ABC News brings word that the screening procedures for war refugees was sorely in need of the overhaul it has recently received:
Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky — who later admitted in court that they’d attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq — prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of specialists to an around-the-clock effort aimed at checking its archive of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in the war zones, known as IEDs, for other suspected terrorists’ fingerprints.
“We are currently supporting dozens of current counter-terrorism investigations like that,” FBI Agent Gregory Carl, director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), said in an ABC News interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News’ “World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline”.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many more than that,” said House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. “And these are trained terrorists in the art of bombmaking that are inside the United States; and quite frankly, from a homeland security perspective, that really concerns me.”
In response to the disturbing discovery in Kentucky, the refugee process was largely halted for six months, which left “many who had heroically helped U.S.. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets” high and dry. At least one such Iraqi was assassinated while waiting for his refugee application to be processed.
One of the terrorists who went to Bowling Green, Waad Ramadan Alwan, ended up living in public housing across the street from a school bus stop and collected welfare benefits. When the FBI got a tip and sent informants to meet with Alwan, they found him quite willing to brag about all the American soldiers he had killed with improvised bombs and sniper rifles, boasting that he had eaten his victims “for lunch and dinner.” The FBI monitored him for a while, then took him down in a weapons sting operation, once they were confident there was no larger terror cell operating with him in Kentucky.
It’s particularly disturbing that Alwan and his partner in crime, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, passed a vetting process that included FBI, Defense Department, and Department of Homeland Security name and fingerprint checks. The system has reportedly been improved, but there are lingering concerns that others like Alwan and Hammadi might have slipped through the cracks in the old procedures, and taken up residence in the United States. It sounds from ABC’s new report as though counter-terrorism officials think the number could be significantly higher than their estimate at the time of the Bowling Green duo’s arrest in 2011.