tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN December 10, 2015 9:00am-10:01am EST
these 38 countries have different databases, some better than others, as you all said this morning. and so going further on that, let's assume the numbers are right, there are about 5,000 foreign fighters from western european countries, the bulk from france, the u.k., belgium. that means there's more than 5,000 total from the 38 countries. i still haven't gotten a good number on that. i've heard 8,000. i've heard we don't know. i've heard more than 5,000. let's, if you don't mind, let me ask you another question on how many people we're talking about. the question i have is really a pretty simple one. if was a porous border with turkey, as we have with mexico and canada, and you have the ability to go back and forth
without being identify through that porous border and you have thousands of foreign fighters who are leaving europe to go into the battle, a number have come back, we're told. we have a number on that. i don't know if it's accurate or not. they wouldn't show up, right, in the preclearance or the data necessarily because they're walking aboarder and we've seen the refugees going the other way. could you comment on that? i don't know who is the right person to start. anybody jump in. how do you account for that and how good is the data? >> looking at the program and the vetting we do with that, we're not looking at a specific trip, this is authorization to
book travel to come to the u.s. so looking at a person's travel history is going to be a little complicated at that point if it's not including previous routes to the u.s. where we see the most value are the data sets that we collect, the biographical information, the contact information, some of their points of contact and a few other pieces and trying to draw associations to other known pieces of information that we know does give us national security concerns. in drawing any link analysis or type of associations we can to other people and then bouncing it through a lot of the intelligence committee to see the holdings they have if any of these data sets show up in any of the information that they have. we pull it back into our data hold i holding connect ed ed to it thi e-mail address. >> the testimony before this committee seven weeks ago
approximately the director of the fbi and counterterrorism center said the same thing, we have gaps and they were referring to the gaps in syria because we have nothing on the ground, we have a relationship with the government even as compared to iraq. i guess my question is i'm not suggesting this is necessarily a large number of people but as we've learned with terrorism it doesn't matter that it's a large number or a small number, any number is significant. we have to be right every time. there's no means to identify them and we don't have that da in our system. are you saying, commissioner wagner, because we use other data sources including our own that is unlikely to occur, or are you saying that we've only got what we've got and it will be based on the best information
we get from these countries and there will be some gaps? >> we use what we have access to and is provided to us. it's a mixture of the law enforcement community can provide to us and then the data we do collect, what associations can we draw to other pieces of information that we have. >> the problem you're identifying transcends the visa program but this is a common concern of governments globally even those outside the visa waiver program, this idea of getting a handle on who is going off to these conflicts already radicalized, gaining network techniques and capabilities they could bring back to their home countries so there has been a tremendous concentration by intelligence services, law enforcement and it is to try to get a handle on this and exchange information. we used the visa waiver program for those countries that are participants and, again, as
noted by dr. frey, these are 38 kcountries that, generally speaking, share a fairly high level of capability and sharon the concern we do on the foreign fighter problem. so they're probably our best partners and there's a wide diversity in the program -- japan, luxembourg, france, all different capabilities, chile, have a more acute foreign fighter program, and the numbers you've cited are the kind we hear. >> what is the number of foreign fighters? >> i don't know that i have the number and i think it's the best source of that data for estimates, but the important point here -- >> if you think the 5-8 is roughly accurate? >> from western europe so it extends beyond western europe but this is the larger numbers come from those visa waiver countries. not so much from east asian
participants. how do we build the watch list? we probably have the best of all and that's why we provide what's called foreign partner extract of about 90,000 names and then we have an even smaller number which is the fighter and we're giving that to countries even that aren't participants because we want them to have that watch list so they can bounce that name. >> i've taken probably more time than i should. we're glad it has given us better information and better data. i don't think you can tell us that it requires a more strenuous screening. it's to facilitate travel and business travel and so on. given the fact they're not as
stringent, what do we do about this potential gap? can go back and forth without identificati identification. >> it will be the same issue if we don't have access to the information, the state department doesn't have access to the information either if it doesn't exist. >> you think there's no difference? >> between the visa vetting and waiver vetting as far as the biographical data collected in the systems that they're run against to identify risks. >> if the travel information doesn't exist in the government holdings, neither one of us will get to it. >> they are the same, the biometric checks are the same. interviews with the government official for both albeit one is state department and one is cvp and they would have occurred at a different time, that's a big distinction. in terms of the biometrics, we
have biometrics on three-quarters of the traveling population so that is when they get the manifest data we see if we have biometric holdings on those. full checks are done so it is not that there is distinction. some of it is when and really the differential would be the first time travelers. for first time visa apple cant for business purposes, which is the equivalent, you get an interview and a biometric. you don't get an interview or your biometrics taken again. and there's lots of reasons for that and most of our derogatory information is associated with biographic information, and the
biographic checks as you've heard us -- i think all of us at this point have said are the same between a visa. >> to make that comparison, where will we be at had there never been a visa program? there will be gaps in information. are we better off today because of the visa waiver or are we worse off? what is the difference right now in the current state of play again getting a visa, going to the consulate and having an interview? that's the reality i'm trying to lay out. >> and the number of denials. people are screened out. >> right, for various reasons. are they going to comply with the terms of that visa depending on the visa they're applying for and that could be establishing ties to their home country, that
they're not registered for school. the national security vetting based on the buy graphic data collected and the queries run. a percentage of initial visa appand applications and we take the visa database and run the entire contents perpetually for any type of national security information and then we can feed back any security concerns that we uncover and that we can request a revocation of that information just like we do the yesta database. it's run between the two from a national security perspective. >> and you have to get anesta every two years. not only is it vetted for that
entire period of time, but then an individual has to resubmit their information every two years. we'll know in real time and that's the same for a visa as well. not every two years. >> better than a visa that every two years that apple can't is providing us that information. senator portman, i don't want to lose your point about the other security benefits marc outlined initially. the robust reviews marc was talking about earlier last about six to nine months, we do them at least every two years. we are sitting in their border agency boosts, at their borders.
we are in their passport issuance facilities. no other program allows the u.s. government to go in and do such an intrusive review. i don't believe we provide that. it is without fail adding those additional layers of security that just don't exist. >> a couple of follow-up questions to this immediate discussion, the differences between people who go through a visa process and a visa waiver process, i've heard the total number per year is roughly 20 million. is that accurate? what are the aggregate number of folks who secure visas to come in? within a million. >> i wanted to follow up on what
kelli said, apples to apples, the visa waiver program is really only wavering b-1 and b-2. >> that's where i was getting -- >> there's a whole list, student visas, employment visas, fiancee visas. b-1, b-2 that the state department issues. >> on this point it's about your intent moving forward not looking in the background prior that you have amassed prior, so i want to come to study or i want to come to go to a funeral of an extended family member and i will only be there x number of days and i'll leave again that we don't capture the intent.
90 days or less for tourism purposes. >> but it's a presumption? >> but there are ways. >> why are you coming here, those types of questions. >> and then the aggregate number, do we have a rough -- >> 14 million visa applecations. 1.6 million denials. >> and how many denials in the visa waiver program? >> so we denied about 60,000 last year. >> 60,000 out of 20 million? >> about 13.8 million applecations. now, remember, they're good for two years. nearly 22 million visa travelers last year. we had 112 million commercial air passengers.
so visa waiver is maybe 18% most travelers will come to the u.s. via commercial aviation. about 18% come through the visa waiver program. about 50% of u.s. citizens, permanent residents and then the visa holders. >> dr. frey, you talked about a couple ways if one wanted to collect it prior to arrival in the united states. you talked about sort of adding that function to embassies and consulates. you talked about new centers and kiosks at every airport, every international airport. i'm curious to know whether -- following up on senator carper's question about piloting. would it be useful for us to
pilot all three depending on the country just to gain some experti expertise, gain some insight into how those would work? >> with respect to the pilots it's not about whether it could work. i think it's a could. it's a question of benefit versus cost. biometrics were taken every day at consulates all over the world. they're capable of doing it. it's been close to 30 years. the state department staffing and resources just doesn't exist in paris, for example, for all the visa waiver travelers who came from france. you have to ramp up the foreign service significant ly and buy more office space or set up a satellite location staffed either by government employees or some sort of contractor. it's not that it wouldn't work. it's just that it's a pretty massive undertaking and, again,
from what i see at the moment to be minimal security benefits with both the biographic vetting that goes on at the ports of entry when the travelers arrive. it's not worthwhile compared to the cost of doing so. at least that's my view. >> even on a pilot scale? >> i think the pilot could work. what do you do when we have the technology to do it? how then do you scale it realistically to actually move to capture the 20 million travelers? i don't know there's a good answer. >> what would we hope to gain by doing this? is it the fact that an impostor might be applying for the benefit using different biographical information and we might have a fingerprint record, for national security concerns that number will be very low, fingerprints associated with national security concerns compared to what we have access
to with the biographical information. if it's a concern someone will board using someone else's documents, that will transcend against all travelers that they could board a plane as a different person. a whole different set of issues and that's why we have the discussion, we could collect biometrics but where do we collect them that they're meaningful for what problem we're trying to solve? we're collecting the biometrics from the visa traveler when they arrive in the u.s. this is after they have gone through the biographical information that's been vetted through all of our holdings and vetted. it's after they booked travel to the united states and then we've received it. looked at the reservation information, the airline manifest information. run that through a very
intensive series and then travel patterns that would give us concern. that looking at real life events, what about this person's itinerary would raise some red flags for us? a male of a certain age traveling to certain parts of the world are going to give us more concern than others. and we set conditions to flag this type of information for us. we have an extensive set of information we apply against this to do that. then when they arrive in the united states, they go through the interview with the officer and we collect the full set of biometrics. it's the point in time like kelli mentioned, where do you do that when they go through this whole level of review? is it worthwhile to do it predeparture like a visa and what type of information are you
really trying to get to collect that? that's what we've been discussing. the biometrics are helpful. where is the right place that we don't shut down air travel, we don't harm ourselves versus the more good that we're trying to do. and that's what we're trying to balance here. where is the right place to take it, what information do we get from it? >> senator lankford? >> several things we've talked about, one is the biometric validating this is the person standing in front of me. do we have any way to track a number or a guess of how many people would try to come through and have a document that's false? >> so for visa waiver, it was 0.02%. >> pretty good off the top of your head. >> i've got it written down.
>> where we had biometric hits on them. >> where that person -- >> they're showing you a document -- >> none for national security. they were all for immigration admissibility issues in relation to entering under the ve isa waiver program. >> we caught it all at entry? that's based on facial recognition, i would assume that we have looking at the passport and what we see and taking as well? >> reviewing the passport, performing the system inquiries on that, taking the fingerprints and comparing them against the information on those fingerprints which is our biometric watch list, which includes criminal information and other types of databases. >> okay. >> i'm sorry, senator.
>> go ahead if it's on that topic. >> it sort of is. i hadn't heard that 476 number before. i think this speaks, senator baldwin, to your point about piloting effectiveness and it's about time. we're collecting the biometrics now. if the end result of all of those things is 476 hits, none for national security concerns, it seems to me that's an awfully small benefit to deploy a worldwide biometric collection system in advance of travel. right? if that number were, you know, 470,000 and some were national security, maybe you could make the argument that it's worth doing this in advance. if we're doing it already and it's resulting in 476 hits, none of which are for national security that seems fair ly compelling to me that doing it in advance is not going to give us a security benefit. >> 222 million. >> we denied entry to over 9,000 visa waiver travelers last year for a variety of reasons. that was after they arrived and got here.
this was after denying 60,000 esta applications in advance. you can see we paired the numbers down. >> i've heard a lot of conversation about we'll have a higher priority focusing on individuals who traveled to known terrorist safe havens. the term has been thrown around multiple times, iraq and syria. very few people are checking in to say, look, your passport is stamped syria, they're coming from lebanon and turkey. we're going to kick out those who traveled to iraq and syria that we're catching all individuals who traveled to iraq and syria or are we not tracking someone who went to iraq to advice ate dying grandmother that's there that's a family member? so talk us through the process of how someone would evaluate to
a known safe haven area when we're not getting a passport stamped from seyria? >> we would look at whether or not the intelligence community or the law enforcement community has provided any information to us through their classified holdings that we could bounce our information that we collect on the traveler against that to draw any associations, more than just a name check. if you're using a cell phone or e-mail address that we could connect to something somebody else picked up that we could relate to that would probably be the most capable way of doing that right now. if they booked travel that was continuous through there or if they had, you know, if they were leaving from the u.s. and going to a certain part of the world for six months, eight months with a return back and they have certain characteristics, that might also cause us to look
closer at that one. >> but someone traveling that's a french national, someone that's a french national traveling to lebanon and is in lebanon for 90 days and then returns back to france is not going to show up and we don't know if that individual crossed the border from lebanon to go fight in syria and then crossed back and is now returning. >> no, that wouldn't show up. >> it might not. those who seek to enter syria knowing that governments are watching out for that are going to break their travel, disguise their travel effectively. this is why you have to rely upon the intelligence community which is working cooperatively with partners across europe to identify those persons that may be suspect in that regard. >> sure. so that's one area because we hear that kicked around all the time. now you talk about this reciprocal agreement several times about relationships and
how we're going to other countries. kelli, you mentioned active inspections. do we have others coming in and inspecting our facilities and our checking processes that are doing rigorous checks on us and our systems? >> not even nearly, not close to what we do. i mean, it is not considered -- >> that's a yes -- other nations do come check our system? >> no, no, they do not. that's not a requirement. what we do do, we offer to share best practices and show how we do things. we have our international allies come and have those conversations. these are ongoing dialogues but, no, they have not come in to inspect our facilities and our cvp inspection booths or anything similar. >> we're the big dog on the block. senator ayotte?
>> thank you. so in the san bernardino situation, that was a fiancee visa issue. are you able to speak to that issue in terms of what type of vetting we do in that instance? because i think people want to understand what happened there and how that visa system programs differs from what we're talking about today on the visa waiver system. can anyone speak to that? >> sure. my colleague from consular affair services can speak to that. >> thank you, senator. i'm edward ramotowski, assistant secretary of state for visa services at department of state. with respect to the san
bernardino case, yes, indeed, that was a fiancee visa which is a type of visa issued to the fiancee of a u.s. citizen for the purpose of coming to the united states to get married within 90 days. and i can confirm the department has already said all applicable security checks were done for that individual, ms. malik. that includes a visa interview, facial recognition screening. it includes interagency counterterrorism screening. it included a review by the visa security unit of immigration and customs enforcement which has a detachment in islamabad in our embassy there. it included full biometric fingerprint checks. and in all cases, the results of those checks were cleared. there were no indications of any ill intent by that individual at
the time the visa was issued. >> there have been public reports there was some information that was wrong on the application, i believe on an address. can you share what type of information or investigation are done on applications that are submitted to verify what the applicant is saying is true? >> that varies by application and by location, if we have doubts about a particular part of a visa applecation, we have fraud units that can verify the data on an application form. with respect to this case, i will have to defer to an investigation in progress by the fbi. we have shared details and records with them and are working closely with them on any of the data that was provided. >> so as i understand it in terms of verification, it depends on the circumstances, so it's not something done
consistently on each application of, for example, the information i would fill out on a form -- where i've lived, connections like that? >> we verify information if the officer has reason to believe there might be something incorrect or inaccurate. >> the officer has to get a flag? in other words, it's not routinely done. i wanted to follow up on the paris attacks one of the attackers reportedly came through greece in a visa waiver as a refugee, obviously. and that raises the vetting of our refugee program upon which many of us have raised concerns. but greece is a visa waiver country and so, presumably, had that individual come through the
refugee process and how do we understand -- are we confident in the information we get from greece because -- how confident are we -- and i'm going to use greece as an example in the information we get from greece because, as i hear the testimony here today and one of the things we've collectively been concerned about is that there seems to be a difference of what we're getting from certain countries and the breds of the intelligence sharing and the depth upon the knowledge that we get and i'd like to know if there's a difference and inconsistency and if you can answer the greece question as well. >> just to level set the start of your question is that
refugees cannot travel under the visa program. it's citizens of the vwp countries that can utilize the traveler for business or tourist reasons to fly to the united states. >> i understand that. i use it for people going through countries. >> i am confident that all vwp countries have signed sharing information arrangements, that they are sharing that information that we, the united states, are sharing our list to other countries. i'm traveling to greece next week. i leave saturday. as part of our review process. >> we've signed all the forms among the countries. we're relying on the situation senator portman and lankford have talked about where you've admitted to us that -- and i
think it's consistent with what our fbi director said, essentially with the porous borders we saw in the "charlie hebdo" attacks that some of the attacke erers actually had trav to yemen. and then we see the situation where europe is frankly overwhelmed in terms of the number of foreign fighters who have joined up with isis and then returned to their shores. we've seen the fbi director say if you haven't made a ripple in the water in syria, we may not know. we could query our databases until the cows come home but if the information never gets in the database then we're not going to know and someone may not get the same level of scrutiny they should receive. i want to get to the issue where are the countries we're having the most problem with with a lack of robust intelligence to
make sure it's not so much filling out a form, we'll provide you what you've got. who is giving us the most who is not giving us the most? i find it hard to believe that they're providing us every single country in this program all that they can and should do. are you telling us they're doing all they could and should do to provide us intelligence? >> for those migrants that do come in whether it be greece or wherever, how long do they have to remain in the country before they get a passport from that country? do we have a consistent system or do we know what the system is for individuals that go into greece as a migrant, do they stay there two years and then get a passport. when could they get a greek passport. i apologize. >> i appreciate that. >> that generally speaking varies by country according to
their own citizenship laws and processes. that is something that's reviewed very closely by the visa waiver program inspections that we've been talking about. by my recollection greece has a fairly robust process for that. it's actually very difficult in greece to come in as a refugee and get a greek passport. that may be -- but it various according to their own internal law. the inspections require that the from degrees or the processes don't show up one day and then a week later have that country's passport. it does vary. >> specific countries and where they are i don't think it's appropriate in an open setting
to discuss the level of sharing. >> can you answer me yes or no, are we receiving all that we can receive and full cooperation of robust with every country in this visa waiver program? is the answer yes or no to that? >> i believe if they know someone is a bad individual t t that -- >> are they sharing all the information they can share? >> they will. >> they will or are they? this is what we're trying to get at. we don't have to get into specific countries but is there more that we need to push on on a gap of intelligence that will make this program stronger? >> so here's where the enhancements announced in august, we have the information sharing arrangements. that's not the issue. what we would like is and would
help and appreciate where these are codified in statute is using that information for their border decisions and letting the united states know when they have an encounter of those individuals. that's the piece we are focusing on and pushing to strengthen the program. >> i think my understanding is there's a minimum threshold to qualify for the visa waiver program. because the audits if you're not meeting the minimum threshold we can suspend and we've done that. we've done that with argentina and belgium. are there any countries right now under review? we don't have to name the countries that we aren't satisfied with that we may be evaluating for suspending the visa waiver program because they're stipulating there's a
variety of information in 38 different countries. i always go back to the point what's the alternative? 38 countries are all for sure meeting the minimum threshold or where are we at? >> we do about 19 reviews a year. each one of those reviews is accompanied by an intelligence assessment. ic i'm not sure if we remembered to mention that important part earlier. countries that may change their posture that gives us concern at all we have a lot of different options. we can review them more regularly. we can suspend them and certainly the last resort would be terminating them.
if everybody fails the security measures and that doesn't help our global community and that wouldn't help the united states either so there are a few countries that have provisional status today. they get significant additional oversight, monitoring, questions -- >> can you name those? >> -- visits. i'm happy to do that in a different setting. i'm happy to do that in a different setting. >> it is more classified in terms of -- >> well, if there's any type of security issue, i hesitate to announce it. >> it's not public stat us. >> no. >> okay. >> could i just jump in here? to the chair's point, this is a process ongoing. it's not like we take a photograph and a couple years later we take another photograph of their procedures. the audits don't last a day or a
week or a month. they last an extended period of time. and i think we need to be mindful we don't -- we haven't place e -- we have in place someone who is more committed to when the folks join us in the waiver program we want to make sure we know there's been a change and if they do change, it's to their advantage to be in this program. they want to be in this program. we want to be fully compliant with the conditions. >> as do i. and that's one of the benefits of the visa waiver program. they have to meet standards. so not only are we doing vetting that is identical but in different places in the visa, they're meeting additional standards and we get to go in and review them to make sure they're maintaining those standards and we currently vet the estas when we're talking
about the vetting on the individual traveler and we're collecting their biometrics every time they travel. it could be a two-year esta, but every time they travel they're meeting up with an officer, taking their prints, having them checked, they're having an interview. that is a continuous process. >> let me ask this question and see if anyone disagrees with it. continuing to improve, nothing is ever perfect but are we less safe or more secure because the program after 9/11, have we continued to build the databases? have we continued to improve it? are we better off because of it or are we worse off? my sense is we're better off. i'm not saying it's perfect. i do want to get to the point what are the things that have to be improved? anybody disagree with the fact? >> no, sir, and i'd like to make a follow-up point to that.
there's always room to do better. it's always evolving and the reviews are on going. countries want to be in the program, both countries in the program who want to keep their status but we serve as an incentive to raise their security standards. countries are looking in who sign the information agreements because they want to get in even though that may not happen for another five years. >> but they're making -- >> they're working hard. it's a powerful incentive. it just is. >> i would agree entirely. >> we are continually assessing and improving upon makes us
safer. to remain a member, there is the issue of the incentives and disincentives to losing membership. that's important and there are self-interests there. these 38 countries are the ones we should be partnering with and whereas 9/11 hit us and required us to break down stove pipes and break down border security, these are galvanizing those governments and they're pushing the threat as we are. it's a global phenomenon not limited to one or two countries. just getting to one of the questions that senator ayotte asked, for instance one of the things we've been pushing on is for governments to be better about sharing with interpol, for instance and that's a new innovation to stress and push and we're seeing real improvement there and that's
something that has to continue to build out so that we -- >> sharing what kind of information? beyond passports or including passports? >> yeah, lost and stolen passport databases is the first one but there's also sharing that can occur through other interpol databases. we're working with fbi. the fbi has agents at interpol to help set up a foreign fighter database, and we're pushing countries to share their own watch list data to build up that interpol database. these are opportunities to strengthen the whole network of information sharing. >> bwp countries provide 70% of the records that are in the lost and stolen travel document database. >> working with members of the house, i mo they just passed a visa waiver bill to strengthen -- i've introduced the companion bill with some enhancements. can i go through the provisions and see if anybody wants to comment on some of these things? will deny visa waiver protection
stat to us individuals who have connections to terrorist hot spots. if you have dual citizenship with iraq and syria, you're not going to be able to utilize the program or if you traveled to countries with significant terrorist activity. i think in the current threat environment that makes sense and anybody disagree with that is this but, again, also understanding it's not a perfect system as we talked about people going back and forth over the turkish border. we may not have the information. isn't this a common sense enhancement? >> yes, verifying it can be difficult as we discussed but what it does give us, it gives us a binding declaration of what that person says and if they do come here and we can determine otherwise that they have been to these zones and they said no, we have the ability to charge them with fraud misrepresentation. now it's a lifetime bar from ever even getting a visa. >> can i make a comment or ask a question about this point just to think about when we're advancing legislation. i had the honor of traveling with colleagues in my first year
in the senate to the turkish border with syria and this was obviously a different situation than isil wasn't as prominent as it is now. but one of our briefings was with a range of individuals, many of them u.s. citizens but many european who are parts of ngos going in to provide humanitarian relief who were briefing us on sort of the status of the civil war at that point in time. there were -- we got to talk to some journalist who is were venturing in to try to do war correspondence basically. how would we keep our country safe but also encourage that type of, if we want to encourage that type of humanitarian activity? let me also note one other important sector of people, folks who are trying to participate in the political
discussions to get a new government in syria and so trying to reach out to moderate syrians to form that new government. how do we deal -- >> no one is denying access to people coming in the country who have done that. it's not allowing the visa waiver -- not waveriiving the interview. >> just generally, how do you deal with that? >> denial of the visa waiver program allows us to push people over to the embassy for the consular interview and the collection of the biometrics and if they can overcome that reason and are eligible for a visa, the state department can issue one. i think we would look for some flexibility in those cases to look at the person's purpose or intent to travel to that region and if there's flexibility in the legislation or if not they'll go over to the embassy. >> we've had discussions with our european partners and they did mention the same categories,
humanitarian workers, journalists in particular. there's one other category that has been noted and those would be employees of international organizations, for instance, opcw, those that went into syria, for instance, to ensure the syrian government did away with the chemical weapons. >> the bill does have that flexibility built in acknowledging that fact. it demands stronger intelligence which is already occurring but requires people getting kicked out if they're not -- again, that's a powerful incentive to improve the process. nobody -- do we agree with that? enhance the screening of all travelers for these visa protection countries, there are a number of enhancements. i do want to hop down to preclearance because we haven't talked about that. that's one of the things we've added and hopefully can get that passed relatively quickly. can anybody speak to the advantage of kind of pushing out our borders into these preclearance countries? >> preclearance gives us the best ability to, i think, address most of these concerns
because we're able then to negotiate the authorities to operate on foreign soil and do our complete inspection as if the person had flown here. so what we can do, we can do the admissibility determination, the interview of the person, the checking of documents, the fingerprinting, the searching of them, of their baggage. before they step onboard that aircraft, the u.s. government can put their hands on people and their belongings before they do get onboard that transportation and fly here to the states. so that's why it gives us the best -- and then the information sharing and relationships we build with the host authorities because we're working side-by-side with them is a benefit of that. >> so, again, i imagine you're all familiar with the house's passing and have taken a look at our legislation. any cause for concern in any of those? >> no, senator, i think i would say from my perspective there aren't and it gets back to one of the points i made earlier that this is an evolving
program. it should be. there are a number of sensible ways to improve security, some of which dhs has done such as esta and data fields and some of the other things statutory auth. and i think that makes sense. >> are we missing anything as you have reviewed these things? are there things we should be looking toward? >> i will make one point, which is that as has been noted, 38 countries, there's quite a wide variety of capability and different perspectives on things like data privacy and the rest. we will work with the countries, some large, some small, some that are performing better, some that aren't performing as well. it will be -- the implementation will need to work with the governments to make sure -- as i said, there's a common perspective here. this isn't a difficult conversation in terms of anyone rejecting the idea of strengthening border security. everyone is part that was project. there may be some -- i think
generally, it will be positive. the question of being able to implement within a fixed period of time may be a challenge. we will work through that. >> without identifying the country, i just did meet with an ambassador for one of these countries. one of the complaints was some of the requirements, specifically the threshold in terms of how many visas are denied, that's kind of outside of their control to a certain extent. when you are going to an embassy, you are applying for a visa and now we don't like the way you look, i don't know. can you just sort of address that concern? >> yes, senator. i can assure you it has nothing to do with looks of the applicant. i know. you are quite right. that particular issue is outside the country's control. because it's determined on an individual basis based on the individual circumstances of each and every applicant that comes
in. and the visa waiver requirement is very tough. it's a 3% or less refusal rate. >> it got up to 10%? >> there was a period of time it rose to 10%. >> can you talk about what happened there and what -- why we took -- ten dropped to three. >> you were in the administration then. >> sure. very, very briefly -- this is opening up perhaps a separate issue. but there was -- as part of the 9/11 act that i referenced earlier that gave us the information sharing agreements and several other security enhancements, there was also a temporary waiver put in place to allow that threshold go from three to 10%, because several in particular eastern and central european countries and south korea have had a difficult time getting under the 3%, even though they were trending downward very well. but there was a sunset provision that said as of june 30, 2009,
if dhs hadn't implemented a system at our airports in the country, then the window closed and the waiver authority went away. so since 2009, we have been back in the 3% piece. >> my exit question. do you have everything? >> i sure do. one question -- i will ask george to join us at the table, please. george is the head of the dhs office of community partnerships. i want to ask him a a couple of questions. the question i would ask of each of the witnesses here and for you to think about -- this is a -- let's say you are on this side of the table and not on that side of the table and you have the responsibility to craft legislatively changes to the visa waiver program and the house has taken some steps, we have different legislation that
will be introduced here. my question of each of you to very briefly say one or two things, if we're going to legislate, for god sake, at least do this. that was my question. we spent a lot of time talking about ways to keep people of ill intent out of our country. we have not talked very much about the efforts going on within the department of homeland security to reach out to the muslim community and see how we might partner with them to reduce what i think is the greatest threat. it's not folks that are going to hunker down and imbed themselves in a refugee camp and get into this country that way. that doesn't make a lot of sense. we have worked very hard, as we are hearing here, to make more secure and effective visa waiver program, we're going to continue to do that. what i think we're seeing is the greatest threat to our security, our safety in this country comes not so much from people embedded with terrorists or with refugees
or folks coming through the visa waiver program. the greatest threat is people who come here, people born here and becoming radicalized. there's an effort going on to address that in a couple of ways. one is within the department of homeland security. you are involved in that. the other is outside of homeland security. i will mention what it is. tom freedman said recently, the folks that are most likely to be radicalized and want to go to syria or iraq to be part of this effort with isis, he described them this way. i'm paraphrasing. a lot of them are guys who have never been part of a winning team. a lot of them, they never held a woman's hand, never had a date, never had a job, never been part of a winning team. they see this as an opportunity to be part of a winning team. and to be able to have money, to have stature, to have a job and to be able to women, to put it
bluntly. if they get killed in the meanwhile, they go to heaven. they have more value and their family gets money as well. that's appealing to a number of people. i think part of what we need to do is make sure that isis is not seen as a winning team. the president said again and again and again, degrade and defeat. to the extent -- right now the effort is on the iraqi forces are standing up and being effective in ramadi. i finally have encouragement there. the kurds have done some good work. we're doing the air part. we are being joined by the brits and french. we're starting to get our act together. there's a chance as we continue to compress the amount of land that -- territory that isis has jurisdiction over, frankly take more of their lives, kill more of them. it's a tough way to say but that's what is happening. taking out their leadership.
they will be seen less and a winning team. they have to convey that change here effectively through social media or otherwise more effectively than we have done. why don't you tell us about you are doing in your office. tell us a little about it and how your operation works. what we can do, if anything, to be smoeupportive. >> thank you, senator. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for the support of legislation. within the first weeks of coming on my new role, scwhich is the w centrally focused effort to consolidate the cve efforts at large, so thanks for the support from your staff. i met with them within first ten days i was in the office and have given staff an overview of how i'm getting there. that's been incredibly helpful. the office was announced by secretary johnson on september 28th of this year. as an opportunity to consolidate the department's programs and functions and personnel and cve at large. our focus -- >> not everybody knows what cve
is. >> the u.s. government's efforts to counter extremism. we issued the first national strategy on this issue titled empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism in the united states. various departments and agencies have aligned themselves in different ways. in the past several years the department of homeland security has consolidated. my new office has further consolidated into a streamlined effort in which all the department's functions are focused out of the office which have i been appointed to lead. this new office has a remit for preventing violent extremism in the homeland and administering programs to do that. we lay out very clearly that this office focus will be run on senator johnson -- you mentioned earlier your comment on -- from your experience in manufacturing. we're taking a lesson from the private sector in this regard and structuring the function of this office as an stakeholder
model. mayors, county council members, civic officials as well as ngos and community leaders, those are the stakeholders. the function is to create products and service stakeholders across the country that can play a role in preventing or intervening in the radicalization process at some point. happy to go into further detail. >> okay. very briefly -- i thank you. just very briefly, one or two things if we're going to make legislative changes, what should we do? maybe what should we not do? >> thank you. i honestly think that the collection and a naturnalysis o passenger name record and
recognition is the most important thing that countries can do to enhance global security, enhance the awareness of who is coming into their country. i'm really encouraged by the steps that i have seen the eu take. i hope it goes the full way and that they take those measures. and that is the number one thing. >> that advance notice is made possible by the visa waiver program? those agreements, that cooperative sharing? >> right. we get -- i keep wanting to say api, pnr. we get that information and use it for all the flights that we're vetting against that are coming into the united states. we would recommend it as one of the enhancements secretary johnson announced to have that codified in statute would be fantastic because. of course, as you know, when they are trying to get through