The Syrian Refugees

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on November 18, 2015

In the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris that left more than 100 dead, President Obama has decided that it is a good time to reemphasize his plan to bring 200,000 Syrian refugees to America over the next two years. This despite the fact that at least one of the Paris terrorists entered Europe posing as a refugee.

President Obama has bashed GOP 2016 Presidential contenders who question whether this would be a good public policy decision and various governors (including at least one Democratic governor). I'll concede that some of the GOP public officials have voiced their concerns in a less than diplomatic fashion, but it's not like President Obama's been the exemplar of tact and understanding either.

Let's be honest about what we're talking about here. Are we talking about widows and orphans?

Syrian Refugees in Europe. Can you spot the widows and orphans?
Syrian Refugees in Europe. Can you spot the widows and orphans?

There is an inherent danger in admitting to the United States tens of thousands of military-age Muslim men. Can both sides at least agree on that?

The political left and the media (but I repeat myself) has rallied to Obama's call to paint those opposed to settling the Syrian refugees in America as xenophobic know-nothings. contributed this helpful chart to the cause.


Accuracy not guaranteed.
Accuracy not guaranteed.

It may not be a misprint. But it's not accurate. I give you Waada Alwan and Mohanad Hammadi.

Two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, Ky., have been arrested and charged with violating federal terrorism laws — allegedly plotting to send missiles and other weapons to insurgents to kill American soldiers abroad.

Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, are accused of conspiring to send Stinger missiles, cash, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from the United States to al Qaeda and other jihadists in Iraq.

How about Fazliddin Kurbanov?

A federal jury in Idaho has convicted an Uzbek refugee of three terrorism-related charges after prosecutors said he worked to support a terrorist organization and gathered explosive materials in his Boise apartment.

Fazliddin Kurbanov, a Russian-speaking truck driver who fled Uzbekistan in 2009, was arrested two years ago by federal authorities who said he was determined to carry out an attack on U.S. soil. Prosecutors also said he tried to provide computer support and money to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which the U.S. government has identified as a terrorist organization.

And how could I forget the Tsarnaev brothers?

But Obama has assured us the federal government is going to do a good job of screening these refugees to make sure no wolves sneak in amongst the sheep. How's that going to go?

Several high-level administration officials have warned in recent months just how challenging this can be. While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check?

The United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees since the mid-1970s, and the screening system in the post-9/11 era includes multiple background checks, screenings against FBI and other databases and an in-person interview. Debate over the program has intensified since the deadly terrorist strikes in Paris blamed on the Islamic State, though each attacker identified so far whose nationality has been confirmed has been found to be a European national, not part of the wave of refugees from Syria.

“I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has “a pretty aggressive program” for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.

FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting,” he said.

Although Comey said the process has since “improved dramatically,” Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because, unlike in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have not been on the ground collecting information on the local population. “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” he said. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

This isn't a new problem, ABC News was reporting back in 2013 that even with the better vetting we had of Iraqi refugees because we had tens of thousands of soldiers on the ground in that country to help with the intelligence background, some terrorists still might've slipped through.

Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- who later admitted in court that they'd attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of specialists to an around-the-clock effort aimed at checking its archive of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in the war zones, known as IEDs, for other suspected terrorists' fingerprints.

"We are currently supporting dozens of current counter-terrorism investigations like that," FBI Agent Gregory Carl, director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), said in an ABC News interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline".

Just so you're reassured.

I'm not completely opposed to admitting some Syrian refugees to the United States. We can start with the Christians and Yazidis. (For those ready to scream about religious bigotry—get some learning on the subject.

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