcement officials tasked with keeping our country secure did the most basic checks on potential travelers, immigrants and refugees. Parents checking on someone their child may be dating look at social media, but our law enforcement officials can’t?
This administration has a deadly blind spot when it comes to Islamic terrorism. It is not willing to allow proper vetting and screening of refugees or immigrants from Islamic countries; Congress must take action to defend the security of the American people.
I understand the desire to welcome as many immigrants and refugees as possible, especially those fleeing dangerous conflict zones. However, this administration has handcuffed law enforcement officials tasked with vetting these individuals appropriately and that places the American people in danger.
Philip B. Haney
ABOUT PHILIP B. HANEY
Philip Haney served in Passenger Analysis Units at the Department of Homeland Security in Atlanta and at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center. His responsibilities included in-depth research into individuals and organizations with potential links to terrorism.
After almost a year of research and tracking the Deobandi movement, Department of Homeland Security stopped the investigation, at the request of the Department of State and its own Civil Rights Civil Liberties Division, claiming that tracking individuals related to these groups was a violation of the travellers’ civil liberties.
Haney says, “The administration was more concerned about the civil rights and liberties of foreign Islamic groups with terrorist ties than the safety and security of Americans.”