Chairman Green Issues Subpoena to DHS For Failing to Produce Sufficient Documents Regarding Afghan Evacuee Screening, Vetting
October 31, 2023
Committee took action after DHS provided documents that were “indecipherable,” password-protected, or otherwise unsatisfactory to the Committee’s request
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) issued a subpoena to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following more than 160 days of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ failure to provide satisfactory documents and other materials relevant to the Committee’s May 2023 request for more information on the vetting and screening of Afghan evacuees entering the United States since 2021. In the wake of the Biden administration’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country has once again become a breeding ground for foreign terrorist organizations under Taliban rule, and the Committee is still seeking answers on how the Biden administration vetted those entering the United States following the withdrawal.
On May 1, Chairman Green was joined on a letter to Secretary Mayorkas by Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC), and Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement Chairman Clay Higgins (R-LA), demanding information on coordination between DHS, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense during the withdrawal, and documents and communications relating to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) screening, vetting, or inspection of Afghan evacuees at U.S. ports of entry. Following the Department’s failure to satisfy this request, the Committee sent a follow-up letter on June 9, renewing the request and demanding a staff-level briefing on the matter. Despite the Committee working with the Department to accommodate the proper production of these documents, DHS continued to provide unsatisfactory responses and productions.
In a cover letter addressed to Secretary Mayorkas, Chairman Green writes, “Over the course of the last several months, the Committee has made multiple attempts to obtain the requested documents and information cooperatively. Most recently, the Committee followed up on October 3, 2023, with both a telephone call and e-mail, and again on October 17, 2023, with an e-mail regarding the protracted delay in satisfying the Committee’s requests. On October 20, 2023, the Department provided a partial production containing limited data on Afghan evacuees. Although the production contained 1,601 pages, it is wholly inadequate. For example, 150 pages were either wholly redacted, devoid of content, or illegible. Further, many of the remaining pages appear to be nothing more than scanned printouts from spreadsheets of data that were provided in a format that rendered them indecipherable.”
Chairman Green continues, “The Department’s October 27, 2023 production also included a spreadsheet comprised of five tabs. One of those tabs included no substantive or comprehendible information or data merely containing nine cells of words such as, ‘Grand Total’ with no associated numbers or ‘Crossing Date’ with no affiliated dates. All tabs were locked or password-protected so that search or sorting features were prohibited. The Committee responded by e-mail the same day requesting that the Department provide the password to unlock the spreadsheet, noted the unsatisfactory production of documents, and reiterated the requests with another deadline of today. Nonetheless, the Department did not provide an updated October 20, 2023 production, refused to provide the password, and failed to provide a satisfactory response to the Committee’s requests, which were first made six months ago today.”
Chairman Green concludes, “While the produced documents provide some basic information regarding Afghan evacuees, they fall well short of what was requested by the Committee. For example, the Department failed to produce a single e-mail or other communication from Department employees related to the withdrawal from Afghanistan or Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) screening, vetting, or inspection of Afghan evacuees at U.S. Ports of Entry. The repeated failures of the Department to provide a satisfactory response and protracted delays necessitate the issuance of the enclosed subpoena. The Committee requires the data, documents, and other information compelled by the attached subpoena to fully evaluate potential legislation to reform the Department’s authority and operations. The Department’s functions relating to border and port security are directly within the purview of the Committee’s oversight authorities.”
Read the full cover letter, the subpoena, and the schedule.
In 2021, the House Committee on Homeland Security sent two letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting information on the catastrophic withdrawal. Both letters were met with insufficient responses from the Biden administration.
In April, Subcommittee Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX) heard firsthand testimony from national security experts on the dangerous consequences to U.S. homeland security from the Biden administration’s deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. In the hearing, Members received confirmation from every witness that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was chaotic despite efforts by the Biden administration to deny and downplay the chaos. Multiple witnesses also testified that no one from the Biden administration has been held accountable for the catastrophe.