Michael Leiter the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the United States sometimes chooses to allow people into the country who are on the federal government’s Terrorist Watchlist. We choose to allow them in, terrorists… on purpose.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), the ranking minority member of the committee, said at the same Jan. 20 hearing that the government should suspend the U.S. visas of anyone whose name appears in its master database of all people with suspected connections to terrorism and then put the burden on them to prove “they do not intend to harm this nation or its citizens.”
In that same hearing Leiter said he did not know exactly how many people on the Terrorist Watchlist entered the United States in 2009 but that it was probably a “very significant number.” He than added that “when people come to the country, if they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another.”
The government of the United States is using its citizens as a target to lure bad guys to our shores? There is something very wrong with that.
Yesterday,Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.)the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said the United States needs to rethink the policy of sometimes deliberately allowing people on the Terrorist Watchlist to board airliners and enter the country so they can be tracked for intelligence-gathering purposes.
“Unfortunately, nowadays, if you want to watch somebody, you may be taking a risk that it’s another Abdulmutallab,” Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.) told CNSNews.com, referring to the Al Qaeda terrorist who unsuccessfully tried to detonate an underwear bomb on Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day.
“I think we got to be a lot more careful who we let in to watch,” said Bond. “I would prefer–and if you put them on the No Fly list it tips them off that you know something about them—but, I think, for the safety of the United States we have to err on the side of keeping them out.”
You think? I have a better idea, lets only let them in if they promise to “hang out” near the houses of Senators and Congressmen. I certainly don’t want them coming near my house.
Bond, who answered CNSNews.com’s question in a conference call with bloggers, said he believes recalibrating the policy of when people on the Terrorist Watchlist are allowed into the United States will require “a lot of thought and work,” but concluded: “I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers or terrorist attackers.”
CNSNews.com asked Bond if he supported the policy that sometimes allowed people on the Terrorist Watchlist to enter the country so they could be put under surveillance for intelligence-gathering purposes.
“I think you have to be very careful about who you let in,” said Bond. “And that is, that requires a lot of thought and work. I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers or terrorist attackers. So that is a question. We are going to continue to work with the Intelligence Community and the other agencies … to try to get a reasonable solution. But letting everybody in to watch has been shown to be—I believe is no longer acceptable.”
Here is a partial transcript of the conference call with Sen. Bond:
Terry Jeffrey: Sen. Susan Collins said about a week ago in the Homeland Security Committee, when Mr. Leiter was testifying, that she thought that the entire TIDE database—the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment—ought to be used for screening people and that anybody that is on that list ought to have their U.S. visa suspended. Do you agree with her that anybody who currently is on the TIDE list ought to have their U.S. visa suspended?
Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R.-Mo.): The TIDE list is extremely broad. It requires–it’s information. But there should be a much tighter link up between those who are demonstrated to have the capability, intent and the ability and visas and the No Fly list. There are—there may be a lot of people on the TIDE list that are family members, relatives. I have a senior pastor in our church, who weighs less than a hundred pounds. He is 78 years old. He’s a good Scottsman named Robert Kerr (sp.). He got on the No Fly list. They got him off the No Fly list. They put him back on. The only thing I could say to him is apparently they have declared radical Presbyterians as a threat to our security. It disagreed with him.
Jeffrey: Senator, in that same hearing, Michael Leiter said, in response to a question from Sen. Carl Levin, that sometimes people who are on the TSDB—the Terrorist Watchlist–are allowed into the country because we choose to allow them into the country. When the Transportation Security Administration certified to the House and Senate appropriations committees that it was not going to screen against the full TSDB when people were boarding planes, one of the reasons they gave is because if they did that in some cases they would be alerting people who were under surveillance and perhaps jeopardize a terrorist investigation.
Bond: That’s the quandary they’re in. He put it straight. Unfortunately, nowadays, if you want to watch somebody, you may be taking a risk that it’s another Abdulmutallab. These people are—they are now targeting people they think can get into the United States with United States ties to bring them in. And I think we got to be a lot more careful who we let in to watch. I would prefer–and if you put them on the No Fly list it tips them off that you know something about them—but, I think, for the safety of the United States we have to err on the side of keeping them out. And hope that—
Jeffrey: So should we screen the entire TSDB? Or should they continue the practice that there is a No Fly list and Selectee list and that the rest of the people on the TSDB are not subjected to heightened scrutiny?
Bond: This is one of the ongoing discussions we’re going to have with them, because this is a tough, this is a tough challenge. And it’s really critical that we examine it, use the best intelligence we have, and make sure those we have reasonable grounds to believe might become suicide bombers not to let them back into the United States.
Jeffrey: Is it your view, senator, that it is an important and valuable policy of the United States to in fact sometimes let people on TSDB into the country so we can put them under surveillance and gather intelligence? Do you support that? Do you think that is a good policy?
Bond: I think you have to be very careful about who you let in. And that is, that requires a lot of thought and work. I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers, or terrorist attackers. So that is a question. We are going to continue to work with the Intelligence Community and the other agencies [inaudible] to try to get a reasonable solution. But letting everybody in to watch has been shown to be—I believe is no longer acceptable.
One can certainly understand the need to gain additional intelligence from terror suspects. But it seems as if there must be ways to do that without putting more Americans in danger of being subjected to a terrorist attack.