Skip to content


Homeland Republicans Demand Answers From DHS’ I&A Undersecretary on Terror Threats, Intelligence-Sharing Challenges, Partisanship

June 28, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, led by Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), held a hearing to examine the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). The hearing featured witness testimony from Undersecretary for I&A Ken Wainstein.

This week’s hearing follows the Committee’s extensive oversight of I&A in an effort to address the shortcomings of the office in providing timely, actionable intelligence to law enforcement partners, the office’s history of partisanship, and its potential failure to protect Americans’ civil liberties. Members also examined the challenges I&A faces amid a dynamic threat landscape, including the historic border crisis and growing threats from terrorists in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.


Subcommittee Chairman Pfluger opened the hearing by highlighting the challenges facing I&A:
“Overall, the threats posed by state and nonstate actors, paired with the Department’s failure to secure our borders, have led our nation down a precarious path that presents a clear and present danger.
“Our nation has almost certainly not seen this level of instability since World War II, and these threats will only continue to metastasize as time goes on with weak leadership that invites aggression from our adversaries. I highlight these troubling developments because they show why now, more than ever, our nation needs an effective and efficient intelligence enterprise to keep the homeland safe, secure, and resilient, while not abusing its authorities or violating the Constitutional rights of Americans.”
In his opening line of questioning, Subcommittee Chairman Pfluger asked Undersecretary Wainstein how eight Tajik nationals, who are reported to be affiliated with ISIS-K and may have been plotting a terrorist attack, were able to be processed into the United States at the Southwest border:
“These folks, as reported, came in, eight Tajik nationals came in January, so I think it leads everyone to believe that probably 362 is at the very low end of the number if there were eight people who’ve been in the country for 5-6 months, and then we found them. How did the Department miss that, and then how did the Department catch that, and what are we doing to make sure that that never happens?”
Undersecretary Wainstein replied: 
“As I think you know, colleagues of ours from DHS are going to be giving you a classified briefing, I believe, right after the recess. Most of this is very sensitive and classified so I’m very limited what I can say on the record. But I think it is clear that when those individuals came across the border and were encountered there was no derogatory information that came to the attention of the people on the border at that time. The derogatory information came to light later on. I can say, without getting into the specifics of the work done after they got here, that I think you’ve heard from the FBI and others there was unprecedented cooperation between DHS and the FBI in working the situation. Beyond that, I think I’d have to defer to my colleagues who will give a classified briefing on this, but it has been a joint effort between us and our law enforcement friends at the FBI.”


Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology Chairman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) pressed DHS on their delays in issuing security clearances to state, local, tribal, territorial law enforcement partners, impacting their access to crucial intelligence:
The committee has learned that there exists a serious backlog of issuing security clearances to these state, local and tribal territorial law enforcement officers. In one department alone, they currently have nearly 20 members of service who are still waiting on the process of the security clearances. And it’s been more than a year without any follow up by your office, for most of them and there’s actually a handful of them that are waiting two years, obviously resulting in a serious backlog in which law enforcement officials are unable to obtain the essential information that they need in order to conduct investigations. And it’s having a negative effect on their ability to receive and use that intelligence. That’s critical to not only doing their job but keeping their communities and this country safe.
Do you have a responsibility of providing SLTT law enforcement officers access to intelligence products, including some at the classified level, as well as granting or denying security clearances to these law enforcement officers based on their background investigation?”
Undersecretary Wainstein answered:
“Yes, we’re involved in the clearance process, yes.”
Subcommittee Chairman D’Esposito continued:
“Ok, so, are you aware that there exists a serious backlog stemming from your office being able to provide these clearances?”
Undersecretary Wainstein answered:
“Yes sir, I’ve been very focused on our role, as well as the security officer’s role.”


Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ) called out DHS for seemingly rebranding its controversial “experts group” after the first rendition was dissolved following the Committee’s extensive oversight and a lawsuit over the political bias of the group’s members:
According to a May 17, 2024 Department [of Homeland Security] press release, DHS decided to rebrand the expert group as the Homeland Intelligence Advisory Board. The 19 members of the disbanded ‘Experts Group’ have simply been reconstituted as members of the board. This is troublesome given that it appears DHS is attempting to mislead Congress and the American public by simply renaming a controversial advisory committee. We have also learned that DHS has exempted this board from public notice reporting in open meaning provisions that are normally required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.”


Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC) questioned Undersecretary Wainstein on the data available to DHS relating to illegal aliens’ ties to terrorist organizations: 
“If we talked about that story about the eight Tajiks who came in who you said, you didn’t want to talk about much here; they’re not domestic violent extremists. They’re here, and you said there was—one thing I’d like to see is what you said about one statement— you said there was no, and the secretary said there was no, derogatory information about them when they crossed the border. I would think being on the terror watch list and being affiliated with ISIS-K or suspected affiliation would be derogatory. You’re saying that information was not available to you when they come across?”
Undersecretary Wainstein answered:
“My understanding is that when they were encountered at the border—and they were— the responsible officials checked the data systems. The data systems did not have the derogatory information in their indicating—”
Subcommittee Chairman Bishop continued:
“That concerns me gravely. And then there’s a new story by NBC News that the Chairman said before he walked out for a few minutes, that he hopes we don’t see another story like that, but there’s an NBC News story: ‘DHS identifies over four hundred migrants brought to the U.S. by an ISIS-affiliated human smuggling network.’ Now, I understand maybe the Secretary suggested some of what’s in that article is not accurate, what can you say about that?
Undersecretary Wainstein answered:
“I think what I can say, I’m sure that my colleagues would be able to talk about this in greater length at the classified briefing, but that of those people who were smuggled in from that network, which, according to news reports, has affiliation with ISIS. There is not information that suggests that those particular individuals are terrorist operatives.”
Subcommittee Chairman Bishop pressed:
“Well, there’s one thing you didn’t say. You talked about October 7, you talk about domestic violence extremists. You did not say—and it’s been curious to me as I’ve sat on the podium for a while—no one seems to want to say opening the doors on the border has exposed us tremendously.”
Undersecretary Wainstein later described DHS’ efforts to address the heightened threats to the Jewish community in America:
They’re suffering, they’re under threat in a way they weren’t before. And that is what I was talking about, that the events overseas have energized threat actors of a variety of different types, foreign, as well as domestic and their suffering from it.”
Subcommittee Chairman Bishop added:
“I agree with that.”
Undersecretary Wainstein continued: 
“We put bulletins out about that jointly with the FBI. We’ve been engaged fully with the Jewish community because this is a sea change and it’s not going to end.”
Subcommittee Chairman Bishop continued:
“I never imagined I would see what I see in the Democratic party frankly, and in our country.”
Undersecretary Wainstein concluded:
“It’s horrendous.”