By Naveen Athrappully
During the evacuation of Afghanistan from July 2021 to January 2022, the United States brought nearly 80,000 Afghan citizens into the United States, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to fully vet some of the evacuees, potentially allowing individuals who pose a national security risk into the country, according to a recent report.
The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit to determine the extent to which the DHS screened, vetted, and inspected the evacuees.
“We determined some information used to vet evacuees through U.S. Government databases, such as name, date of birth, identification number, and travel document data were inaccurate, incomplete, or missing,” the OIG said in its Sept. 6 report (pdf).
“We also determined Customs and Border Patrol admitted or paroled evacuees who were not fully vetted into the United States.” As a consequence, the DHS may have admitted individuals into the country who pose a risk to national security and threaten the safety of local communities, the OIG warned.
The audit found that of the 88,977 evacuee records inspected, 417 did not have first names, 242 did not have last names, and 11,110 had their date of birth recorded as Jan. 1.
In addition, 7,800 records had missing or invalid travel document numbers while 36,400 records had a “facilitation document” as the travel document type. During the audit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could not define what the “facilitation document” was.
One evacuee paroled into the United States by CBP was earlier liberated from an Afghan prison by the Taliban. Another evacuee paroled into the country posed national security concerns. CBP allowed 35 evacuees to board a flight to the United States even though they lacked a green status card required for travel.
Admitting Potential Threats
During a recent daily briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the DHS OIG report did not take into account the “rigorous, multilayered screening, and vetting process” the Biden administration took. However, an earlier Department of Defense (DOD) report and whistleblower claims support the OIG report.
A Pentagon audit of the civilian evacuation effort in Afghanistan released in February warned about potentially dangerous individuals being brought into the United States.
The DOD National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) identified “50 Afghan personnel in the United States with information in DoD records that would indicate potentially significant security concerns” in its February 2022 audit report (pdf).
One whistleblower claimed that the DOD failed to properly vet 324 Afghan evacuees who appeared on the department’s Biometrically Enabled Watchlist that includes suspected terrorists.
In August 2022, U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) urged the DOD to investigate the whistleblower allegations.