In an open letter to members of Congress, retired DHS employee Philip Haney says that, under pressure from the Department of State, his superiors closed down his work on terrorist outfits with which the San Bernardino murderers — Sayed Farook and Tashfeen Malif — were affiliated. According to Haney, if this work had not been shut down, the Sen Bernardino killings might have been prevented.
15 December, 2015
An Open Letter to Members of Congress:
In the aftermath of the most devastating and lethal jihadist attack in the United States since 9/11, Americans are rightly angry their government will not face the problem of Islamic terrorism honestly. I know this first hand.
During my 13 years at the Department of Homeland Security, I worked tirelessly to identify and prevent terrorism in the United States. As a recognized “founding member” of DHS, it was among my responsibilities to raise concern, not only about the individuals primed for imminent attack, but about the networks and ideological support that makes those terrorist attacks possible.
I investigated numerous groups such as the Deobandi Movement, Tablighi Jamaat, and al Huda as their members traveled into and out of the United States in the course of my work. Many were traveling on the visa waiver program, which minimizes the checks and balances due to agreements with the countries involved. But the scrutiny we were authorized to apply was having results. This investigation could possibly have prevented the San Bernardino jihadist attack by identifying its perpetrators, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, based on their associations with these groups.
Almost a year into this investigation, it was halted by the State Department and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. They not only stopped us from connecting more dots, the records of our targets were deleted from the shared DHS database. The combination of Farook’s involvement with the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah Mosque and Malik’s attendance at al Huda would have indicated, at minimum, an urgent need for comprehensive screening. Instead, Malik was able to avoid serious vetting upon entering the United States on a fiancé visa and more than a dozen Americans are dead as a result.
The investigation was not stopped because it was ineffective, it was stopped because the Administration told us the civil rights of the foreign nationals we were investigating could be violated. When did foreign nationals gain civil rights in the United States, especially when they are associated with groups we already know are involved in terrorist activity? Based on what I have seen in the Department of Homeland Security, I no longer have the confidence this administration can adequately vet or screen refugees or immigrants from Islamic countries.
I took my story to the American people last week. Remarkably this week, DHS’ former acting under secretary for intelligence and analysis, John Cohen, told ABC News that under the direction of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, potential immigrants’ social media activity was off limits to those responsible for screening.
Just as they did when they halted my investigation in 2012 which could have provided key intelligence and potentially saved over a dozen lives DHS described a potential “civil liberties backlash” if the law enforcement officals tasked with keeping our country secure did the checks on potential travelers, immigrants and refugees. Parents checking on someone their child may be dating look at social media, but our law enforcement officials can’t?
This administration has a deadly blind spot when it comes to Islamic terrorism. It is not willing to allow proper vetting and screening of refugees or immigrants from Islamic countries; Congress must take action to defend the security of the American people.
I understand the desire to welcome as many immigrants and refugees as possible, especially those fleeing dangerous conflict zones. However, this administration has handcuffed law enforcement officials tasked with vetting these individuals appropriately and that places the American people in danger.
Philip B. Haney DHS, Customs & Border Protection Officer (ret).