tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN February 5, 2016 11:00am-1:01pm EST
at that time, were not in utilization at that time. everybody 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 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 now been admitted there are also 30 individuals who were denied outright because they failed either the check or the interview process and there are several hundred who are on hold as our fraud detection national
security directive conducts a more thorough investigation of those cases before we make a final decision. in fact, many of those may end up being denies because we are unable to resolve the concerns that we have about those individuals. i look forward to talking in more detail. these are, indeed, vital issues and i do want to provide both this committee and the american people the reassurance they require so we can engage in this strategically important effort of refugee admission. thank you. >> thank you, director rodriguez. chair now recognizes assistant director kubiak. >> good morning, chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, and distinguished members. thank you for the opportunity to discuss i.c.e.'s international engagement and security efforts to confront dangerous challenges on a global stage. today i am honored to provide a overview of our international operations and to highlight a program i believed based on my 20 years as law enforcement officer is one of the most critical and important u.s. security programs that we have at this point in our history.
it will provide a little more granularity to director rodriguez's comments about the vetting process we have overseas. currently ice is 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 26 offices in 46 countries. our international staff works in conjunction with their foreign law enforcement counterparts to detect, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and individuals that intend harm. as you know, the homeland security act of 2002 authorizes the deployment of dhs officers to diplomatic posts to perform visa security activities and provided a vice and training to our state department consular affairs colleagues. this critical mission is accomplished by the visa security program which we refer to as a vsp.
the primary purpose is to identify terrorists and criminals or other aliens ineligible for visa prior to travel or application to admission for the united states. vsp places investigators on the front line of defense so 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 potential threat. the u.s. government continuously vets applicants from the time they submit their application through the time they make their travel around. s to the time they appear at our border and beyond. as new information becomes available through our screening processes, it is provided by to the appropriate decision makers which can be state, cis, cbp or ice to ensure we use all of our tools and authorities to protect the united states from individuals who may present a security concern. recently in 2014 we instituted the pre-adjudicated 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 cbp use the results of the automated screening process to identify individuals of concern. those individuals are then referred specifically to specially trained ice special agencies currently 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 to to utilize law enforcement tools in country to participate in interviews and 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 consular officers to refuse visas when warranted. ice actions complement the consular officers' screening, applicant interviews and reviews of applications and supporting documentation, at the same time, vsp also facilitates the travel of individuals who, as a result of the enhanced screening, are determined not to be our targets of interest. in fiscal year 2015 alone, vsp screened approximately 2 million visa applicants from these designated high-risk locations and made recommendations contributing to the refusal of over 8,000 visas by state. of those refusals, over 2,200 applicants have some suspected connection to terrorism. last year alone, we were able to create or enhance 760 records in the united states terrorist database as a result of vsp operations globally. with the $18 million enhancement to vsp that congress provided by i.c.e. in fy-15, the operation has 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 fy-15 money, i.c.e. will expand which will result in a 50% increase in expansion of the program globally in two years. this expansion is made possible by the additional congressional funding by cbp and ice's joint initiative and collaboration with the department of state on site selection, post selection and expansion. together i.c.e. and state are jointly training overseas personnel in integrated staff at embassies to enhance regular and timely information sharing. i.c.e., cbp 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 continued support of the i.c.e. 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 question. >> thank you, director kubiak. chair recognizes assistant secretary ms. bond to testify. >> thank you. good morning, chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, and distinguished members of the committee. thank you for this opportunity to testify today on the topic of security vetting for visa applicants. 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 procedures. my written statement, which i request be put into the record, describes the rigorous screening regimen that applies to all visa categories. the vast majority of these applicants and all immigrant and fiance visa applicants are interviewed by a consular officer.
every consular officer completes an extensive training course with a strong emphasis 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 fingerprint nearly all visa applicants and screen them against the dhs and fbi databases of known and suspected terrorists, wanted persons, immigration 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 suspended visa
processing and submits a request for a washington-based interagency security advisory opinion resue conducted by federal law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the department of state. the department of homeland security's patriot system and visa security program as described provide additional protections at certain overseas posts. dhs, immigration, and customs enforcement special agents assigned to more than 20 embassies and consulates in high-threat location prose ride is onsite vetting of visa applications and other law enforcement support to our consular officers. security reviews do not stop when the visa is issued. the department and partner agencies continuously match new threat information with our records of existing visas. now, we refuse more than a million visa applications a year. and since 2001 the department has revoked more than 122,000 visas based on information that surfaced after issuance of the visa.
this includes nearly 10,000 visas revoked for suspected links to terrorism, again, based on information that surfaced after issuance. mr. chairman, ranking member thompson and distinguished members of the committee, the department of state has no hire priority than the safety of our fellow 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 our defenses. i encourage each of you to visit our consular sections when you are abroad to see how we do this on a daily basis. i look forward to your questions. thank you. >> thank you, secretary bond. i now recognize myself for questioning. i think the most important mission as i look at the department's mission it involves
travel and it involves 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 shooting and the fact that malik, a pakistani foreign national, was granted a visa, came into the united states, and then it was divulged that her
this is about social media. when the director of the fbi testified here and secretary of homeland 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 that we're bringing into the united states? >> yeah, no, and that's what i was meaning to address at the beginning. we are doing that in cases of flags of concern. we are adding resources quickly so that we use that in fact -- the entire body -- >> just the high risk 10,000? >> right now and then we'll be moving to covering the entire population. >> which leads me to my next question. so these visa security units where ice is located. >> these are high risk countries. it seems you don't have the capability yet with the algorithms to check social media. but my recommendation is this be expanded. not to just the syrians but across the globe. >> sir, that's our intent to be as comprehensive as we can in capability.
that particular data set for the purposes of our department's mission, so it's not limited. we've started with the k-1s and the refugees because that's a starting set. >> well, you certainly have my strong support for that expansion and anything we do to help you let us know. with that i recognize the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. taking off where you -- on your line of questioning mr. kubiak relative 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 in the 2016 omnibus appropriation it did not provide adequate funding to operate the expanded number of visa security programs. if we are mandated as congress for you to do more and don't provide the money, how are you going to expand that visa security program? >> thank you for the question. the funding we were providing fy-15 was accompany bid an ability to carry that money into fy-16. so we have been judiciously
using the money and reapportioning the money around the globe to cover off on the larger threats as we see them developing. do we're able to use some of the money congress gave us in '15 in '16 to continue the expansion of vsp and enhancement of the patriot screening and vetting process as we move forward. obviously we are always able to do more with more and so if -- for future appropriations we're always looking for a 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 congress gave us
last year was to carry over that funding. >> general taylor, following that line of questioning, with respect to the platforms for social media and other things that there's an interest on this committee, have we identified the resources to complete the -- those projects related to establishing the new platforms on social media? >> sir, that's part of our charter to develop an investment strategy around that capability. this committee has been very supportive of ina's efforts to -- at using data within dhs. those -- that funding have been very useful for us in moving that forward but we don't know yet is what is 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. >> can you kind of talk to us a little bit about whether or not you've identified the personnel necessary to carry out that mission or are we going to have to depend on outside contractors to complete that mission? >> you know, sir, my experience is n this is that that at the beginning we won't have enough capability to do this robustly and that we will have to do some contracting, particularly for linguists when one is talking about social media, all social media is not in english so we need language skills and those sorts of things which are readily available initially in our -- in the 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. bond, for the record, there's 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 lack of derogatory information was on her social media? >> sir, to my knowledge, there was nothing that was publicly accessible that indicated jihadist or other threatening beliefs. i don't believe there was anything on a facebook page or something else that one would have been able to find.
>> thank you. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> chair recognizes mr. smith from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary bond, let me return to the subject of syrian refugees. what percentage of syrian refugees are males overall? >> actually, i think i should take that question. >> okay. director rodriguez, then. >> i believe that it is a minority of the -- >> the u.n. high commissioner for refugees says 62% are male. >> well, are we talking about ones that we've actually admitted to the united states or are we talking about the overall refugee stream? because normally what's 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're connected to families or not? >> i don't have that specific
data in front of me but i can make it available to this committee. >> okay. let me tell you what i think the answer is. according to the u.n. high commissioner on refugees, that is a source for 62% are male and your own data says about 25% are males of military age, whether they're connected to families or not. do you have any reason to believe that's not the case? >> i have no reason to believe that 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 that that's wrong. >> the state department, i think, tries to skew the data a little bit and they say 2% are males connected to families, but if you leave off "connected to families" it suddenly expands to about a quarter of males of military age. 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 refugees in effect
have a clean slate except for what they themselves tell you? and, by the way, i don't mean by "clean slate" that they're innocent of any wrongdoing, i'm just saying what percentage are you unable to conduct any kind of background check involving independent data? >> we are able to conduct a background check on 100% -- >> that wasn't my question. i know you conduct background checks. 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 you would -- >> i think the essence of your question, congressman is when we query the various databases that both general taylor and i have described what percentage of those individuals don't show up on those databases at all? >> again, blank slate, you have no information on them whatsoever.
>> and i've described to you the cases where individuals are in those databases because there is derogatory information about them on the databases and you're asking what portion. happily, actually, a large portion don't have derogatory information about them. i think your question is -- >> no, my question -- any information -- when you have in no information about somebody, what percentage of syrian refugees fall into that category? >> well, we generally do have information that is beyond what that individual provides. in other words, we are checking against country conditions. >> i know, again, let me go to my question and hope you'll answer it. what percentage of syrian refugees do you have in independent data on? >> a large percentage do not have derogatory information in those databases. there is other documentation that they present in just about every case. >> i know they don't have any 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's nothing derogatory, is that right? >> we have other sources of information in order to check the veracity of the information they're giving us in the interview context. >> and 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 -- in other words, it is true most of them will not appear in the databases because they've done wrong in those cases. >> but you don't know whether they've 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 that we have a very intensive process to mitigate risk in this particular case.
>> but 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 they're giving us in their interviews. that's the point i'm trying to make, sir. >> and i guess i'm saying, again, and i don't hear you contradicting it, you don't have negative but i'm saying you don't have information whatsoever. >> no, 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 a benchmark with which to test the information that they're giving us in interview. i think that's -- >> but, again, that's general information, not necessarily about that specific individual. >> it is both general individual and specific individual about that individual, but about individual's community, about that individual's family unit. >> but, again, you said most you had no specific information about that is negative, that we
say. >> that is correct. >> but, again, 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're not in the -- if the derogatory information about them is not in the databases we wouldn't know it. >> that's what i'm looking for, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. smith. mr. keating is recognizing. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'd like to thank all of you for your service to our country in helping us 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 i wanted to ask, i guess this is for secretary bond or anyone else who could answer is this is the fact that we're reviewing social media now, but do we have enough linguists available to do the job right now?
i have a concern that 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 consular officers are trained in the language of the country where they're working and we also have local employees who are 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 consular work we are fee funded and we would be able to find the resources if we needed to afternoon them up. >> 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 in dhs to talk about their programs. >> from the perspective of uscis and social media screening, as we increase 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 and asylees that the resource for that are drawn from the fees that we collect from fee-paying immigrants, be they naturalizing citizens, green card holders. >> let me rephrase it. do you have enough linguists? forget about your ability -- >> we have access to enough linguists in the near term. >> what about if we're planning an expansion, which is what i'm
hearing, do you have enough that you're getting in the pipeline now for this expansion or is it going to be a clogging of that? >> what we are building right now, yes, we do have access to enough resources. we are assessing what our long-term needs are going to be, congressman, to directly answer the question i know you're trying to ask. >> thank you. i had a question, too, there's a difference with the refugees that are coming in, they don't have the same constitutional rights that an american has. so along the lines, assistant secretary bond, with 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? are those things implemented at all until the interview status, in the interview process? because we use those in our country, you know, if there's a
waiver of someone. and i was a district attorney before 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. >> okay, mr. rodriguez? >> i think your question is do we have enough resources? >> no, it's are you incorporating technological devices and equipment that are pretty advanced now in terms of lie detection as part of that process? >> 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 understand the classified side. however the person that -- i understand it but i think you're being a little broad in not answering the question because people going through it are going to know it there's so it won't catch people by surprise but i'll do that in classified. >> do we use polygraphs in the refugee setting, the answer is no more directly. 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. >> okay, thank you. i wanted to quickly in a few seconds -- the time frame for moving these pilots for social media review in these critical areas, can you give us an idea time frame when you'll expand and how much in the future? >> right now we are conducting manual vetting, in other words, we're literally 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 focusing adding as quickly as we can just for the syrians as soon as possible so we cover as much as that 10,000 we're seeking to admit as we can. longer term we're looking for technological solutions that will permit us to look at that more broadly and i don't know what the timeline will be for identifying and deploying those technological solution mrs. broadly. >> well, thank you, my time is up. thank you again for your service. >> if i could just add to that. in our visa waiver bill we put that the department needs to look at these new technologies for truth detection, if you will. mr. rogers from alabama. >> thank you. mr. taylor, back in october we had director comey from the fbi here and he was asked if he could tell with us a high degree
of certainty that he through the vetting process could assure us that isil would not be able to move some of their terrorist members in through these refugees movements 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 that aim situation. so why are you insisting that we continue to visit this topic of this 10,000 refugees? >> well, sir, i believe there are two questions, i'll ask director rodriguez to answer the question on the refugee screening which is more in his line. but i believe what director comey was referring to was the data that he had available within the fbi and within the intelligence community about this particular population. we know a lot more today about this population than we did when he testified back in october and we continued to learn everyday. that's our system, i wouldn't want to go specifically into how that knowledge base grows but it grows. everyday. it has 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 with s we can't say with a high degree of certainty that they won't be able to sneak isil members in through those groups. and i have to tell you, mr. rodriguez, 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 that 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 safely back into their country. we have millions of them in lebanon, jordan, turkey. i can understand why you think
we would want to be good americans, like we always are, very generous americans and help them in those areas 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 in the hearing while director comey was here was we had a group of refugees that came from south america, through mexico, came through our southern border, turned themselves in, wanted assayluas. now, those people weren't in danger, they were looking for economic opportunity. and that's what i think is happening with a lot of these people and is happening in western europe as well. these people are not -- once they're out of syria, they're not looking for safety anymore. it's all about economic security. i had the ambassador from romania in my office along with a member of parliament, and i asked him as they were talking about the migration issues that have upset western europe and eastern europe, and i said well, y'all had a problem with refugees in romania? he started laughing.
he said, we're way too poor. the only refugees that have come to romania there are by accident, and once they realized they were in romania they left and went someplace with economic opportunities. so tell me why we are focused on this instead of removing bashar why are we not working on helping refugees stay in their neighborhood in encampments or cities and bringing them to our country where we know isil intends to use them to kill us? >> so, i think an important starting point for this discussion is the fact that since september 11 we have admitted 785,000 refugees. 128,000 of those have come 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. >> and what percentage of that number has 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 conflating this into a completely different picture. the world has changed dramatically over the last several months and you know that. we have to be focused on where isil is and the efforts they're using to get people in this country now. i agree we're a country of immigrants, we've had a great rich history with immigrants. but we have a new dynamic right now and that is not relevant. what you're describing is not relevant to this dynamic. >> i guess, congressman, where you and i disagree and appreciate your highlighting the disagreement is i do not believe that refugee admission is purely a moral and humanitarian undertaking. it is that but it is much, much more. it has a critical strategic national security and foreign policy role. if we are not seen as offering opportunity to the very victims of isil and al nusra, then we will have given away a vital
part of the battlefield. >> why do we owe them opportunity? >> i'm sorry? >> 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 -- >> and we can provide them opportunity for safety in their neighborhood. in turkey, in jordan, in those areas. we don't have to have them in our country to make sure they stay safe, well fed, and cared for. >> and that is certainly one reason why the numbers that we are taking are relatively small compared to the overall number who are in refugee status and it is something we are doing alongside the other english-speaking countries that have made commitment to accept refugees, the other european countries that have made commitments. that's also critical. we need to work with our allies to deal with this problem together. we cannot place ourselves in a posture where we're saying it's their problem and not ours.
that in my mind actually does have a national security implication 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, mr. chairman. >> chair recognizes mr. langevin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. 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 both highlighted some processes that the federal government is implementing or has already implemented to tighten screening of these applicants and refugees. and i think we can all agree that this is a -- is vital to ensure that security reviews are as thorough as possible and thorough enough to flag any applicant with derogatory information in government databases. however, i remain concerned about applicants for whom there is no u.s. source of intelligence but for whom there may be intelligence from our partners.
do you share these concerns of what barriers remain to free flow of information between counterterrorism agencies here and those abroad, particularly in europe which i know has stricter or different privacy laws that we have that may restrict that information sharing? and we'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 pertinent question and i think i would start out with the legislation that recently passed in december which has strengthened the visa waiver program to include the hspd 6 requirements for information sharing which not all countries in visa waiver
were -- had an hspd 6 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 this global problem. the one thing that has been crystal clear to me is that terrorists do not honor borders. they do not honor law enforcement. they move anywhere they can move with impunity and the way in which information sharing allows our governments and allies to be more effective in spotting those movements 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 that is necessary to protect their country and in collecting that data to make that data available to u.s. authorities on a
reciprocal basis. >> so under the agreements that will be in place by the end of the year that -- you're confident that takes care of all the problem? there would be no barriers to information sharing on the european side that they need to change their laws in any way to accommodate more robust intelligence sharing? >> all i can say is we've made it very clear to our partners in the visa waiver program that a necessary 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 framework for those relationships will be in place with all of the countries that we currently have visa waiver agreements with. >> thank you.
secretary taylor, in your testimony you state that the department recognizes the technological advances and the evolving nature of the threat environment required to continuously re-evaluate and improve our screening and vetting process. can you further elaborate on how you're evaluating and how you can 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 systems? >> well, i would answer that in two ways. first, this committee has been very supportive of the initiative of the secretary to create a dhs framework and for that framework to be effective in sharing data across all of our components. which is a big step towards how he 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. so, our task force is designed to create really a center of excellence for vetting in the department where we are continually striving to look for new techniques, tools, processes that help us get better at this. not at a suboptimal level in our components but as a department. and that's our goal going forward. >> yeah, i think it's essential to be nimble and to recognize as technology especially changes so rapidly that we're doing
everything we can to incorporate those new capabilities into our vetting system to -- >> that's the secretary's direction, and we're moving with all deliberate speed. >> very good. thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> mr. duncan from south carolina. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to refute one thing that mr. rodriguez said. there hasn't been an act of terror -- i don't want to refute it. i want to applaud laft for stopping acts of terror that could have been performed by those in this country. 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 your men for their service, but the glaring example that i just mentioned shows that if you don't vet refugees coming in this country, the potential, the possibility of an act 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 possibly the first time a united states congressman has ever testified in the general assembly of south carolina. myself and congressman mick mulvaney on the syrian refugee issue. south carolina does not want unvetted refugees to locate in their state but yet the obama 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 not non-muslim. the remaining of those were muslim. mr. chairman, i'd like to submit for the record my testimony in
south carolina senate last week. >> without objection so ordered. >> thank you. in 2011 or '12, mr. chairman, you and i traveled to afghanistan. and there at a forward 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, charles deju from hawaii, who served with that unit at that forward operating base, knew hollywood well. saw him want to pick up a gun and fight the taliban, who was threatened by the taliban for being an interpreter for this country. charles deju asked us, he asked us to assist hollywood with coming into this country under the asylum program for interpreters that helped our
country. it took over two years for this gentleman who was verified by the general of the 3rd army, 10th mountain division, who was verified by the unit that he assisted, who had members of congress writing letters for him, who had general petraeus for goodness sakes had met the gentleman and vouched for him. took two years to get the gentleman here under that program. we scrutinized his background. but we're going to allow unvetted syrian refugees from an area that isis who has declared war on the united states, whether we've declared war on them or not, has said they will infiltrate that refugee program and also exploit the migration program in europe. and that's a whole other topic of foreign fighter program, of the visa waiver program, for the ability of someone with a long-term vision to get into
europe and eventually come into this country under those programs. but we're going to allow unvetted syrian refugees into this country. the policies of the obama administration put americans at risk because we don't know who's coming into this country by allowing unvetted syrian refugees. you guys can say we are doing the best job we can, we are vetting, but director comey refutes that. we're trying to do better. 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. they've been stolen. someone from syria can travel into turkey and for $600 buy a new identity and a new passport. so, mr. chairman, i appreciate us continuing to raise awareness of this issue with syrian refugees. i'm amazed that an administration that wants to expand background checks for law-abiding american citizens exercising their second amendment constitutional rights will refuse to do the background checks necessary on possibly
syrian refugees. and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. the chair recognizes ms. torres from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to begin by asking -- i would like to ask unanimously -- unanimous consent for statements from a coalition of faith-based and advocacy groups to be entered into the record. >> without objection, so ordered. >> 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. i want to make sure that i
understand this process. as you know i have been very involved in the refugees that were placed in my home city. i had meetings with them and about the interview process and asked them directly from their perspective as to 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 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 -- >> right. >> -- 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 for the future. >> so, the male, the young male, explained to me that for every one appointment, interview appointment, that 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 at -- 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 interagency check that you were beginning to explain earlier, can you provide a little bit more detail? >> sure. >> information on that. >> sure. and i think the example you're citing, and i'm assuming that that was a refugee interview overseas but it may have been subsequent activity in the united states. >> no, it was overseas. >> illustrates the point i was trying to make to congressman smith, we don't just hear what the person has to say, where there are reasons to we go beyond and look for documentation that either helps us explore issues that may exist or help us corroborate information that is presented in the testimony. speaking specifically about the interagency check, not at liberty in an open setting to
talk about everything that sort of sits behind that check, everything that is queried as part of that check. but the point of the interagency check 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. that's -- >> i don't have a whole lot of time. i do want to ask you, is it in the best interests 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're here, they're here and we have to deal with them at
our border? >> i think that's another critical point, which is we can either have an orderly internationally based system of migration where we're working together with our 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 their kids don't go to school, they don't have any kind of economic security, that will have consequences for the entire world if we allow that to happen. >> thank you. my time has expired and i yield back. >> representative from pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director rodriguez, my constituents in pennsylvania are worried about their safety when they hear that the refugees coming into the commonwealth because they simply don't trust the vetting process. and to be honest with you, i have a lot of concerns, too. and here's why. here in this committee according to former fbi assistant director
tom fuentes, 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 center director nicholas rasmussen explained that the intelligence picture that we've had of this syrian conflict zone isn't what we'd like it to be. you can only review data which you have. three, fbi assistant director michael steinbach said that the concern in syria is that we don't have the systems in place on the ground to collect the information. all of the data sets, the police, the intel services that normally you would go and seek that information from don't exist. and, four, fbi director james comey said, we can query our databases until the cows come home. but nothing will show up because we have no record of that person. we can only query what you 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 that i was -- if you don't show up on the databases, it means there isn't derogatory information. it means we don't have -- >> that's not true. i don't think anybody here believes that. i don't think any -- 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. so, that doesn't mean that nothing exists. >> we -- >> it just 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 that i've been trying to -- >> this is why the american people don't trust us allowing
people in here because they don't think we're getting a straight story. >> i think -- if i had a couple moments to describe the entire process, which is a lengthy process the current one -- >> i'd like you to 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 don't -- there are people who have been admitted who haven't shown up on databases. >> okay. >> that doesn't meanwhile we continue take other steps -- >> that doesn't mean -- that doesn't mean -- >> that there aren't other things we do to satisfy ourselves that the person we are admitting does not pose a threat. so, i think you need to hear how the whole process works before focusing on one element of the process as -- >> see, it only takes one person. doesn't take an army. your family, my family, every single person here family, that is the most important person 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 factually that we have checked the database and we can
confirm that that person does not possess an intent or a threat to the american people. i want to go on. because i -- i got the answer i wanted there. and i've been saying since i've been in congress that -- and i know sometimes i sound like a broken record. at a 9/11 commission report taught us many times that the best weapon terrorists have is a travel document. because terrorists want two things. they want to get into the country and they want to stay here just long enough to carry out their mission. and more than 40% of illegal immigrants that are present in this country came here legally and have their visa expire and they never left and we can't found them. of approximately 4 00
individuals who have been convicted in the united states from september 2001 through march 2010, approximately 36 were visa overstays. i don't believe there's a strong enough deterrent to -- for anyone who wants to overstay their visa and that's one reason i introduced a bill, a visa overstay, which brings the visa overstay laws in line with current law for crossing a border unlawfully. makes them parallel. making it a crime to overstay your visa, and it's more of a deterrent. undersecretary taylor, would you agree that tougher penalties and clarity in the law will help agents perform their jobs? and do you think we need to have a tougher deterrent than exists right now for those who are thinking of overstaying their
visa? >> sir, at this point what i would say is that the department for the first time in history produced a visa overstay report that had been asked for from this congress for many years. this is an area of great concern to our secretary and he's directed cvp and i.c.e. to work on potential solutions that would deter individuals from wanting to overstay their invitation to our country. i'm not in a position today to tell you what that's going to look like, but i know that that direction has been given, and i'm sure the secretary will be happy to address that issue once he's had a chance to have his team consult on it. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. perry from pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, lady, thank you very much 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 of what's provided to us and i'm assuming it's correct. it goes back to 1997. i see that you spent some 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, that this refugee program is a vital part of foreign policy and national security. and while i appreciate your opinion in that, that is wholly out of your purview. your job as director to carry out those prescribed, while you are making us somehow feel bad that we don't agree with you, i want to say for the record you seem completely out of your lane in that regard. with that, i'm looking at
>> but shouldn't the ordinary baseline, even considering mr. barletta's questioning regarding databases and information that 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 we'll make exceptions when we don't need to check everything? because it seems to me the default setting is we give all these people the benefit of the doubt unless we find something derogatory. >> i think there's more significant practical issue here, which is all we can access, all we have the technological tool to access is the public facing statements that individuals make. we do not have a way to reach private communications. >> and we understand that. but the policy says, as a matter
of fact if i go further into this policy which is policy privacy memorandum january 19th, 2007, i'm assuming you're familiar, right? it says here that it is -- under this policy dhs components will handle non-u.s. person's information held in mixed systems in accordance with the fair information practices as set forth in the privacy act, thereby giving people that wish to come to this country that we know little about the same rights as every american citizen. >> that's one document among a series of policies that govern what we're doing -- >> which policy countervails this? >> we can certainly walk you through this. it's a set of policies and practices that we have that have been 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're admitting. >> but is that the default
setting or is that the exception? based on this policy from your agency. >> i guess what i'm telling you is what we're doing which i think is the most important thing. we can parse what the policies say, what we are doing is we are looking -- when we are looking at social media we're looking at it -- >> hold on a second. you said when we're looking at social media. i picture myself not as you, you're the director, i'm one of the folks looking at policy statements and this is my job and it says i have to treat all these people that i don't know anything about, don't know the culture, don't know the language, could be a terrorist, like every american citizen. do i call you and say, hey, i'm not sure about this one? >> but that's not what we're doing. we're looking with appropriate linguistic support we are looking at these accounts without ness seek -- >> this policy was written in 2012? >> correct. >> was promulgated by our privacy office. was not promulgated as a broader dhs strategy for the use of social media in our operations across department. one of the responsibilities the secretary has given to my task force is to re-write our policy
to bring it up to current standards, to make it -- >> when can we expect that? and what is the interim guidance, if you don't mind, mr. chairman? what is the interim guidance? what do agents in the field at this time what is their guidance -- >> the inspectors in the field have 33 clear policy pronouncements and i can get those for you that outline their 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's why the secretary wants a comprehensive -- >> i look forward to that information. >> yes, sir. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we've had a robust discussion about things you are doing to enhance the vetting process for refugees and for people coming into this country in general. i want to flip it on its head a bit and talk about what we should be doing. because i think in this instance especially when it's a matter of national security we need to strive for perfection. i was heartened by your comments rechecking the process how we can get better. that's the attitude we need to have. and i have one pointed question for you and i have a secondary question that's more general. the question for you is, in enhancing the vetting process for mining the 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 and security, it's become apparent to me that homeland security in general and tsa in particular do not do a good enough job of looking at what's going on in the private sector. necessity is the mother of invention. there's a lot of good ideas out there and i think sometimes homeland security's process is somewhat insular and it's preventing you getting the ideas out there and 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 the public sources over the internet to vet people and we're not doing that on the homeland security level and i think we need to. with that, i'll just ask a question. >> thank you very much for the question, sir. it's really part of the charter i've been given by the secretary
in our task force not only to look at best in class within our department and within the government but best in class in the private sector. to that end we've announced an industry day at the end of february where we're going to invite folks from across the private sector to come in and tell us what's -- what they're doing, how they're doing and how that might help us with the mission that we've set forth. so we recognize -- as you know, i came back to government from the private sector where there's a lot of innovation. we should exploit that innovation as we move forward in this effort and that will be a big part of what we do. >> well, i applaud that and i would like to hear -- have you report back to us what you're doing in that regard because that is somewhat a sea change to how they viewed it in the past. stick with the same old venders and ideas you're comfortable with is not going to solve this problem. >> it's not innovation. we'll be happy to come back as the task force develops. >> i take it all four of you agree mining the public sources of the internet is wholly
appropriate when trying to keep our country safe, is that correct? i think you all agree with that. >> absolutely. >> for the record, everyone is nodding their head and i'm glad to hear that. with respect to -- switching gears a bit, we've talked a lot about the kentucky incident where an iraqi incident slipped through the cracks and then plotted some terrorism activity here in the united states before they were caught and arrested and convicted. and obviously that's of huge concern. then we also heard about not so much in refugee process but a more recent case where we just didn't find out how radicalized she was before she got here. so, obviously there's gaps. there's problems. so, instead of telling us what you've done, tell me what you learned from those two cases. i'll throw it out to anybody. what you learned from the two cases what you can do better. in both cases we missed them and one was a refugee process in the kentucky case. the san bernardino was a visa case and in both cases we missed it. i'm not criticizing, tell me
what we can 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 we 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 is -- it 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. >> so, when these two particular cases, if someone can answer me in particular, what did you learn from those two cases? >> we learned that potentially we should have -- in the malik case, which is why we're looking at the k-1s and 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. and so we've begun the process of developing a system to do that. and in the kentucky case, we've gone back to look at the vetting and the sources that we use for vetting and they were not as extensive as they needed to be.
and since that case came to light, we have significantly enhanced the screening processes that are used in our intelligence and law enforcement partners for that purpose. so, in each case we do a deep dive in terms of the -- what the failure was, figure it out and adjust processes appropriately. >> i'd just like to also point out that we aren't just learning from the incidents in the united states but we're constantly evaluating those instances as they occur around the world and partnering with our foreign counterparts. in the incidents in paris we were involved in 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. and be happy to give some much greater detail in a classified setting so that we don't divulge methods and tactics in an open forum. but it's not just waiting for an event to occur in the united states but it's proactively through law enforcement and through our law enforcement capabilities adjusting our tactics as the world evolves. >> sir, i'd add one more thing, and every week i chair or co-chair with the secretary our counterterrorism advisory board. every morning i meet with the secretary on new intelligence that has come in. and through the c-tab we challenge our components, based upon intelligence, based upon what's changing, what have we done differently. it's the first time in the history of our department that we've had -- and every component head sits at the table for accountability from our secretary.
so, we've developed a counterterrorism 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. and that's been at the direction of the secretary. >> thank you. and thank you for your indulgence, mr. chairman. >> mr. donovan from new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i thank each of you for what you're doing to protect our country. all the testimony we heard today was about re-evaluating and
improving our screening process with the visa applicants. i'm concerned with another significant gap in our security, and maybe we can talk about that a little bit. it's been publicly reported that there's probably hundreds of thousands of stolen syrian passports. some of which are actually blank. and it's suspected that these documents are in the hands now of the islamic state. we've heard about our counterparts in the european country saying that there's a real industry in selling these false documents or stolen documents. and at least two of the attackers in paris apparently had full syrian passports and they entered the -- excuse me. eu through greece with them. this proliferation of genuine documents used maliciously by groups like isis present a real challenge for our screening process. i was just wondering, is the information that's being reported confirmed, is that the information that you're dealing with as well? because we're getting reports from the press about it. and if it is, what are each of
your agencies doing to deal or combat or address that issue? >> sir, i'd 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 to -- that we're working were from an international perspective to address that particular issue you outline more fully. but i'd like to do that in closed session. >> yeah, if i may just jump in before mr. kubiak. we are aware of the issue that you're describing. i wouldn't say much more in this setting. but 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 just described. and that's all, again, i would say in an open setting. but i essentially want to communicate we're on it and we can talk about it in greater depth in a different environment. >> thank you for your question. fraudulent documents are a critical part of the i.c.e. investigative mandate as we look at all illicit travel and illicit finance that funds illicit travel as it occurs
around the globe. i.c.e. has and has had for a number of years one of the world's most renowned forensic laboratories which specializes specifically and is located not far from here if anyone would like to take a tour or get a view of it, it has immense capabilities that are supplied to the united states government to cvp, to our state department colleagues and to cis and others on evaluating false documents, recording lost and stolen documents like the ones that you're referencing, and promulgates that and shares that information, legitimate travel documents, with other countries so that we're able to up our defenses and know what the current entry documents are and how the fraudulent documents, either fake or stolen real, are used in this network. happy to give you -- because
it's such a big part of what we do, happy to give you a much more significant briefing in a classified setting if we can. >> secretary kubiak, you just mentioned how we share that information with our allies. are our allies, the european union, are they sharing their information with us as well? >> yes, so it's a broad question because types of information and, again, we can get into that in a different setting. but, yes, on passport requirements we're getting information from foreign governments saying this bank of passports is stolen or this is a compromise or this is a false document that we've identified and utilized and here's information that we have about others that may be similar and we're sharing that back and forth around the globe. some countries more so than others obviously and some more robustly than others. but, yes, and, again, we can include that in a briefing for
you as well. >> i didn't want to leave you out if there was anything you needed to add. >> no. only to add that we do work very closely on this, and also participate in reporting any lost or stolen u.s. passport, for example, once that's reported to us. we make sure that it's immediately registered with interpol so it's available to other nations and, of course, across the interagency. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to the panel, and i want to start off by saying the men and women that make up your organizations are recognized the difficult task they are charged with. i recognize the environment in which they operate, and they should be commended for their
hard work. sometimes we get askew on policy, but the men and women in your organizations are trying to do everything to keep us safe. mr. -- director kubiak, what is a special interest alien? can you explain that in a very -- as short a period as you can? >> we use -- we talk about individuals from other countries, so typically now what i refer to is an individual not from western -- the western hemisphere who is coming in through when we talk about smuggling networks 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, mr. rodriguez. i just want to be clear on the terms that we're using. >> yeah. no, a refugee is an individual who is abroad who is making a claim for protection. an asylum seeker is doing it here. >> that's where i'd like to focus my 3 1/2 minutes on. can you describe the difference between the vetting that goes on between asylum seekers and refugees? because my understanding is a refugee overseas is going to a number of refugee camps sponsored by unhcr and they go through years of vetting and then state department does vetting and dhs does vetting.
those asylum seekers that are showing up, who is doing the vetting of that asylum seeker if they are coming from one of the countries where they're designated as a special interest alien? >> and that's a key point. it depends on what country, the answer to your question depends on what country they're from. when they are from the countrie÷ of particular concern, virtually all of the process ends up being the equivalent of the process that occurs overseas. in terms of the kinds of interviews, the preparation for the interviews, the kinds of checks that are done. however, in that situation it's often a joint undertaking between us and our partners at i.c.e. and also our partners at customs and border protection. a lot of that depending on how it is we encounter the individual. do we encounter them at the port of entry or is it a situation in
the interior. >> the person seeking asylum, where are they when you are going through that process? >> where are they, i think your question is are they in the community. that is the -- >> are they in a detention facility? are they released on their own recognizance to a family member or someone in the community while you are doing your vetting? >> depending on the facts and circumstances, it can be any of the above. if they're at a port of entry, that's something that immigration and customs enforcement makes the determination as to whether that individual will be released or not. my understanding is they don't do it if there is any concern in that case about doing it. >> and how long does that vetting process take average? i know every case is different. are we talking two weeks? are we talking two months? are we talking a year? >> i would not attempt to give an actual. i think it's incredibly variable depending on the country, the
nature of the case, the composition of the family, it can be incredibly variable. i don't think i'd be able to give you any kind of credible time average. i don't know if mr. kubiak has anything he would add to that. >> no, that's correct. it's very specific to the circumstances of the individual, the situation that they've arrived in the united states and then what process they're going to undergo next. >> you all are saying that the level of vetting of asylum seekers is on par with the level of vetting that a refugee goes through. >> that the tools we use are just about the same tools that we use overseas. and, again, in a different setting we can go into detail as to how that's done. >> great. ambassador taylor, it's always a pleasure to see you. are you getting enough intelligence on human smuggling organizations or human trafficking kingpins in places like ecuador, brazil, colombia, panama, guatemala and mexico? because those are the networks that are going to be 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 through our i.c.e. organization and from the intelligence community. it's not perfect information. but certainly it is an area of very high priority for us. >> on the national intelligence -- on the national intelligence priority framework, do you think the human smuggling is high enough on that list? >> i wouldn't say that it needs to be high enough on that list. it needs to be a high focus for our department. and whether it's on the priorities framework or not, it is the bread and butter of what we do. >> amen. >> so, we have focused on that to a great extent. much of the intelligence about migration and that sort of thing
comes from our law enforcement partners, from cvp and i.c.e. that goes into the ic. so, it is our responsibility. we are working hard on better understanding that phenomenon and interdicting as appropriate. >> good copy. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you. ms. mcsally from arizona. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for your testimony and the work that you're doing to try and keep our country safe. i've heard a lot of discussion, i know on some of this you can't answer in this setting, of things that are being discussed or debriefed or best practices, things that are about to be put into place. i realize well intentioned, but there's also a bureaucratic barriers, right, to moving things quickly. and i've often said, you know, isis is moving at the speed of broadband, while we are moving at the speed of bureaucracy and, you know, some of those are challenges that you all deal with as you're trying to move things forward. but just to be clear, and you don't have to get into details,
have we made changes to the k-1 program since the malik case in san bernardino? like, there are changes now in case? you can tell us what the changes are classified but do we currently have changed 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. >> but is there something changed now? >> yeah, no, no. that's one of the things i want to drive at. so, our -- and then i'm going to turn over to assistant secretary bonn, our primary sort of lever in that process was at the time that the individuals seek green cards, so what we are doing, we're going to use it for k-1 but frankly we're going to look at it all across all immigration categories is how we use the interviews that we conduct when we give green cards. >> i don't want to spend a lot of time on it because we talked about it already. what we are doing or going to do versus has something changed today. >> that's something that's different now. we're going to use those more
intensively and in a more strategic and targeted way with enhanced lines of questioning to target the kind of issues i know we're worried about. >> thank you. it's off the main topic of the terrorism but, again, also challenges and bureaucracy of the ig report that came out a couple weeks ago about, again, information sharing not happening with human trafficking victims be can trafficked into the country using the legal systems. the ig identified instances where they used the k-1process to bring victims in legally because information sharing between organizations wasn't what it needed to be two 274 individuals, i'm reading out of the ig report, subjected to i.c.e. human trafficking investigations who successfully petitioned uscis to bring 425 family members and fiances into the united states. they're using the legal system, human traffickers, to bring victims into the united states or family members. we've marked up a bill yesterday to try and close these gaps but
has something changed since this ig report in place now to fix these issues? this is a travesty. >> one, we embrace the recommendations that were made in the ig report. long before the report was issued we were doing things to make sure that mr. kubiak's agency, my agency are 0 communicating in order to be able to each other do our jobs best. so, that is -- that is the state of affairs as we speak and i'm sure mr. kubiak can speak to that as well. >> just one more question, again, about known challenges that we've had in the aftermath of the boston bomber is one of the individuals arrested from kazakhstan, i'm sure you're familiar with this, didn't have a current i-20, he was on a student visa but he actually left the united states and came back in and he was let in, and the finding was because cvp officers at inspection stations did not have access to i.c.e.'s student exchange visitor information system.
so, again, this is information sharing within one organization where the cvp guy's checking him when he came in, didn't have access, that he didn't have a current i-20 on file. has that been fixed? these are all just, like, stovepipe information sharing things, so has that been fixed? >> i'd have to get back to you on that specific incident. >> i'm saying general, daily now, does the cvp have access to the system? >> the systems which are driven primarily by cvp and the biometric exit issue that we talked about yesterday are connected and working together. so, i'd have to get a little more detail specifically on what happened in that instance that prevented that, but i'd be happy to get back to you on that. >> please do. it's a broader question of we've just got, you know, bureaucracy and stovepipes and information
sharing that we've got to know how to speed it up, we've got known cases whether it's the traffickers here or, you know, the one associated with the boston bombing where we've identified where information wasn't being shared. have we fixed that for the long haul and if you need to get back to me, great. i yield back. >> may i just add one thing to the question that you asked about the -- what's happened as a result of the k-1 review because that was very much a joint operation and we were looking at our piece of the k-1. i want to say there have been some actions that have already been taken and already not huge, dramatic, but we spoke to the post that handled the largest numbers of fiance cases. got their sops and reviewed some of the standard things that they do working on these cases in high volume and have shared those ideas out broadly to other posts and said adopt these ideas, too, they'll make you more efficient, they'll help you to assure you're not overlooking anything in the process. so, that is an example of something that has already taken place as a result of the review.
>> thank you, the chair now recognizes the gentle woman from texas. excuse me. >> let me thank the chairman and ranking member and to all the witnesses for your presence here today. and i know my colleagues have been extensive in their questioning, and so i will partly be engaging in some of my comments. for those of us who have been consistent and untiring supporters of immigration and immigration reform and the values of this nation, that for my early upbringing centered around that magnificent lady in the new york harbor, the statue of liberty. as a child, that's what i grew up on, and i understood this nation to be a refuge and to be a land of opportunity. and certainly living in the skin that i live in, i have seen moments of those of us who live here, experiencing a separate and segregated life and the
questions of liberty and justice and opportunity have been a question for americans. so, i understand some of the angst that has been exhibited by americans who may feel that jobs have been lost or security has been jeopardized. and i've always said that the privilege i had of serving not only in this congress but in this committee, which i take very seriously, even more. we are the front lines of the security of this nation. and it is our job to counter the negative, the angry and the wrong-headedness of some public officials who want to condemn the very entity of which this country has been based. land of immigration and immigrants and a land of laws. you all are the holder of this
responsibility, along with the duty of protecting this nation. so, i am going to, having been in judiciary committee and leaving for another committee as we speak, i'm just going to ask all four of you to take the context of what i said, that this is a land of immigrants and the question of recognizing the concern of the security question. start with you, secretary taylor, who were here before, and you were dealing with the social media. and so each of you will tell me what you're doing for those two points, securing the nation. you may want to weave in the social media context, how that we are seriously using that as a tool so that we can do right by those who legitimately come to this country, for the values of this nation, and get those --
and i mean get those who come to do us harm. secretary taylor? >> yes, ma'am. i'd be happy to start. first and foremost, the mission of our department and every person in our department is to stop people who want to come to our country to harm her citizens or our way of life. it is how we have organized our screening and vetting. it is how we have built our partnerships with the intelligence community and law enforcement community. and as you mentioned, we understand that our use of social media has not been as effective as it needs to be, which is why i'm leading a task force to add that piece of information to our screening and vetting. one of your other colleagues had asked about how we adjust. because the enemy is adjusting as we speak in terms of tactics, techniques, and procedures.
it is our everyday focus on how what we're doing mitigates the risks that we're seeing from intelligence and other activity. that's what we do every day. it's our solemn responsibility to this country. the secretary has announced from the day he started on the 23rd of december, 2013, that counterterrorism is the top priority of our department and every official in our department. >> thank you. mr. rodriguez? >> yes. we are -- we have had a number of robust tools in place, and we're fine-tuning and refining those tools as we go along to ensure that any of the actually millions of people who we screen each year do not pose a threat to national security, to public safety. we use a series of tools.
one of them is the interviews by very highly trained officers, in particular refugee officers. and we're always seeking to refine their train -- not only their training but their preparation for the specific environment that they're addressing. so, if it's a refugee officer that's interviewing syrians, we make sure they are steeped in the country conditions in syria. that alongside all of the technological and intelligence tools that we both use and fine-tune as we continue to do our work. >> mr. kubiak? >> madam, thank you for the question. i outlined what we did -- we're doing overseas with the visa security unit earlier, so i'd like to take a moment to say the key thing that we, that i.c.e., brings to dhs and national security strategy is to identify those networks and those criminal organizations that are seeking every day a new way to exploit the security of the nation's borders and working globally to be able to
circumvent that security and those protocols that we have to move illicit goods and illicit people and illicit finance both into and out of the united states, whether it's to support terrorist, to finance terrorist networks overseas, to obtain critical technologies or weapons in the united states and export them to other places or whether it's to smuggle people and goods into the united states for nefarious purposes or criminal purposes. and really our role is to identify those networks for the department, to attack those networks. because you can try and stop and defend at the border, but the goal is to push those borders out so that we protect the homeland by being abroad and that we're identifying that entire network and identifying it, disrupting it, and dismantling it as we move through and then gaining that intelligence so we continue to harden our defenses. we can't ensure everything. >> secretary bonn? >> yes, in the course of reviewing and assessing each visa application, the consular officers are part of a team really. we often talk about the officer who does the interview, but that person is not working alone.
part of what we do is a very careful prescreening review of applications in order to identify questions in the file and focus the time of the interview in the most valuable way. but in every office we also have a unit of specifically for fraud prevention. when an officer has a concern about a case, they can review that case for what you call a deeper dive by the fraud prevention team that will be looking into things. we do use social media in cases where we believe that that -- that that will give us the information we need to resolve questions that we might have. and along with our colleagues at dhs also looking at how we can make broader and effective use of social media too. but we really invest in the staff to ensure that they are thoroughly trained to take on the responsibilities that they
have in terms of personally interviewing and assessing the qualifications of every single visa applicant that comes to the window. >> thank you, ms. jackson lee. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and ranking member, and i want to say that. and i want us to remain a country of immigrants and laws and keep the values that we were founded on. >> thank you, ms. jackson lee. and the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the witnesses for being here today and for the work that you do every day to support the primary role of the federal government, that being to provide for the common defense and to keep america safe from evolving threats. right now the evolving threats from radical islamists jihadists are constantly on the minds of the nearly 700,000 texans that i represent and for good reason. the terrorist attacks in paris and in san bernardino and in other places prove that those extremists intend to exploit, if
possible, both the refugee and the visa processes to carry out mass killings against innocent people here in the united states and abroad. so, i know you agree with me. we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal to ensure that the people coming to the united states, whether it's through the refugee program or through -- or on a visa, that they're properly vetted. and in that regard we all fulfill our obligation with respect to the federal government fulfilling its primary role to keep our citizens safe. so, let me start and ask you a question, undersecretary taylor. following the san bernardino attack there seemed to be a lot of confusion whether or not under current policy dhs immigration officials are allowed to review open source social media when considering visa applications. i say that.
your predecessor, jon cohen, was on record saying during that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of a screening process. following that a spokesperson for dhs came out and said that the department had begun three pilot programs to include social media and vetting. and then following that, the president came out and i think in an effort to clarify said that, and i'll quote, our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly monitoring public posts. and that's part of the visa review process. so, help me out. help this committee out here. what is the current policy across the board with respect to dhs immigration officials' authorization to use social media as part of the vetting process for visa applicants? >> thank you for the question. congressman. first, let me, as i mentioned
first in this hearing, mr. cohen's suggestion that the secretary or any department official had prohibited the use of social media by any official in the department as of 2014, it is just not true. we've had a policy in place since 2012. there are 33 instances to date where social media is being used by our components for the purpose of complying with their mission requirements. the one thing that we learned after san bernardino and why the secretary asked me to take a review of all of the social media use within our department, was that our efforts were not as robust as they needed to be. and that we needed a comprehensive analogy within the department for the application of social media -- the use of vetting of social media for our
mission. and we're involved in that task force today. we've made plans with the secretary in terms of how we plan to proceed and i have a -- a work stream that i had promised to -- to execute that will get us at a better place in terms of where we are. but as of 2014, for any official in the department, for the use of social media. >> so you say it has been part of the policy since 2012. it is being used. is it allowed or is it required under that policy. >> under the policy, it is set forth a framework, established by our privacy organization in terms of how components -- >> i'm trying to get at, is it always used? are we using this as part of the process or is it just a tool
that -- >> i think that what we've learned is that it is not comprehensibly used. and part of that is the technology. >> and don't you think it should be? okay. so part of your recommendation is that it is going to be required. >> in a center of excellence for the department to ensure standardized effective social media use across their missions. >> okay. if the chairman will indulge me, i want to follow-up with respect to that same issue as it applies to refugees. fbi director testified before this committee, and i said something to the effect that if someone never makes a ripple in a pond in syria, you know, we can vet our database until the cows come home but it's not going to help us because nothing's going to show up. so i understand that we have a robust vetting system in place when people are in the database.
but secretary johnson and director comey both have testified before this committee that they lacked beyond the ground intelligence in places like syria to confidently vet individuals. so, director rodriguez, how does uscis incorporate social media as part of vetting into the refugee admission program? >> what we are doing right now and these efforts are focused on syrians, is that in those cases in which there are flags -- elements of concern in a case, we do a social media review in those cases to further develop and determine whether there's any information on social media which helps us resolve that case, either derogatory information that would lead possibly to a denial or that would satisfy us that the individual was okay. what we're building toward in very quick order including with
the necessary both training and linguistic capacity to do this kind of review is to use that across not only all syrians but also across all iraqis as well. and that's -- we will start deploying that capacity as we start hiring and training folks. we will be doing that in very short order. more importantly we're going to be looking at social media across all other immigration categories as well. a lot of that work's already done by assistant secretary bon's folks at the kons lure level. when we see people for example at the time of adjustment, there may be opportunities to do that work further at that stage as well. >> okay. my time's expired. but just so i'm clear, right now what you're saying is it's allowed only if there's a red flag? >> no, it is being done. it is allowed in a much broader category. and we are authorized to build as quickly as we can to do it in
much broader categories. i would view it as more active and directed rather than merely permissive. >> but again not required? >> no -- not in all cases only because we need to bring that capacity online as fast as we can. >> chairman, i appreciate your indulgence and time. i yield back. >> chair recognizes ranking member. >> thank you very much. let me thank the witnesses for what i think was excellent testimony before the committee. mr. rodriguez, one thing that i think the record would need to reflect is, yes, role in the refugee program and there are a lot of questions about it, but in the process of the questions i never felt you got a chance to answer. so can you give us the role that you play in this refugee
process? >> sure. i think the key starting place is that we are one of a multitude of agencies that are involved in the process that starts with the u.n. high commission on human rights that first refers the cases to the state department who in turn -- and who at that point it's the first round of security checks or initiated by the state department. both unhcr and state department conduct both information gathering and interviewing. we do the actual screening. meaning all that information that was gathered by unhcr and also by the state department is reviewed by our officers. we conduct an interview based on our knowledge of the country conditions, of the countries where these individuals are coming from. we sift through the results of those background checks in order to use that for interviewing purposes. where we do look at social media, we use that as a
resource. the burden is on the refugee. that's a critical point to demonstrate to us that, one, they qualify as a refugee and that they are not inadmissible for example because they are a terrorist or they are aligned with terrorist organizations. then the case goes back to the state department that conducts both a medical screening and a cultural orientation. the database checking is going on a continuous basis from the first time the state department initiates those checks right up until and beyond the time that those individuals are admitted to the united states. if new derogatory information arises about those individuals, that pops, we learn about it, customs and border protection learns about it, state department learns about it so we can take appropriate action in those cases. we then see those individuals again assuming that they are admitted, assuming that we have not denied them for some reason, we seem them again at the time they apply for adjustment of
status. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i thank the ranking member. let me just close by saying i commend the department in the wake of san bernardino for forming this task force in light of the 2012 policy. i know general taylor has taken criticism, but moving forward it's the right thing to do to come up with the modern day of social media. and make sure that's part of the vetting screening process. and to the rest of the witnesses i know it's not always a comfortable process. it's not always painless, but it is our democracy. and this is the voice of the american people asking you questions. and i want to thank all of you for your patience and for your testimony here today. the record will be open for ten days. members may have additional questions. and without objection the committee stands adjourned.
coming up live today on the c-span networks, at 2:00 p.m. eastern secretary of state john kerry and colombian president santos will hold a meeting at the state department. live coverage starts at 2:00 p.m. eastern. later this eching hillary clinton and senator bernie sanders will speak at a democratic party dinner hosted by the 2016 mcentire shaheen 100 club.
taking place in manchester, new hampshire. and you'll be able to watch that live at 7:00 p.m. eastern on our companion network c-span tonight. if a caucus is the test of a candidate's organization, which is what we saw in iowa, a primary is really a test of the candidate's message. a primary is different because you go in, you cast your ballot and then you leave. versus a caucus where you have to spend a couple of hours in a room hearing speeches and then making decisions. and so what we'll see in new hampshire, and what we've seen in the past is the field really begins to whittle out, especially on the republican side. it's a two-person race for the democrats. and it's a question of expectations. and which candidate is able to meet or exceed those expectations. and we see that in new hampshire because of course it is the first real test of voters who go to the polls. if you saw our coverage right before the iowa caucuses, the one thing that we were able to
do that no other network did is really take you to the campaign rallies, take you to the venues as the candidates try to close the deal before the iowa caucuses. we'll be doing the same thing right before the new hampshire primary on tuesday. so as the candidates crisscross the state, whether it's a small event or large campaign rally, our campaign bus will be on the road as well. and really give you a sense, a flavor of what's happening in this key state. it's the first in the nation primary. new hampshire has a long and rich history. and for those of you who are not in new hampshire a chance to watch it all unfold. >> every weekend on american history tv on c-span3, we feature programs that tell the american story. some of the highlights for this weekend include saturday night at 8:00 eastern historian matthew andrews of the university of north carolina chapel hill talks about how racial tensions of the 1980s were reflected in sports. >> rocky is a heavy underdog in the first film.
he loses in the first film. he loses in a split decision to apollo creed. no one thinks he's going to do well. he does remarkably well but he does not win. in "rocky ii," he knocks out apollo creed in the most implausible boxing scene ever. but rocky wins. these were both very popular movies in 1976 and 1979, but these are much more than just sports movies. these are movies about race. these are movies about american history. >> at 10:45 brooklyn law professor christopher beecham talks about his book arguing alexander graham bell solely remembered as the inventor of the telephone because he secured a patent monopoly. saturday morning at 10:00 on road to the white house rewind with the upcoming first in the nation new hampshire primary, we look back at the 1992 presidential campaign and