McCaul Statement on Concerns Regarding Syrian Refugee Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in his inaugural State of Homeland Security Address, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul brought to light new concerns regarding refugees with ties to terrorist groups in Syria who might try to enter the United States. This year, Chairman McCaul wrote to intelligence officials regarding possible terrorist exploitation of Syrian refugee flows, and today he released unclassified excerpts from a response letter provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence earlier this year, which informed the Chairman that:

  • The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has identified “…individuals with ties to terrorist groups in Syria attempting to gain entry to the U.S. through the U.S. refugee program.”
  • In the same response letter, NCTC also offered that: “The refugee system, like all immigration programs, is vulnerable to exploitation from extremist groups seeking to send operatives to the West. U.S. and Canadian authorities in 2011 arrested several refugees linked to what is now ISIL. Early in 2011, Canadian authorities arrested dual Iraqi-Canadian citizen Faruq ‘Isa who is accused of vetting individuals on the internet for suicide operations in Iraq. The FBI, in May of the same year, arrested Kentucky-based Iraqi refugees Wa’ad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi for attempting to send weapons and explosives from Kentucky to Iraq and conspiring to commit terrorism while in Iraq. Alwan pled guilty to the charges against him in December 2011, and Hammadi pled guilty in August 2012.”

Chairman McCaul made the following statement in response to these revelations: “ISIS has said in their own words that they want to exploit the refugee program to enter the West. They have already proven their ability to do so with the attacks in Paris, which were reportedly perpetrated by terrorists who infiltrated Europe through refugee flows. I have deep concerns with what I have heard from the intelligence community regarding the vulnerability of the U.S.-bound Syrian refugee pipeline, and these revelations reaffirm my belief that we need tighter security to keep terrorists from slipping into the United States. I call on the Senate to take up our refugee security bill and the President to sign it.”

Correction:  An earlier comment by Chairman McCaul that the specific terrorist group ISIS has attempted to exploit the refugee program to get to the United States was a misstatement.

Learn more about Chairman McCaul’s bill to enhance the security of refugee screening, click here. To see a recent Committee report on counterterrorism challenges associated with Syrian refugees, click here.

*Due to classification concerns, no additional information from this letter can be provided.