Pentagon IG report says 50 Afghan evacuees brought to US had 'potentially significant security concerns'

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A Pentagon inspector general report released this week found that officials identified at least 50 Afghan evacuees who were brought to the United States in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan whose information indicated “potentially significant security concerns” –and were unable to locate dozens of those who it said had “derogatory information” that would make them ineligible for parole.

The report, released on Thursday, found that U.S. agencies “did not use all available data when vetting Afghan evacuees.” The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) later expanded its review to fill the gaps in screening, the report said.

“As of November 2, 2021, NGIC personnel had identified 50 Afghan personnel in the United States with information in DoD records that would indicate potentially significant security concerns,” the report states.

According to a footnote assigned to that section of the report, “significant security concerns include individuals whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devices and known or suspected terrorists and for which the NGIC sends derogatory information notifications to appropriate DoD personnel.”

The report also found that Defense Department personnel “stated that they could not locate some Afghan evacuees when attempting to report derogatory information to the DoD and U.S. government agencies supporting CONUS safe havens.”

CONUS is a military acronym for the “Continental United States.”

Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 23. 
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell)

The report also states that as of Sept. 17, 2021, the NGIC had “identified 31 Afghans in CONUS who had derogatory information.”
 “Of those 31, only 3 could be located,” the report states.

“To attempt to locate the 31 individuals, the NGIC developed an informal process of sending emails detailing the derogatory information to DoD and U.S. Government personnel that either were located at, or had oversight of, all CONUS safe havens,” the report states.

The report stated that as of Dec. 13, 2021, NGIC personnel “have reviewed approximately 58,455 of the 80,404 Afghan evacuee identities received and have assessed that it will take until approximately March 2022 to finish this analytic review.”

The report recommends that “the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; the Director, Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency; and the Commander, National Ground Intelligence Center, extend the data sharing agreement with the DHS.”

“They completed the extension on December 10, 2021, extending the agreement until June 27, 2022,” the report states. “We also recommended that the Commander, U.S. Northern Command, develop procedures for sharing derogatory information on Afghan evacuees with the DoD and interagency stakeholders.”

Hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane at a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021. 
(AP)

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said: “Afghan evacuees undergo a multi-layered, rigorous screening and vetting process that begins overseas and is conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Counterterrorism Center and additional Intelligence Community partners.”

“The federal government is leveraging every tool available to ensure that no individuals who pose a threat to public safety or national security are permitted to enter the United States,” the DHS Spokesperson said.

The Department of Homeland Security said it could not comment on the specifics of individual cases, but said that upon evacuation from Afghanistan, and before being cleared to travel to the United States, Afghan evacuees are brought to international transit points where the U.S. government collects and reviews biometric and biographic information.

Biometric information refers to facial images and fingerprints, while biographic information refers to names, dates of birth, and identification numbers.

Officials said biometric data is compared against DOD, DHS and FBI repositories, while biographic information is vetted by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI and other intelligence community partners.

Officials said that only those evacuees who clear the comprehensive checks are approved for onward travel to the United States.

The DHS said that, as with other arrivals at U.S. ports of entry, Afghan nationals undergo a primary inspection when hey arrive at a U.S. airport, and said that individuals who are identified by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as requiring further review as a result of their primary inspection, are then referred to a secondary inspection, where additional reviews of information are conducted by CBP officers and other federal partners, as required.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. 
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The DHS said that if any information of concern is found, they leverage tools to ensure the continued protection of U.S. national security, including the placement of individuals into expedited removal or removal proceedings.

The report fueled longstanding Republican concerns about screening and vetting of Afghan nationals in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. military assets and evacuation from Afghanistan.

“This report further confirms that despite the President’s public comments last summer on his failed withdrawal from Afghanistan, his administration had no plan or idea what they were doing,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News. “Not only did his fatal errors cause security vulnerabilities that claimed the lives of 13 of our troops, but now we find out the vetting process for Afghan evacuees was weak and insufficient.” 

McCarthy added: “There are currently dozens of evacuees with ‘potentially significant security concerns’ that are scattered throughout the United States because this administration failed to use all of the background information available.”

 “This carries grave risks for American citizens – the President’s security team must provide detailed information on how they plan to track down these individuals,” McCarthy said. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also weighed in on the report, saying “the situation is far worse than we thought.” 

“The Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general’s office found that thousands of Afghans were not properly screened using all available DoD data before arriving in the continental United States. The National Counterterrorism Center did not use all the data it should have, leaving dangerous gaps in the screening process,” Grassley said.  “And worse, the administration cannot locate some evacuees with problematic records who were released into the United States before their background checks were completed.”

Grassley said the “processing problems pose serious national security and public safety concerns.” 

“The relevant agencies ought to rapidly implement the OIG’s recommendations,” Grassley said. “Congress should not even begin to consider proposals related to sweeping immigration status changes for evacuees, such as an Afghan Adjustment Act, until the Biden administration, at the very least, guarantees the integrity of and fully responds to long-standing congressional oversight requests regarding the vetting and evacuee resettlement process.” 

He added: “Anything less would be irresponsible.” 

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and James Levinson contributed to this report. 

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