tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN February 4, 2016 1:44am-3:45am EST
>> the committee on homeland security will come to order. the committee's meeting today to receive testimony regarding the threat posed from the exploitation of our nation's refugee and visa programs by violent islamist extremist groups. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. today we are in the highest threat environment since 9/11. there's a crisis of confidence in washington's ability to do what it takes to protect our country. over the past few weeks i travelled around the country to discuss the terror threats we face and how to thwart them. the american people are concerned and rightfully so. president believes terrorist groups like isis are on the run. the truth is that they are on the march, and gaining ground. make no mistake, they want to
send their foot soldiers to our shores. that is why we are here today. we must be clear eyed about our enemy's goals and do what it takes to prevent them from exporting their violence to america. this morning our focus is on the refugee and visa programs. terrorists have used these routes to get into our country. exposing security vulnerabilities into our systems. just last month, the fbi arrested two iraqis in the united states on terror-related charges. both were inspired by isis. one had traveled to syria and both had entered our country as refugees. in december, two isis fanatics in san bernardino launched an attack that left 14 dead and 22 wounded. one of the terrorists came into the united states already ra radicalized on a fiancee visa. jihadists see this as a back door into america and will continue to exploit them until
we take action. isis is posing as refugees. it has done so to murder civilians on the streets of paris. our intelligence community has told me that individuals with terrorism ties in syria have already tried to gain access to our country through the refugee program. what's more concerning is that top officials have testified before this committee that intelligence gaps prevent us from being able to confidently weed our terrorists from the groups. that is why i drafted the safe act, which passed the house with a bipartisan veto-proof majority last year. it would add additional layers of security to the process of admitting refugees from the conflict zone. sadly, white house has chosen to let partisan politics get in the way of national security and push for this bill to be blocked in the senate.
without these enhanced protections in place, more violent extremists will slip through the cracks undetected. our visa programs are in bigger concern. on the chart behind me you can see the terrorists have used student visas, tourist visas and more to infiltrate our country and plot significant acts of terror. time and again, we have failed to close the vulnerabilities in the system quickly enough. indeed, every one of the 9/11 hijackers came into america on a visa and we failed to connect the dots to stop them. several over stayed their visas and nothing was done. we saw this again in 2012 when the fbi arrested a moroccan national plotting a suicide bombing right here on capitol hill. the suspect entered our country on a tourist visa in 1999 and he never left. in a report to congress issued
last month, dhs admitted that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of aliens in this country. these individuals came in legally but not -- did not leave when they were supposed to. that is why we must fulfill one of the last remaining recommendations of the 9/11 commission by moving forward with a biometric entry exit system to track those who overstay their welcome. we are currently working on legislation to close other glaring gaps in the system. and to bring visa security screening into the 21st century by incorporating social media data into screening. more broadly speaking, this committee has led the effort in congress to shut down terrorist pathways into our country, our bipartisan task force led by the gentleman from new york made more than 50 actionable recommendations to improve our
defenses. i'm proud to say that as of yesterday, we have taken legislative action to implement nearly half of them. this includes a major security overhaul of the visa waiver program by an effort spearheaded by miss miller. however, we are deeply concerned that despite signing this law, the president does not plan to implement it faithfully. this failure of implementation is not the topic of today's hearing. the committee will convene one week from today to question witnesses from dhs and the state department on their inaction. let us not forget we are engaged in a war against islamist terror. americans expect us to act like it and to do what it takes to respond to the threat and secure our homeland. with that now the chair recognizes the ranking member, the gentleman from mississippi, mr. thompson. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman.
thank you for holding today's hearing. i would also like to thank the department of homeland security and department of state for being witnesses here today. given the evolving threat environment, it's proper that this committee examine both the visa security and refugee vetting process. last month in separate incidents, two iraqi refugees accused of having ties to the islamic state were arrested in sacramento and houston. in december of last year, the united states was stunned when a mass shooting and attempted bombing were perpetrated by two attackers in san bernardino, california. the perpetrators were husband and wife and the wife entered the united states on a k or fiancee visa. in november, it was reported that a fake syrian passport was found with one of the terrorists who carried out the deadly paris
attacks directed by isil. consequently, i understand the concern that is presented here today. however, as i have stated in previous hearings, it's important that we as federal policy makers embrace facts, not fear. our refugee screening process includes the most thorough vetting any visitor or immigrant to the united states undergoes. with dhs conducting an enhanced review of syrian refugee cases. throughout the refugee application process, applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases to ensure no new information has come to light. if there is anyplicant poses a risk, that person will not be admitted. with proper vetting, we should continue to welcome vulnerable populations to this country.
including syrian refugees in keeping with our history and values as americas. providing safe harbor to individuals who no longer have a home because of war and violence is the humane and american thing to do. today i hope to hear from the department of homeland security about information that the agency can publically share about its improvement to the refugee vetting process. advancements in technology and the evolving threat environment require continual evaluation of how the agencies' use technology in a vetting and screening process. it has been reported that the united states citizenship and immigration services is piloting the use of social media in vetting refugee applications. while we understand social media can play a role in refugee
vetting, we should remember it is only one part of an extensive process. frankly, the more explicit we are about our refugee vetting process in public, particularly with respect to social media, the more valuable information we stand to lose. users have the ability to control their social media so we do not want to tip them off. additionally, while the overwhelmingly majority of visa holders are legitimate visitors who comply with the terms of their visas and depart in a timely fashion, some have exploited the system. in the wake of september 11th, the attempted christmas day 2009 attack and other incidents, we strengthened our visa security by pushing out our borders, conducting screening early in the process and enhancing how we
vet visa applicants. i want to hear from dhs and the state department about what needs to be done and what resources are necessary to address security vetting challenges. i'm particularly interested in knowing whether there's a way to improve the vetting process to identify people that seek to do us harm but on whom we have no derogatory information, which i understand was the case with one of the san bernardino perpetrators. as we consider reviews of the refugee and visa security processes, we need to make sure that if there are improvements that need to be made congress will commit the funding for them. cannot make substantial changes to these programs if they are not properly funded. finally, mr. chair, in december the house came together and passed legislation to skrtrengt the visa waiver program.
i understand that you have already indicated that the committee will hold a hearing on the visa waiver program and specifically how the administration intends to implement language, including in the recent enacted omnibus bill to prohibit individuals with citizenship or recent travel to iraq, iran, sudan or syria from coming to the u.s. under the visa waiver program. instead, such travelers will have to obtain a visa. i strongly support giving the secretary discretion to waive the visa requirement when doing so is in the interest of our national security as provided for under the law and in fact supported some discretion for certain individuals on a case by case basis who traveled to one four countries for legitimate purposes.
however, i am concerned about recent statements indicating that the department of state and homeland security may attempt to exempt broad categories of travelers from the requirements of the law. and i look forward to hearing some comment at some point on that. mr. chairman, with that, i yield back the balance of my time. >> i thank the ranking member. other members are reminded opening statements may be submitted for the record. we're pleased to have a distinguished panel before us. mr. francis taylor assumed his post at the department of homeland security in april of 2014. in this role, he provides secretary johnson, dls senior leadership, dhs components of the state and local tribal private sector partners with the homeland security intelligence and information they need to keep the country safe, secure and resilient. thank you for being here and for your service.
he served as assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security and director of the office of foreign missions. mr. leon rodriguez was confirmed as the united states citizenship and immigration services. he was the director for the office of civil rights at the department of health and human services from 2011 to 2014. part of that time he served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the department of justice. mr. kubiak assumed the role -- our next witness -- of assistant director for international operations at the u.s. immigrations and custom enforcement on june 20, 2014. in this position, he is responsible for budget of more than $130 million and operational oversight of 63 offices and 46 countries and eight department of defense liaison offices with over 400
personnel. finally, miss michele bahn was sworn in as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs on august 10, 2015. she leads a team of 13,000 consular professionals and almost 300 locations across the united states and around the world who protect the lives and interests of u.s. citizens abroad. i want to thank all of you for being here today. i now recognize mr. taylor for his testimony. >> chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, thank you and distinguished members of the committee for allowing us to appear before you this morning to discuss dhs's refugee visa and other admission screening and vetting efforts. i have prepared a statement for the record, sir. but i would just highlight in my oral comments a few other items. dls together with our law enforcement and intelligence
colleagu colleagues leverage information and processes to carry out screening and vetting supporting our operational missions including preventing terrorism. screening and vetting are key to refugee visa and other admissions processes. every day, dls, with our interagency partners, vet managmanage millions of individuals traveling to, from or within the united states applying -- those applying for citizenship and immigration benefits and those applying for credentials and special accesses. screening and vetting efforts include biometric and buy graphic information collection, in-person interviews, details research and analysis, database vetting and bulk data screening, publically available information vetting including social media and identity verification. because of the technological
advances and the evolving nature of the threat environment that we face, we have efforts continuously under way to enhance screening and vetting processes. additionally, in december, secretary johnson asked me to lead a review of the department's current use of social media in our vetting and identity processes to develop a future state that optimizes the use of social media vetting across our department. our review found that while social media efforts are under way across departments, social media use as a svelvetting tool varied and could benefit from a unified approach that leverages the strength of the entire department and the state-of-the-art technological capabilities. the next step for us is to address these issues which we are aggressively working to do. while i cannot get into the
specifics of many aspeblcts in open meeting, these are the broad steps dhs is taking to improve screening and vetting of refugees and applicants. developing policies in a framework to systematically leave raverage all information available to the u.s. government to inform our vetting programs a and adjudication processes. screening at every stage of the vetting process to ensure new information regarding aprplicans informs our decisions. third, continuously refining and enhancing our policies, processes, capabilities and systems as we have since 9/11 to ensure that we leverage emerging technologies and capabilities and adapt to a constantly evolving threat environment. while we are protecting privacy and civil liberties.
fourth, determining the approach dhs investment strategy needed to ougautomate a process that enables bulk data screening and analysis in a manner that protects individual liberties but produces information of value. these are just a few of the steps dhs is taking to meet the challenge. we will continue to seek new ways to solve our most pressing national security issues and fulfill our border security, immigration and travel security and other homeland security missions. chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson and members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, secretary taylor. the chair now recognizes director rodriguez. >> good morning chairman, ranking member, members of the committee. thank you all for convening this very important hearing. chairman and ranking member, both of you observed there are very active and dangerous
individuals and organizations who are sworn to the destruction of our country. every morning when i wake up to begin to do my work, i think about exactly that. i want to talk about where the refugee program sits in the context of those threats. we have heard the refugee program described as a purely humanitarian and optional undertaking. i am here this morning among other things to suggest to you that the refugee program is, in fact, a vital part of our foreign policy and our national security. let's talk about the specific syrian case. the 4 million refugees now disbursed throughout the middle east and europe are on the whole the vehicle ticictims of the in who are sworn to destroy us here in the united states. they are now scattered throughout both the middle east and europe. 400,000 syrian refugee children are not in school. and i do not need to dwell too
long on what the consequences of that could be in terms of human trafficking, potential for radicalization. a long list of other risks and harms which should be intuitive to this body. therefore, refugee admissions are a critical element of regional stability, stabilizing the regions where these individuals are located which has important consequences to the united states. standing together with our european allies who are facing this problem very imminently. while where he talking about taking 10,000 roughly here in the united states, many of my european colleagues are spending -- are dealing with many, many times that already in their borders and in fact in many cases without any control. the 10,000 we're talking about is merely a quarter of a percent of the 4 million who are currently refugees. and a smaller fraction of the number of syrians who are
displaced either within syria or elsewhere in the world. they also represent about 1 300th % of the population of the united states. to fail to admit refugees who are the most immediate and most severe victims of that terrorism of those sorts of threats would cede a vital part of the battlefield to the people who are trying to destroy us. we need do this safely. that is the topic of this hearing today. i'm here to talk about refugees and about our immigration system and what we do and have been doing for a very long time to ensure that those who seek the benefit of coming to the united states and staying to the united states are not those who mean us harm either as threats to our national security or otherwoiz wise as threats to our society. refugees go through a very
lengthy process involving multiple interviews, multiple screenings. they are checked against databases of united states law enforcement, the intelligence community, customs and border protection, state department advisory services. many of these are tools that, for example, when we talk about september 11th did not exist at that time. were not in utilization at that time. even when we talk about individuals who came in 2009, 2010, some of the most powerful tools we use now are tools that were not in existence at that time. let me talk about one particular example. it's a tool that we call the interagency check that is now used in the case of virtually every syrian who is admitted as a refugee in the case of every iraqi who is admitted as a refugee. that sort of check goes against the entire universe of intelligence holdings and law enforcement holdings of the
united states. as evidence of the effectiveness of the use of those tools, alongside the 2,000 or so syrians who have been admitted, there are also 30 individuals who were denied outright because they failed either the check or the interview process. there are several hundred who are on hold as our fraud detection national security director conducts a more thorough investigation of those cases before we make a final decision. in fact, many of those may end up being denied because we are unable to resolve the concerns that we have about those individual. i look forward to talking in more detail. these are vital issues. i do want to provide both this committee and the american people the reassurance that they require so we can engage in this strategically important effort of refugee admission. thank you. >> thank you, director rodriguez. the choice recognizes assistant director kubiak. >> good morning chairman,
ranking member and members. thank you for the opportunity to discuss isis international engagement and security efforts to confront dangerous challenges. today, i am honored to provide an overview of our international operations and highlight a program i believe based on my 20 years of law enforcement is one of the most critical programs that we have at this point in our history. it will provide more gran lairty to director rodriguez's comments about new programs instituted since 9/11 that increase the vetting process we have overseas. currently, isis focused on detecting and deterring threats before they reach our nation's borders. to that end, we deploy approximately 250 special agents and 170 support and investigative staff to 62 offices in 46 countries. our staff works in conjunction with their foreign law enforcement counterparts to stop
criminal organizations and individuals that intend harm. as you know, the homeland security act of 2002 authorizes the deployment of officers to posts to perform visa security activities and provide training to our consular affairs colleagues. this critical mission is accomplished by the visa security program which we refer to as a vsp. the vsp's primary purpose is to identify terrorists and criminals or other aliens ineligible for the visa prior to their travel or application for admission to the united states. vsp places our investigators on the front line of defense so that they can exploit terrorist and criminal organizations through the visa adjudication process which is one of our first opportunities to assess whether a potential visitor or immigrant poses a threat. the u.s. government continuously vets applicants from the time they submit their application through the time they make their
travel arrangements to the time that they appear at our border and beyond. as new information becomes available through our screening processes, it's provided to the appropriate decision makers which can be state, cis, cvp or ice to ensure we use all the our tools and authorities to protect the united states from individuals who may present a security concern. recently, in 2014, we instituted the preadjudicated threat recognition intelligence operations team which we call patriot initiative as an important part of this screening process. ice personnel in coordination with state and cvp use the results fts automated screening process to identify individuals of concern, those vitd individuals are referred vifkly to specifically trained ice special agents deployed to 26 high risk locations in 20 countries. one of the most effective aspects of this program is its use of automated screening tools which identify individuals of
concern early in the visa application process which then allows us to utilize our law enforcement tools in country to participate in interviews and to engage international law enforcement partners to identify additional information that would not otherwise be available to the united states government. at the vsp locations ice conducts targeted in-depth reviews of high risk applicants prior to visa issuance and makes recommendations to officers to refuse visas when warranted. ice actions compliment the consular officer'splicant inters of documentation. at the same time, vsp facilitates the travel of individuals who as a result of the enhanced screening are determinesed not to be targets of iblt. in 2015 alone, vsp screens approximately 2 million visa applicants from the high risk locations and made recommendations contributing to the refusal of over 8,000 visas
by state. of those refusals over 2,200 applicants had some suspected connection to terrorism. last year we were able to create or enhance 760 records in the united states terrorist database as a result of the vsp operations globally. with the $18 million enhancement to vsp that congress provided, vsp operations expanded to six additional visa issuing posts last year. this is the single largest expansion of the vsp program in its 13-year history. further using the same fy 15 money, ice will expand to four additional locations which will result in a 50% increase in expansion of the program globally in just two years. this record pangs is made possible by the congressional dpu funding by the initiative to centralize patriot screening and vetting in the national capital region in collaboration with the department of state on site collection, post collection and expansion. together, ice and state are
training overseas personnel in integrating staff at embassies to enhance regular and timely energy sharing. ice, cvp and state department personnel are collectively identifying ways to further improve screening and vetting constantly and to identify the most critical embassies for future expansion. thank you very much for inviting me to testify today. and for your support of the ice mission and its law enforcement mission overseas. hsi remains committed to working with this committee to help prevent and combat threats to our nation. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you director. the chair recognizes assistant secretary to testify. >> thank you. good morning chairman, ranking member and distinguished members of the committee. thank you for this opportunity to testify today on the topic of security vetting for visa april ply kanlts. the department of state and our partner agencies throughout the federal government take our commitment to protect america's borders and citizens seriously.
and we constantly analyze and update our clear answer procedures. my written statement which i request be put into the report describes the rigorous screening regimen that applies to all visa categories. the vast monajority of applican and all immigrant and fiancee applicants are interviewed by an officer. every consular officer completes a training course with a strong exif a sis on border security, fraud prevention, interagency coordination and interviewing techniques. all visa applicant data are vetted against databases including terrorist identity databases that contain millions of records of individuals found ineligible for visas or regarding whom potentially derogatory information exists. we finger print nearly all visa applicants and screen them against the dhs and fbi databases of known and suspected
terrorists, wanted persons, law violators and criminals. all visa applicants are screened against photos of known or suspected terrorists and prior visa applicants. when the interagency screening process shows potentially disqualifying derogatory information, the consular officer suspends see is a processes and submits a request for a washington based interagency security advisory opinion review. conducted by federal law proi vied additional protections at certain overseas post. dhs immigration and custom enforcement special agents assigned to more than 20 embassies and consulates in high threat locations provide on site vetting of visa applications and other law enforcement support.
security reviews do not stop. the department and department agencies continuously match new threat information with our records of existing visas. now we refuse more than a million visa of cases a year and since 2001 the department revoked more than 1122,000 visas based on information that sure faced after issuing of the visa this includes 10,000 revoked for suspected links to terrorism, again, based on information that sure faced after insuing. mr. chairman ranking member thompson and distinguished members of the come hitty, the department of state has no higher priority than the safety of citizens at home and overseas and the security of the traveling public. every visa decision we make is a
national security decision. we appreciate the support of congress as we work to strengthen defenses. i encourage each of you to visit our counselor section when is you are abroad to see how we do this on a daily basis. >> thank you, i recognize myself for questioning. as i look at department's admission, it involves travel and identifying threats and keeping bad people and bad things outside the united states. keeping them from coming into this country. we are here today primarily as a result of the san bernardino mass shooting. and the fak malik, a pakistan foreign national was granted a visa and came into the united states and it wfwas shown her social media, something as
fundamental as every employer check, someone's social media and we have this system we want to bring into the 21st century when it comes to something so vitally important as the nation's security. i understand there is nothing derogatory on her facebook account worth mentioning. but mr. taylor, your predecessor mr. c hrohen raises the issue t were not looking at social media. it's my understanding since that time there are three pilot programs launched looking specifically at the syrian refugee program. it's important to note since may, more than 40 suspected jihadists have been caught entering europe from the syrian
refugee process, many had links to isis. so i guess my first question is, and i think mainly to the homeland security witnesses is and i understand there are 10.5 million visa applicants per year, it's an enormous number and there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, but when we look at the 10,000 syrian refugees, i think the american people are most concerned with and the congress, can you tell us now in light of the san bernardino shooting what are we doing with respect to the admittance of those 10,000 syrian refugees into the united states? are we checking their social media accounts, mr. taylor? >> sir, thank you for the questions, sir and i think director rodriguez can address that specific question, but i'd like for the record to be clear
that mr. cohen's suggestion there was a prohibition on the use of social media and the department of homeland security is false. we had policy in place since 2012 and to date, there are 33 we were not doing it comprehensively as a department. as you know, one of his big pushes has been to organize department mental information in a way that compliments the mission of our components and that's what our task force is focused on, how can we organize ourselves to use this in a most effective way across admissions that the department performs. director rodriguez. >> i want to give you the opportunity to respond because that's been made a big deal in
the media, but when was the task force formed. >> my task force was formed the 15th of december. >> so at this point with respect to the syrian refugee stream, we are reviewing social media in those cases where there are existing flags of concern. we are building as quickly as we can to build to a point where we would in fact be screening the entire body of syrian refugee applicants. we are prioritizing as we bring new resources online, we are prioritizing those areas where we detect the greatest risk, i think we hopefully discussed sole of that yesterday in the classified briefing. i think it's important to as we talk about social media to place
it in the right context of the overall screens we do. it is one tool among a battery of tools to screen a individual and used in congestion with the information we derive from intelligence databases. it is used with multiple interviews before they are granted admission and important to recognize those individuals are done with the benefit of intense briefing to our offices on classified and non-classified sources on the country conditions to a great degree of granularity that exists in the country's from which they are coming, syria or iraq. the other thing is we're not only talking about syria as we bring this capability on but also iraq. if we look at the history of individuals arrested for terrorist plots, there is more of a history certainly of
individuals having terrorist plots -- >> time is and spiring and in those cases, where we did have intelligence, we brought in terrorists. >> again, that's where the importance and i would like an opportunity to answer that. that's why the importance of the inner agency check not used in the same manner -- >> i understand that. this is about social media. when the director testified they raised concerns about the lack of databases to query to properly vet so my question again is are we checking the social media for the 10,000 syrian refugees bringing into the united states? >> just the high risk 10,000? >> right now, and then we're going to be moving to covering the entire -- >> which leads me to my next question so these visa security
units were isis is located in the embassy, these are the high risk countries. it seems you don't have the capability yet to check the social media but my recommendation is this be expanded, the social media checking and vetting not just to the 10,000 refugees but across the globe. >> sir, that's our intent to be as comprehensive as we can in capability to allow the maximum amount of vetting against that particular data set for the purposes of our department's missions. so it's not limited. we've started with the k 1st and refugee because that's a starting set but the longer term plan is to apply that capability against the vetting responsibilities. >> you certainly have my strong
support for the expansion. and anything we do to help you, let us know. with that i recognize the ranking member. >> tank yothank you, mr. chairm. taking off on your line of questions. related to the visa security programs, we historically have had six, there were six new high risk visa issuing ports authorized bringing it to 26. it's my understanding that on the 2016 appropriation it did not provided a quit funding to operate the expanded number of visa security program.
if we are mandating as congress for you to do more and don't provide the money. how do you expand the visa security program. >> thank you for the question. the funding that we were providing also was a companied by an author and ability to carry some money over into fy 16. we have been very ju dish shoulsly using the money and reapportioning the money around the globe to cover off on the larger threats as we see them developing and so we're able to use some of the money congress gave us in 15 in '16 for that expansion and to continue the enhancement and screening and vetting process as we move forward. obviously, we are always able to do more with more so if in for future appropriations, we're always looking for the way to
expand the vsp program, but for now, we are fine for 15 and 16 as we move forward. >> because you're able to use prior years funding to support present year's mission. >> yes, sir, that was an important enhancement that congress gave us last year was to be able to carry over that funding. >> general taylor, falling that line of questioning, with respect to the platforms for social media and other things, that there is an interest on this committee, have we identified the resources to complete those projects related to establishing the new platform on social media? >> sir, that's a part of our charter to develop an investment
strategy around that capability. this committee has been very supportive of certainly inas efforts at using data within dhs. those, that funding has been very useful for us in moving that forward but we don't know yet what the exact amount will be and once we have that completed we'll get it through the process and get it back up to the hill. >> well, can you kind of talk to us a little bit about whether or not you've identified the personnel necessarily to carry out that mission or are we going to have to depend on outside contractors to complete that mission? >> sir, my experience in this is that at the beginning we probably won't have enough capability on board in the government to do this robustly and that we will have to do some
contracting particularly for one talking about social media, also social media not in english so we need language skills and things more readily available initially in our private sector but long-term, i think we will build a capability that mirrors our department's responsibility to review this type of data and do so with government employees that are trained and able to do it. but my sense is the initial investment will be heavily contracted. >> ms. vaughn, for the record, there have been some discussion about the san bernardino individual, malik's facebook page. in a public setting, can you kind of clarify whether or not the presence or the lack of
derogatory information was on her social media? >> sir, to my knowledge there was nothing public knowledge. i don't believe there was anything on it, facebook page or something else one would have been able to find. >> thank you. yield back, mr. chairman. >> chair recognizes mr. smith from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary vaughn, let me return to the subject of syrian refugees. what percentage of syrian ref fuf g -- refugees are males overall? >> actually, i think i should take that question. >> okay. >> okay. director rodriguez. >> i believe it is a minority of the. >> the high commissioner says
62% are male. >> well, are we talking about ones that we've actually admitted to the united states or talking about the overall refugee stream, because normally what is referred to the united states most typically are family units. >> let's go by admitted syrian refugees, what percentage are males and what percentage are males of military age whether they are connected to families or not? >> we can -- i don't have that specific data in front of me but i can make it available to this committee. >> let me tell you what i think the answer is. according to the u.n. that is a source for 62% are male and your own data says about 25% are males of military age whether connected to families or not. do you have any reason to believe that's not the case? >> i have no reason to believe that's not the case. i'd like to get you the exact figures based on our experience but i have no reason to think. >> the state department tries to skew the data a bit. they say 2% are males connected
to families but if you leave off the connected to families, it suddenly expands to about a quarter of males of military age. if you don't -- if you don't find any problem with that, that's good. let me go to secretary taylor for a second. secretary taylor, what percentage of syrian refugees are you unable to conduct any background check involving third party or independent data? in other words, what percentage of syrian ref fuf gugees have a state except for what they, themselves tell you. i don't mean clean state by they are innocent of any wrongdoing but what percentage are you unable to conduct any kind of background check involving independent data? >> we are able to conduct the background check on 100% -- >> right. that wasn't my question. i'm saying what percentage are you able to vet that have
independent third party data that you have access to. >> sir, i'm not sure i understand. perhaps director rodriguez. >> yeah, i think the essence of your question congressman is whether we kwquestion the databases, what percentage of those individuals don't show up on the databases at all. >> blank slate, no information whatsoever. >> i've described to you the cases where individuals are in those databases because there is derogatory information about them on those databases and you're asking what portion, actually a very large portion don't have derogatory information about them. i think your question -- >> no, i'm not -- >> but -- >> any information. when you have no information about somebody, what percentage of syrian refugees fall into that category? >> we generally do have information based on what that individual provides. in other words, we're checking against country conditions.
>> again, let me go to my question and hope you'll answer it. what percentage of syrian refugees do you have no independent data on? >> a large percentage do not have derogatory information in the databases. there is other documentation that they present in just about every case. >> okay, i know they don't have derogatory but i'm saying you're finding nothing, a large percentage you have no information about one way or the other and you assume because you have no information, there is nothing derogatory, is that right? >> we have other sources of information to check the veracity of the information that they are giving us in the interview context. >> by information, i'm not talking about general country conditions, i'm talking about on that specific individual are you saying that in most cases you have no third party independent data? >> part of what -- it depends on what you're calling third -- in other words, if it is true, most of them will not appear in the
databases because they have done nothing wrong. >> right. >> in those cases. >> you don't know for sure whether they have done something wrong or not, is that correct? there's no way to guarantee they don't have something in their background that would be suspicious? >> we can never 100% eliminate risk in anything we do in this life. that is a truth. the fact is we do have a very intensive process to mitigate risk in this particular case. >> right. again, i think the answer to my question is you said the great majority are individuals about whom you have no specific independent data about. >> we have other documentation with which to check the information that they are giving us in their interviews. that is really the point i'm trying to make, sir. >> i guess i'm saying, again, and i don't hear you contradicting it, yes, you don't have negative but i'm saying you don't have information whatsoever on majority. >> we do. the individuals bring extensive government often bring extensive government documentation. we interview multiple family
members. we interview multiple members of communities, so there is actually a benchmark with which to test the information they are giving us in interviews. i think that's -- >> but again, that's general information. it's not necessarily about that specific individual. >> it is both general information and specific individual about that individual, about that individual's community, about that individual's family unit. >> but again, you said most you have no specific information about that is negative, shall we say? >> that is correct. that is correct. >> you don't know whether there could be something else out there that is negative that you don't have access to. >> certainly, if they are not in the -- if the derogatory information about them is not in the databases, we wouldn't know unless we got it it >> that's what i'm looking for. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'd like to thank all of you for your service to our country in helping keep us safe. i did have a question and it's
really important, i think, the ranking member was going down this line of concern by the committee and that's the resource concern and one of the things that i wanted to ask, i guess, secretary bond or anyone else who could answer this is the fact that reviewing social media now but do we have enough available to do the job right now? i have a concern resource-wise, we're not there yet. could you address that? is that a problem of resources for you? >> in terms of our ability to vet documents, social media, other information that's in the local language or in another language, for the most part our counselor officers are trained in the language of the country where they are working and we also have a local employees who are, you know, fluent in the
language and often assist with interpretation and other things. if need be, we would be able to hire additional people in the case of the state department's counselor work, we are fee funded and we would be able to find the resources if we needed to amp them up. >> well, i thought we are expanding in those areas beyond the pilots so if we are, is there enough in the pipeline? >> let me ask the colleagues from dhs to talk about the programs. >> from the perspective usc is and social media screening, as we increase the capabilities in that area, we do have access to language assistance contracts and whatever the relevant languages might be, i think you understand that our funding model is fundamentally different than everybody else at this
table. the work we do with respect to refugees that the resources for that are drawn from the fees that we collect from fee-paying immigrants, be a naturalizing citizens, green card holder. >> let me rephrase it. do you have enough linguists. >> we have access to enough ling we ests. >> do you have enough you're getting in the pipeline now for this expansion? >> what we are building now yes, we do have enough access and assessing what the long-term needs will be to directly answer the question i know you're trying to ask. >> i had a question, too. there is a difference with the refugees that are coming in, they don't have the same constitutional rights that american has. so along the lines assistant secretary bond, would the interview process, i'm curious,
have you tried to incorporate technology into that process in terms of lie detection and other issues for this? would those things implement at all in the interview status in the interview process? because we use those in our country, you know, if there is a waiver of someone and i was a district attorney before you know doing investigations and we incorporate those things here. are they being incorporated as part of your vetting process? >> sir, if you're asking specifically about the interviews of the refugees, that is a program that is -- that again we all keep going back to our friend mr. rodriguez. but it is his agency that does those interviews. i can answer questions with respect to visa -- >> mr. rodriguez, i'm sorry, thank you. >> yeah, i think your question is do we have enough
resources -- >> no, are you incorporating technology devices advanced now in terms of lie detection as part of that process? >> yeah, i would not talk about the specifics of how we use technology in an open hearing, sir. i would be happy in a closed setting to describe what we're doing, what we're thinking about doing, but i would not venture into that area in this setting. >> okay. i can understand the classified side, however, the person that -- i understand it but i think it's -- you're being a little broad in not answering the question because the people that are going through it are going to know it's there. it's not going to catch people by surprise. >> yeah, i mean, do we use polygraphs in the refugee setting, the answer is no. there are other, again, there are other things i think you would want to know about that i would not try to discuss here but if your direct question is are we using polygraphs, the
answer is no. >> i want to quickly in a few seconds, the time frame for moving some pilots for social media review in these critical areas, can you give us just an idea time frame when you'll be able to expand and how much in the future? >> right now we are conducting manuel vetting, in other words, we're literally just going into facebook and google and other sources to identify the social media information that's very slow going. so in the short term we're going to be focussing adding as quickly as we can for the syrians as soon as possible so we cover as much of that 10,000 we're seeking to admit as we can. longer term we're looking for technology solutions to permit us to look at that more broadly and i don't know the timeline for identifying and deploying those technology solutions more bro broadly. >> thank you, my time is up and thank you again for your
service. >> if i can just add to that in the visa waiver bill, we did put the department needs to look at these new technologies for truth detecti detection, if you will. mr. rogers from alabama. >> thank you. mr. taylor, back in october we had director comby from the fbi and we asked if he could tell us he threw the vetting process should assure us isil would not be able to move terrorists this and he basically said no that the problem was we didn't know what we don't know. and here we are four months later and to my knowledge, we're still in the same situation. so why are you insisting that we continue to visit this top pick of this 10,000 refugees? >> sir, i believe there are two questions. i'll ask director rodriguez to answer the question on the refugee screening, which is more
of his line. i believe what director comby was referring to was the data he had available in the n frfbi an intelligence community about the population. we know a lot more today about this population than we did when he testified back in october and we continued to learn every day. that's our system. i wouldn't want to go specifically into how that knowledge base grows but it grows every day. it is grown since 9/11. i welcome the opportunity to in a closed session or another session to speak to that capacity. >> well, it grows because we had a lot of room for improvement. the problem is we can't say for a high degree of certainty they won't be able to sneak isil members into the groups and i got to tell you mr. rodriguez, i've been here, this is my 14th year to be honored to serve in congress. i haven't heard an opening statement from a witness i
disagree with more than yours. i don't know why in the world you think we should have a sense of urgency to accept these refugees. moral or otherwise. the fact is the refugees who have left syria are no longer in danger. our moral obligation is to make sure they have a place to stay, health care, food until we can get them back into their country. we have them in lebanon, jordan, turkey. i can understand why you would think we want to be generous americans and help them but why should we move them into our country? i can't understand why you think that's necessary. one of the things that came up when director comby was here is we had a group of refugees that came up through south america to mexico and came to the southern border and turned themselves in and wanted asylum. those people were.
we have and is happening in western europe, as well. these people are not -- once they are out of syria, they are not looking for safety anymore. it's about economic security. i had the ambassador from romania in my office and asked them as they were talking about the migration issues really upset western europe and eastern europe and i said, y'all had a problem with refugees in romania? he started laughing. he said we're way too poor. the only ref fugees that came t romania were by accident. so tell me why we're focused on this instead of removing bashar al-assad from power so these people can go back home? why are we not working to stay in the neighborhood and encomplimeencom encampments and cities. >> i think an important starting point for this discussion is the fact since september 11th, we
admitted 785,000 refugees. 128,000 of those came from iraq. a number of them have come from other places where there is in fact an active terrorist threat. somalia, other parts of north africa. not a single one of them has actually ever engaged in an active attack on the homeland. there have been plots that have been disrupted by u.s. law enforcement. >> what percentage of that number happened in the last few months since paris and since we've had the problem, the attempted attack in berlin or the attack in san bernardino? you're conflicting this into a different picture. the world changed dramatically in the last several months. i agree. we had a great rich history with immigrants but we have a new dynamic now and that's natural vent. what you're describing is natural vent.
>> i guess, congressman, where we disagree is i do not believe refugee admission is purely a moral and humanitarian under taking. it is that. but it is much, much more. it has a critical strategic national security in foreign policy role. if we are not seen as offering opportunity to the very victims of isil then we will have given away a vital part of the battle field. >> why do we owe them opportunity? >> because right now those individuals are displaced. they may be safe over the short term. there are 400,000 children who are not -- >> we can provide them opportunity for safety in their neighborhood, turkey, jordan. we don't have to have them in our country to make sure they stay safe, well fed and cared for. >> that's a reason why the numbers we are taking are relatively small compared to the
overall number who are in refugee status and into something we're doing alongside the other english-speaking countries that have made commitments to accept refugees and european countries that made commitments. that's critical. we need to work with our allies to deal with this problem together. we can't say it's their problem and not ours that in my mind does have a national security were case if we do not look at it that way. but i understand that is a point on which you and i disagree, sir. >> thank you. >> chair recognizes mr. longman. >> i want to thank the panel for your testimony today and the work you're doing to protect the american people. general taylor, secretary bond, you've both highlighted some processes that the federal government is implementing to
tighten screening of visa applicants and refugees and i think we can agree this is as vital to ensure that security reviews are as thorough as possible and thorough enough to flag an applicant with however i remained concerns for applicants for whom there is no u.s. source for intelligence but maybe intelligence from our partners. do you share these concerns at what barriers remain to free flow of information between counterterrorism agencies here and those abroad particularly in different privacy laws that we have that maybe restrict that information showing and you've had testimony both in classified and open sessions expressing that concern but what can we do to remove them? >> congressman, thank you very much for that very pert nant
question and strengthened the program to include the six requirements for information sharing. which not all countries and visa waiver were had an agreement with the united states. by the end of this year, all countries will have that agreement and i think that strengthens the intelligence and law enforcement exchange that is so vital to the problem. the one thing that has been crystal clear to me is that terrorists do not honor boarders. they do not honor law enforcement. they move as anywhere they believe they can move with impunity and the way in which information sharing allows our
governments and our allies to be morefective in spotting those movements and so that exchange is rich. it's continuing and i sense a new sense of urgency and our partners particularly in europe to collect the data necessary to protect their country and in collecting their country's, collecting the data make that data available to u.s. authorities on a precr reaccept. >> you're confident that takes care of the problems, there would be no barriers or information sharing on the european side of the date need to change their ways in anyway to accommodate more robust sharing? >> all i can say is we made it very clear to our partners in the visa waiver program that a necessarily ingredient in that agreement for visa waiver is
that we have an information sharing agreement and that we're insisting on it. that begins a process. it's not an end game but these relationships grow over time but the frame work for those relationships will be in place with all of the country's that we currently have visa waiver agreements with. >> thank you. secretary taylor, in your testimony, you state that the department recognizes the te technology advances and threat required to continuously reev reevaluate and i am prove the screening and vetting process. can you further elaborate on how your evaluating and how you're going to enhance the way the department elicits information from applicants identifying new kinds of data that might be valuable and developing new methods to efficiently incorporate this data into the department's systems?
>> well, i would answer that in two ways, first the committee is supportive of the initiative of the seblg tarry to have frame work and for the frame work to be effective in sharing data across all of our components as opposed to individual components, which is a big step towards how we organize ourselves to use information that may be available in one component that's not available in another. so that's the first step. the second step is these issues are becoming much more complicated and in many cases components will solve their initial issue that they want to do with social media but not solve a more broader issue. our task force is designed to create really a center of excellence for vetting in the department where we're continually striving to look for new techniques, tools,
processes, that help us get better at this, not at a suboptimal level with our components but as a department and that's our goal going forward. >> i think it's essential to be nimble and to recognize this technology and changes so raptly we're doing everything we can do incorporate the new capabilities into our vetting system. >> that's our -- that's the secretary's direction and moving with deliberate speed. >> thank you. i want to refute one thing that mr. rodriguez just said. hadn't been an act of terror but i want to have law enforcement stop the acts of terror that could have be committed to refugees. january 7th, texas and california, prime examples of iraqi refugees, granted refugee status in this country 2006, 2009, whatever the year was.
law enforcement got it right. they actually stopped it. i applaud them for that. i thank you men for your service but the glaring example that i just mentioned shows that if you don't vet refugees coming into this country, the potential, the possibility as an october of terror happening on u.s. soil from someone that comes from iraq or syria is real. the -- last week back in the district i had an opportunity to testify before the south carolina state senate, possibly the first time a united states congressman has ever testified in the general assemble of south carolina, myself and congressman on the syrian refugee issue. south carolina does not want unvetted syrian refugees to locate in their state but yet, administration continues to try to make that happen.
since the syrian civil war broke out the numbers i have are 2,693 syrian refugees have been admitted into this country. for the record, 53 of those were christian. 33 were nonmuslim. the remaining of those were muslim. mr. chairman, i would like to submit for the record, testimony from last week. >> without objection. >> thank you. >> in 2011 or 12, mr. chairman, you and i traveled to afghanistan. and there at a operating base we met a gentleman that was assisting the united states military. as a translator. his name was hollywood. after we left, we were contacted by a former member of congress from hawaii who served with that
unit at that operating base knew hollywood well and saw him want to pick up a gun and fight the taliban threatened by the taliban for being an interpreter for this country. he asked us to assist hollywood coming into the country with the asylum program for interpreters that our country. it took over two years for this gentleman verified by the general of the third army tenth mountain division verified by the unit he assisted and had members of congress writing letters for him, who had general portrays met the gentleman. took two years to get him. we scrutinize his background. but we're going to allow
unvetted syrian ref fugees said they will infiltrate that refugee program and also exploit the migration program and europe and that's another top pick of foreign fighter flow of visa waiver program of the ability for someone who has along term vision to get into europe and eventually come into this country under those programs. but we're going to lay low unvetted syrian refugees into this country? we don't know whose coming into this country by allowing uns unvetted syrian refugees. he said we're trying to do better and got it on testimony but we're not very good at it. we can't tell you that we vetted these folks because the information isn't available. the records have been destroyed and stolen. someone from syria can travel
into turkey and for $600 buy a new identity and passport. so mr. chairman, i appreciate us continuing to raise awareness of this issue with syrian ref fuf gees. i'm amazed that an administration that wants to expand background checks for law-apriding american citizens exercising their second amendment constitutional rights will refuse to do the background checks necessarily and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> the chair recognizes ms. torrez from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to ask unanimous consent for statements from a coalition of faith based and advocacy groups to be entered into the record. >> without objection. >> thank you.
>> so mr. rodriguez, mr. taylor, thank you so much for the briefing that we received yesterday making yourselves available to us to brief us in a classified vetting. so i want to make sure i understand that process. as you know, i have been very involved in the refugees that were placed in my home city. i've had meetings with them and about the interview process and asked them directly from their protective what was their experience. two families very young children and one has a male that was, i think, 15 or 16 years old when they started the process. he's 19 now. 19, 20 now.
now social media for a 3-year-old obviously, a 3-year-old and this is an american 3-year-old like my 1-year-old grandson may not have a social media account, may not have a social media presence, right? so when we ask you to check all 10,000 of those through a social media process, that could be impossible. is that -- can you explain that process to me? >> i don't think it would be impossible. there may not be a social media presence for all 10,000 of those individuals but the capacity to determine that is something that's certainly within where we're trying to drive towards. >> right. >> for the future. >> so the male, the young male explained to me that for every one appointment, interview
appointment the family had, he had two or three additional appointments. cell phone records, phone books, any information that he could provide to the department was asked in very different meetings to ensure that he was telling the truth or to verify that he wasn't giving different types of statements. mr. rodriguez, that enter agency check that you were beginning explain earlier, can you provide a little more detail? >> sure. >> information on that? >> sure. i think the example you're siting and i'm assuming that was a ref fuf gee interview overseas but may have been subsequent activity in the united states. >> no, it was overseas. >> it ill straights the point i was trying to make to congressman smith is we don't just hear what the person has to say where there are reasons to
we go beyond and look for dos f documentation to help us corroborate information that is presented in the testimony. speaking specifically about the enter agency check in not at liberty in an open setting to talk about everything that sets behind that check. everything that is checked as part of the check but part of that is it gives us a one-stop place to access all intelligence holdings, all law enforcement holdings, that could carry and in fact in some cases have carried derogatory information about an individual. >> i don't have a whole lot of time. i do want to ask you is it in the best interest of the u.s. to have a robust process there overseas rather than closing
that process that would possibly encourage more syrian refugees to take on a path to come through our southern border and present themselves knowing that once they are here, they are here and we have to deal with them at our border. >> i think that's one of the -- another critical point, which is we can either have an orderly internationally based system of migration where we work together with allies and create an actual opportunity for permanent resettlement or we can have hundreds of thousands and millions of people who are displaced without any prospect of immediate settlement meaning kids don't go to school, they don't have any kind of economic security that will have consequences for the world if we allow that to happen. >> thank you, my time expired and i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairchairman.
my constituents in pennsylvania are worried about their safety when they hear the refugees coming into the commonwealth because they simply don't trust the vetting process and to be honest, i have a lot of concerns, too. here is why, here in this committee, the former fbi assistant director, our human and this is his quote, our human resources in syria are minimal and we don't have a government we can partner with and that's a key thing. two, national counterterrorism senate director nickelous explained the intelligence picture we had of the syrian conflict zone isn't what we would like it to be. you can only review data which you have. three, fbi assistant director said the concern in syria is that we don't are have the systems in place on the ground to collect the information. all the of data sets the police
the intel services you would seek that information and four, fbi direct tore james comey said we can question the databases until the cows come home but nothing will show up because we have no record of that person we can only look at what we have collected. my question to you is can you confirm to us today that not one single refugee who doesn't show up on our databases is admitted into the united states? >> i think that's a point, if you don't show up on the databases it means there isn't derogatory information -- >> that's not true. i don't think anybody here believes that. i don't think -- we have no database to check doesn't mean that there is no history. we have no records or we cannot count on the syrian government to give us that database. that doesn't mean nothing exists. it means we don't have any
database to collect that information. i don't think anybody here believes that. >> i think one of the key parts -- >> this is why the american people don't trust us allowing people in here because they don't think they are getting a straight story. >> if i had a couple moments to describe the entire process. >> answer my question first. can you confirm today that not one single refugee from syria will be admitted into the united states if they don't show up on a database? can you confirm today that not one person will be allowed in? >> if they -- if there are people who have been admitted, that doesn't mean we don't take other steps. >> that doesn't mean -- >> there are other things we do to satisfy ourselves that the person we are admitting does not pose a threat. i need to hear how the process works before focussing on one element of the process. >> it only takes one person.
doesn't take an army. your family, my family, every single person in the family, that family is the most important people in the world to you. it only takes one person. i don't think we should allow one single refugee into the united states if we cannot confirm that we have checked the database and we can confirm that that person does not possess an intent or threat to the american people. i want to go onto the answer there. i've been saying since i've been in congress and i know sometimes i sound like aken record. at a 9/11 commission report taught us many times that the best weapon that terrorists have is a valid travel document because terrorists want two things, to get into the country and stay here just long enough
to carry out their mission and more than 40% came here legally and they have their visa expire and may never have left and we can't find them. if your state is home to an international airport, i believe you're a border state. of approximately 400 individuals convicted in the united states as a result of international terrorism related investigations conducted from september of 2001 through march 2010, approximately 36 were visa over stays. i don't believe there is a strong enough deterrent to for anyone that wants to over state their visa and that's one reason i introduced a bill which brings the laws in line with the current law for crossing a boarder unlawfully, making it parallel and more of a deterrent. under secretary taylor, would you agree tougher penalties and
clarity in the law will help agents perform jobs and do you think we need to have a tougher deterrent than exists right now for those thinking of over staying their visa. >> sir, at this point, what i would say is that the department for the first time in history produced a vis sa over stay rept that was asked for for many years. this is an area of great concern to our secretary and directed cvp and ice to work on potential solutions that would detour individuals from wanting to over stay their invacation to our country. i'm not in a position today to let you know what that looks like and i'm sure the secretary will will be happy to address that issue. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. perry, from pennsylvania. >> thank you mr. chairman.
>> thank you for your time here today. mr. rodriguez, can you tell us the last time you read the national security strategy? >> not sure i have read the national security strategy. i'll acknowledge that. >> okay, so i'm looking at your resume here, what's provided to us and assuming it's correct. it goes back to 1997. i see you spent time in pennsylvania but i don't see any foreign, any service in foreign countries or with the state department or whatever and the reason i bring this up as i listen to your opening statement, i found it breathtaking that you lecture and suggest to the united states congress the representative of the people this refugee program is a vital part of foreign policy and national security and while i appreciate your opinion in that that is out of your per view. your job is to carry out the
work that when we are looking through social media, we're doing so without the active consent of the individual and the social media account. >> so is this policy going to change? >> well, this is the sort of the ordinary baseline that you're looking at, in fact -- >> shouldn't the ordinary baseline even considering the questioning regarding databases and information we don't have where we're relying on many systems but arguably on the fidelity of the individual themselves shouldn't the policy, shouldn't the default setting be that we're going to check everything and make exceptions when we don't need to check everything? it seems to me the default setting is we give the people the benefit of the doubt unless we find something deregulatory. >> i think there is more significant practical issue, which is all we can access, all we have the teool to access is the public facing statements
issued in particular in the last year which give us proactive authorization to look at social media accounts as part of our security vetting for people we are admitting. >> is that the default setting or the exception based on this policy? >> what i'm telling you is what we are doing. we can parse what the policies say. what we are doing is when we are looking at social media we are looking at it -- >> when we're looking at social media. i picture myself, you're the director. i'm one of the folks on the field looking at policy statements saying i have to treat theme people that don't know the language, could be a terrorist like every american citizen. do i say i'm not sure about this one. >> that's not what we are doing. with are working with appropriate linguistic support at these accounts without necessarily seeking the specific
consent of the individuals. >> if i might follow on. this policy was written in 2012, was promulgated by our privacy office and not part of the broader dhs strategy for the use of social media and our operations across department. one of the responsibilities the secretary has given to my task force is to rewrite our policy to bring it up to current standards. >> when can we expect that? and what is the interim guidance if you don't mind? what is the interim guidance. what is their guidance and when can we expect to change? >> 33 clear policy -- i can get those for you that outline the day to day use of social media.
my intent is to have a policy before the secretary within the next month. it's on my shopping list of things that i got to get done. but this policy was written in 2012 as a baseline for how the department would use social media. certainly the environment and the technology has changed significantly since that policy was written and that is why the secretary wants a comprehensive plan. >> i look forward to that information. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we have had a robust discussion about the things you are doing to enhance the vetting process for refugees and for people coming to the country in general. i want to talk about what we should be doing. i think in this instance especially when it matters to national security we need to strive for perfection at all
times. i was very heartened by your comments when you said you are constantly rechecking the processes. that is exactly the attitude we need to have. i have one question for you and then a secondary question that is more general. the question for you is in enhancing the vetting process for public access to the internet, how much input are you getting from the private sector? i ask that because in my role as chairman of the subcommittee on transportation security it's become apparent to me that homeland security in general and tsa do not do a good enough job of looking at what is going on in the private sector. necessity is mother of invention. sometimes homeland security's procurement process is preventing you from getting the ideas that are out there. i'll give you one example. there are public companies that do a terrific job with creating algorithms that they use in the
private sector to mine public sources to vet people. and we are not doing that on the homeland security level. i think we need to. >> thank you very much for the question. it's really a part of the charter i have been given by the secretary in our task force not only to look at best in class within our department and government but best in class in the private sector to that end we have announced an industry day at the end of february where we are going to invite folks from across the private sector to come in and tell us what they are doing, how they are doing it and how that might help us with the mission that we have set forth. we recognize -- as you know i came back to government from the private sector where there is a lot of innovation and we should exploit that innovation as we move forward in this effort. >> i applaud that and i would like to have you report back to
us what you are doing in that regard because that is somewhat of a change from the past. sticking with same vendors are not how to solve this problem. >> it's not invasion. we are happy to come back as the task force develops. >> i take it all four of you agree that mining the public sources of the internet is holy appropriate when trying to keep our country safe. >> absolutely. >> i note for the record everyone is nodding their head. i'm glad to hear that. with respect to -- switching gears we talked about the kentucky incident where an individual slipped through the cracks and plotted terrorism activity here in the united states before they were caught and arrested and convicted. and obviously that's a huge concern. then we also heard about not so much in refugee process but recent case of tashfeen malik.
there are gaps and problems. instead of telling us what you have done, tell me what you have learned from those two cases. what you have learned that you can do better because in both of those cases we missed them and one was particular a refugee process, the kentucky case. tashfeen malik was a visa case. in both cases we missed it. i'm not criticizing. tell me what to do to make it better. >> sir, i think it's been clear from the members of the committee, everyone that sits at this table understands personally and professionally the challenge that we face in terms of protecting this country from folks that would do her harm. and our process is very clear. every failure becomes an opportunity to learn. every failure becomes an opportunity to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures and to go back and
examine it just as we did in the private sector when we had failures we go back and take a look and improve. and every day the system is evolving. every day because everyone in this business today understands that the american standard only takes one. and we don't want that one to happen. unfortunately, a couple have. but our process is not to say we got it. the process is to critically examine what we do, why we did it, why the failure occurred and adjust our processes and procedures to address that. >> when these two particular cases, what did you learn from those two case snz. >> we learned that potentially we should in the malik case which is why we are looking at social media that perhaps we didn't explore as many sources as we could have explored although her private social media would not have been
available. we have begun the process of developing a system to do that and in the kentucky case we have gone back to look at the vetting and the sources that we use for vetting and were not as extensive. and since that case came to light we have significantly enhanced the screening processes that are used in our gent law enforcement partners for that purpose. in each case we do a deep dive in terms of what the failure was, figure it out and adjust processes appropriately. >>. >> just like to point out that we aren't just learning from the incidents in the united states but we are constantly evaluating those as they occur and partnering with counter parts. in the instance of paris we were
involved through our offices in scrubbing the information that was being shared from law enforcement about the attackers and were able to make significant contributions back to that while also tightening our own defenses. i'll be happy to give greater detail so we don't divulge methods and tactics. it is not just waiting for an event to occur in the united states but it is through law enforcement and our law enforcement capabilities adjusting our tactics as the world evolves. >> i would add one more thing. every week i chair or co-chair with the secretary our counter terrorism advisory board. every morning i meet with the secretary on new intelligence that has come in. and through the -- we challenge our components based upon intelligence and what is
changing. what have we done differently? it's the first time in the history of our department. every component head sits at the table for accountability from our secretary. we have developed a counter terrorism posture that says intelligence is changing. we need to change and we need to understand how that intelligence changes our defenses. and we do that on a weekly basis. it's why we change aviation, security, lots of other things going forward. that has been at the direction of the secretary. >> thank you for your indullgence. >> mr. donovan from new york. >> i thank each of you for what you are doing to protect our country. all of the testimony was about reevaluating and improving screening process with the visa applicants. i'm concerned with another significant gap in our security. it's been publicly reported that there is probably hundreds of
thousands of stolen syrian pass ports, some of which are blank. it's suspected that these documents are in the hands of the islamic state. we have heard about our counter parts in the european countries saying that there is a real industry in selling these false documents or stolen documents. at least two of the attackers in paris apparently had false syrian passwords when they entered the e.u. through greece with them. this proliferation of documents used by groups like isis present a real challenge for our screening process. i was wondering is the information being reported confirmed? is that the information you are dealing with, as well? we are getting reports from the press about it. if it is what are each of your agencies doing to deal or combat or address that issue? >> sir, i ask mr. kubiak to
address that. i think the specifics are probably handled in a closed setting as opposed to this venue. we are concerned about any false documents that could be used to move anywhere in the world but we have systems that we are working with from an international perspective to address that particular issue outlined more fully. i would like to do that in closed session. >> if i may just jump in before mr. kubiak. we are aware of the issue that you are describing. i wouldn't say much more in this setting. what i do want to say is that is a critical and well developed component of our screening and that as situations arise we take specific steps with respect to those situations like the one you described.
that is all i would say in an open setting. i want to communicate we are on it and talk about it in greater depth in a different environment. >> thank you for your question. fraudulent documents are a critical part of the investigative mandate. as we look at all travel and illicit finance that funds illicit travel as it occurs around the globe ice has and has had for a number of years one of the world's most renowned forensic laboratories which special ices specifically and located not far from here if anyone would like to take a tour or get a view of it. it has immense capabilities supplied on evaluating false documents, recording lost and stolen documents like the ones that you are referencing and promulgates that and shares that
information with other countries so we are able to up our defenses and know what the current entry documents are and how the fraudulent documents fake or stolen are used in the network to supply criminals and terrorists potentially travel networks, happy to give you because it is such a big part of what we do, happy to give you a much more significant briefing. >> you mentioned how we share the information with our allies. are they sharing their information with us, as well? >> yes. it is a broad question because types of information. we can get into that in a different setting. on passport requirements we are getting information from foreign governments that says this bank of passports or stolen or this is a compromise and here is information that we have about
others that may be similar and we are sharing that back and forth. some countries more so than others and some more robustly than others. we can include that in a briefing. >> i didn't want to leave you out if there was anything you needed to add. >> only add we work closely on this and also participate in reporting any lost or stolen u.s. passport once that is reported to us we make sure it is immediately registered so it is available to other nations and of course across the interagency. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you to the panel. i want to start off by saying the men and women that make up your organizations recognize the difficult task they are charged with. i recognize the environment with which they operate and they should be commended for hard
work. the men and women in the organization are trying to do everything to keep us safe. what is a special interest alien? can you explain that in a short period? >> we talk about individuals from other countries. so typically what i refer to is an individual from the western hemisphere coming into the united states. >> when you talk about refugees, are you including asylum seekers in that category? >> i would defer to mr. rodriguez on that specifically. >> it's not a trick question. i just want to be clear on the terms that we are using. >> a refugee is an individual making a claim for protection. an asylum is making protection under the same basic legal construct but doing it here. >> that is where i would like to
focus my three and a half minutes on. can you describe the difference between vetting that goes on between asylum seekers and refugees? my understanding is a refugee overseas go through about a year's of vetting. then state department does vetting. then dhs does vetting. those asylum seekers that are showing up, who is doing the vetting of that asylum seeker if they are coming from a country designated as special interest alien? >> that is a key point. it depends on what country they're from. when they are from the countries of particular concern virtually all of the process ends up being the process that occurred overseas in terms of preparation
of interviews. in that situation it is often a joint undertaking between us and our partners at ice and also our partners at customs. a lot depending on how we encounter the individual. >> that person seeking asylum, where are they when you are going through that process? >> they could be -- i think your question is are they in the community. >> are they in a detention facility? released on their own to a family member or someone in the community while you are doing vetting? >> depending on facts and circumstances it could be any of the above. if they are at a port of entry that is something that immigrations and customs enforcement makes a determination as to whether that individual will be released or not. my understanding is they will not do it if there is concern.
>> how long does the vetting process take? two weeks, two months, a year? >> i would not attempt to give an actual. variable depending on the country, nature of the case, composition of the family. i don't think i am able to give you any kind of credible average time. >> it's correct. it's very specific to the circumstances of the individual, the situation tat they have arrived in the united states and then what process they are going to undergo next. >> y'all are saying the level of vetting of asylum seekers is on par with the level of vetting that a refugee goes through? >> the tools we use are just about the same tools that we use overseas. in a different setting we can go into detail as to how it is done. >> always a pleasure to see you.
are you getting enough intelligence on human organizations and human trafficking king pin -- because those are the networks facilitating folks from the countries that are going to try to do us harm to take advantage of our asylum program. >> i am getting significant intelligence from ice organization and from the intelligence community. it is not perfect information but an area of very high priority for us. >> on the national intelligence priority framework do you think the human smuggling is high enough on that list? >> i wouldn't say it needs to be high enough on that list. it needs to be a high focus for a department. whether it is on the priorities
framework or not it is the bread and butter of what we do. >> amen. >> we have focussed on that to a great extent. much oft intelligence about migration and that sort of thing comes from our law enforcement partners from cdp and ice that goes in. it is our responsibility, we are working hard on better understanding that phenomenon and interdicting as appropriate. >> i yield back. >> thank you. >> thank you for your testimony and the work that you are doing to try to keep our country safe. i have heard a lot of discussion. i know some of this you can't answer in this setting of things that are being discussed or debriefed or best practices, things about to be put into place. i realize well intentioned but there are bureaucratic barriers
to moving things quickly. i have often said isis is moving at the speed of broadbound while we are moving at the speed of bureaucracy. just to be clear, have we made changes to the k 1 program since the malik case in san bernardino? are there changes in place based on what we learned from the failures in that case? >> i wouldn't say -- i would say that the case made us look at the process all over again and we identified new opportunities to do better. >> is there something changed now? >> it's one of the things i want to drive at. i will turn it over to assistant secretary. our primary sort of lever in that process is that the time that the individuals seek green cards. so what we are doing we are going to use it for k 1 but will
look across all immigration categories is how we more strategically use the interviews that we conduct. >> and i don't want to spend a lot of time on that because we talked about it. what we are doing or going to do versus something changed today? >> that is something different now. we are using those more intensively and more strategic and targeted way with enhanced lines of questioning to target the kinds of issues that i know we are worried about. >> thank you. i want toreference a little bit off the main topic of terrorism but challenges in bureiocracy of the i.g. report about information sharing not happening relating to human trafficking victims being trafficked into the country using our legal systems. the report identified 17 of 32 instances where known human traffickers used work to bring victims into the country legally because information sharing between organizations wasn't what it needed to be.
274 individuals subjected to human trafficking investigations petitions to bring 425 family members and fiances into the united states. they are using the legal system to bring victims into united states or family members. we marked up a bill yesterday to try to close the gaps. has something changed since this i.g. report in place now to fix these issues? this is a travesty. >> we embrace the recommendations made in the report long before the report was issued we were doing things to make sure that mr. kubiak's agency, my agency are communicating in order to do our jobs best. so that is the state of affairs as we speak. i'm sure he can speak to that, as well. >> one more question about known challenges that we have had in the after math of the boston
bombers one of the individuals arrested didn't have an i-20. he was on a student visa. he left the united states and came back in and was let in because cdp officers at inspection stations did not have access to student exchange visitor information system. this is information sharing within one organization where guy checking him did not have access that he didn't have current i-20 on file. these are stove pipe information sharing things. has that been fixed? >> i would have to get back to you on that specific incident. >> in general, is there access. >> the systems driven by exit system are connected and working together. i would have to get a little
more detail specifically on what happened in that instance that prevented that but i am happy to get back to you. >> please do. it is a broader question of bureaucracy that we have to figure out how to speed that up. we have known cases whether the traffickers here or the one associated with boston bombing where we identified. have we fixed that for the long haul. if you need to get back to me that is great. and i yield back. >> may i add one thing to the question that you asked about what has happened as a result of the review because that was very much a joint operation and we were looking at our piece. i do want to say there have been actions that have been taken. not huge dramatic, but we spoke to the post that handled the largest number of fiance cases,