The FBI and its joint terrorism task forces are “actively” investigating individuals deemed national security threats and suspected terrorists who entered the U.S. after being evacuated from Afghanistan last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday, while admitting the bureau does not know where “all” are located at any given time.
A Department of Defense whistleblower reported to Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that 324 of the individuals the Biden administration evacuated from Afghanistan and welcomed into the U.S. have appeared on the Pentagon’s watch list, including known, suspected terrorists.
Fox News reported in February that at least 50 Afghan evacuees were brought to the U.S. in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan whose information indicated “potentially serious security concerns.” The information came in a Pentagon inspector general report, which revealed that U.S. government officials were unable to locate dozens of those individuals who had “derogatory information” that would make them ineligible for parole.
A footnote in that inspector general report stated that the “significant security concerns include individuals whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devices and known or suspected terrorists” and for which officials would send that derogatory information to appropriate Pentagon personnel.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Hawley questioned Wray on the whistleblower’s report and on whether he was aware that 324 — not 50 — individuals had entered the U.S. with derogatory information, presenting a “graver” situation.
“I don’t know that I have the exact number,” Wray testified. “I know there are a number of individuals through our joint-terrorism task forces that we are actively trying to investigate as a result.”
Wray told Hawley that there have been “a number of interviews of individuals who came — lots of interviews, frankly, of individuals who came as part of the evacuation.”
“I think there have been a number of disruptions,” he said. “How many of them have been arrests and under what charges and so forth, I’d have to get back to you.”
Wray told the committee that the joint-terrorism task forces are “engaged in the effort to investigate potential terrorist activity, and any number of them would potentially involve people who came from Afghanistan.”
Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Wray if the FBI knows where in the U.S. the flagged evacuees are located.
“We have a lot of information about where people are located,” Wray said. “I can’t sit here right now and say we know where all are located at any given time.”
The whistleblower also alleged that the White House and DOD officials directed agency personnel to cut corners and not conduct full fingerprint tests of Afghan evacuees.
Wray said he was unfamiliar with that information, but defended the Biden administration’s vetting process.
“This was a massive number of people to be vetting in an extraordinarily short period of time,” he said. “And, inevitably, it raises concerns.”
Hawley and Johnson are now demanding answers from the Pentagon’s Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell, calling for an immediate investigation into the new whistleblower allegations.
The whistleblower also alleged that staff at the Department of Homeland Security had been authorized to delete old biometric data whenever they personally believe such information is out of date, which the senators say could “comprise the integrity of existing databases and undermine national security.”
A DHS spokesperson told Fox News earlier this year that Afghan evacuees went through rigorous screening and a vetting process that spans many government agencies.
“The federal government is leveraging every tool available to ensure that no individuals who pose a threat to public safety or national security are permitted to enter the United States,” the DHS spokesperson said.
DHS, at the time, said it could not comment on the specifics of individual cases, but said that upon evacuation from Afghanistan, and before being cleared to travel to the U.S., Afghan evacuees are brought to international transit points where the U.S. government collects and reviews biometric and biographic information.
Officials said that only those evacuees who clear the comprehensive checks are approved for onward travel to the U.S.