Grassley accuses FBI of ‘hiding behind classification’ amid concerns of inadequate vetting of Afghan evacuees

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Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the FBI is “hiding behind classification” of data related to its investigations of Afghan evacuees, as lawmakers assert that the public has a right to know what information the agency is gleaning. 

Following a classified Congressional briefing Wednesday with FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other administration officials on the screening and vetting of Afghan evacuees, Grassley called on the FBI to be “transparent” with the public on “steps being taken to thwart risks stemming from the reckless vetting process that was used.”

“It’s unacceptable that the FBI continues to take a secretive approach, hiding behind classification as an excuse to withhold information that all Americans deserve to have,” Grassley said in a press statement Wednesday. 

Lawmakers are concerned that potentially dangerous individuals are in the country who may have slipped through the vetting process.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa  (Photo by SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

DHS OIG FAULTS AFGHAN EVACUEE VETTING, WARNS NATIONAL SECURITY THREATS MAY HAVE ENTERED US

Last month, Grassley, the Senate Judiciary ranking member, along with Jim Inhofe and Rob Portman, wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting an in-person briefing on information on the FBI’s activities related to Afghan evacuees.

The senators also requested a “rationale for the classification of the material given the strong public interest and the different classification treatment of similar information in other contexts.” 

Law enforcement officials say senior FBI officials briefed members of Congress on Wednesday regarding the data requested by the ranking members in their letter.

A source familiar with the information presented in the briefing told Fox News Digital that the American public should “absolutely” be privy to the data.

Afghan passengers are pictured in-front of a Qatar Airways airplane at Kabul International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 19, 2021. (Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS)

Afghan passengers are pictured in-front of a Qatar Airways airplane at Kabul International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 19, 2021. (Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS)

PENTAGON IG TO REVIEW WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS ABOUT ALLEGED AFGHAN EVACUEE VETTING FAILURES

“If the public knew the sheer volume of individuals under review by the FBI, it would be pretty eye-opening,” the source said. “The administration wants to say that everybody was fully vetted before they got to the United States, and that’s just not true.”

A September 7 DHS Inspector General report revealed that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “did not always have critical data to properly screen, vet, or inspect the evacuees.”

“We determined some information used to vet evacuees through U.S. Government databases, such as name, date of birth, identification number, and travel document data, was inaccurate, incomplete, or missing. We also determined CBP admitted or paroled evacuees who were not fully vetted into the United States,” the report says.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 6, 2022. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 6, 2022.  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

HAWLEY TO INTRODUCE BILL TO CREATE SELECT COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the Biden administration’s previous claims that no Afghan refugee was allowed into the country without being fully vetted, adding that the IG report did not take into full account the “key steps” in a “rigorous and multi-layered screening and vetting process” across government agencies.

A source familiar with the Biden administration’s vetting processes told Fox Digital that baseline operations already lacked the relevant data to properly cross-check information to properly vet evacuees. The abrupt Afghanistan withdrawal, the source says, overwhelmed an already compromised system. 

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“When you rush people through a system that’s already incomplete from a country that has a history of horrible terror, what do you think is going to happen?” 

The FBI declined to comment.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Brooke Singman and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.