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tv   Hearing on Refugee Policy and National Security  CSPAN  February 9, 2016 4:22am-6:45am EST

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>> committee on homeland security will come to order. committee is meeting today to receive testimony regarding the threat posed from the exploitation of our nation's refugee and visa programs by violent islamic extremist groups such as isis. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. today we're in the highest threat environment since 9/11 yet there's a crisis of confidence. in washington's ability to do what it takes to protect our country. over the past few weeks i've traveled around the country to discuss the terror threats we face and how to thwart them. the american people are concerned and rightfully so. the president believes terrorist groups like isis are on the run but the truth is that they are on the march. gaining ground across the world. make no mistake they want to send their foot soldiers to our
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shores. that's why we're here today. we must be clear eyed about our enemies goals and do what it takes to prevent them from exporting their violence to america. this morning our focus is on our nation's refugee and visa programs. terrorists have used these routes to get into our country, exposing security vulnerabilities into our systems. just last month the fbi arrested two iraqis in the united states on terror related charges. both were inspired by isis. one had traveled to syria and both had entered our country as refugees. in december two isis fanatics in san bernardino launched a heinous attack that left 14 dead and 22 wounded. one of these terrorists came into the united states already radicalized on a fiancee visa. jihadists see these programs as a back door into america and will continue to exploit them until we take action.
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isis has vowed to send its operatives into the west posing as refugees and it has done so to brutally murder civilians on the streets of paris. our intelligence community has told me that individuals with terrorism ties in syria have already tried to gain access to our country through the refugee program. what's even more concerning is that top officials had testified before this committee that intelligence gaps prevent us from being able to confidently weed out terrorists from these groups. that is why i drafted the safe act which passed the house with a bipartisan veto-proof majority last year. it will add additional layers to the process of adding refugee -- admitting refugees from the conflict zone. sadly the white house has chosen to let partisan politics get in the way of national security and pushed for this bill to be blocked in the senate.
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without these enhanced protections in place more violent extremists will be able to slip through the cracks undetected. our visa programs are even a bigger concern. on the chart behind me you can see the terrorists have used student visas, tourist visas and more, to infiltrate our country and plot significant acts of terror. but time and again, we have failed to close the vulnerabilities in the system quickly enough. every one of the 9/11 hijackers came into america on a visa and we failed to connect the dots to stop them. several overstayed their visas and nothing was done. we saw this again in 2012 when the fbi arrested a morrocan national plotting a suicide bombing right here on capitol hill. the suspect entered on a tourist visa in 1999 and he never left.
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in a report to congress issued last month dhs admitted there's hundreds of thousands, if not millions of aliens in these country. they came in legally but did not leave when they are supposed to. that's why we must fulfill one of the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 commission by moving forward with the biometric exit/entry system to track those who overstayed their welcome. we're currently working on legislation to close other glaring gaps in the system. and to bring visa security screening into the 21st century by incorporating social media data into screening. more broadly speaking this committee has led the effort in congress to shut down terrorist pathways in to our country. our bipartisan task force on combatting terrorists and foreign fighter travel led by the gentleman from new york made more than 50 actionable recommendations to improve our defenses.
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i'm proud to say that as of yesterday we have taken legislative action to implement nearly half of them. this includes a major security overhaul, through effort spearheaded by this committee's vice chair miss miller. however we're deeply concerned despite signing this law the president does not plan to implement it faithfully. this failure of implementation is not the topic of today's hearing. the committee will convene one week from today to question witnesses from dhs and the state department on their inaction. let us not forget we're engaged in a war against islam -- islamist terror. americans expect us to act like it and to do what it takes to respond to the evolving threat and secure our homeland. with that now the chair recognizes the ranking member, the gentleman from mississippi mr. thompson. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman.
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thank you for holding today's hearing. i would also like to thank the department of homeland security and department of state for being witnesses here today. given the evolving threat environment it's proper that this committee examine both the visa security and refugee vetting process. last month in separate incidents two iraqi refugees accused of having ties to the islamic state were arrested in sacramento and houston. in december of last year the united states was stunned when a mass shooting and attempted bombing were perpetrated by two attackers in san bernardino, california. the perpetrators were husband and wife and the wife entered the united states on a fiancee visa. -- on a k or finance visa. also in november it was reported that a fake syrian passport was found with one of the terrorists
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who carried out the deadly paris attacks directed by isil. consequently i understand the concern that is presented here today. however, as i've stated in previous hearings it's important that we as federal policymakers embrace facts, not fear. our refugee screening process includes the most thorough vetting any visitor or immigrant to the united states undergoes. with dhs conducting an enhanced review of syrian refugee cases. throughout the refugee application process applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases to ensure no new information has come to light. if there's any doubt about whether an applicant poses a risk, that person will not be admitted. with proper vetting we should continue to welcome vulnerable populations to this country. including syrian refugees in
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keeping with our history and values as americans. providing safe harbor to individuals who no longer have a home because of war and violence is the humane and american thing to do. today i hope to hear from the department of homeland security about information that the agency can publicly share about its improvement to the refugee vetting process. advancements in technology and the evolving threat environment require continuous evaluations how the agency use vetting and -- use technology in the vetting and screening processes. it's been reported that united states citizenship and immigration services is piloting the use of social media in vetting and refugee
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applications. while we understand social media can play a role in refugee vetting, we should remember it is only one part of an extensive process. frankly, the more explicit we are about our refugee vetting process in public, particularly with respect to social media the more valuable information we stand to lose. users have the ability to control their social media, so we do not want to tip them off. additionally, while the overwhelmingly majority of visa holders are legitimate visitors who comply with the terms of their visas and depart in a timely fashion, some have exploited the system. in the wake of september 11th, attempted christmas day 2009 attack and other incidents we strengthened our visa security by pushing out our borders, conducting screenings early in the process, and enhancing how we vet visa applicants. i want to hear from dhs and the
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state department about what needs to be done and what resources are necessary to address security vetting challenges. i'm particularly interested in knowing whether there's a way to improve the vetting process to identify people that seek to do us harm, but on whom we have no derogatory information, which i understand was the case with one of the san bernardino perpetrators. as we consider reviews of the refugee and visa security processes, we need to make sure that if there are improvements that need to be made, congress will commit the funding for them. we cannot make substantial changes to these programs if they are not properly funded. finally, mr. chair, in december the house came together and passed legislation to strengthen the visa waiver program. i understand as you've already
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indicated that next week the committee will hold a hearing on the visa waiver program and specifically how our administration intends to implement language including the recent enacted omnibus bill to prohibit individuals with citizenship or recent travel to iraq, iran, sudan, syria, from coming to the u.s. under the visa waiver program. instead, such travellers would have to obtain a visa. i strongly support giving the secretary discretion to waive a visa requirement when doing so is in the interest of our national security as provided for under the law and, in fact, supported some discretion for certain individuals on a case by case basis who travel to one of the four countries for viable, legitimate purposes.
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however, i'm concerned about recent statements indicating that the department of state and homeland security may attempt to exempt broad categories of travelers from the requirements of the law. and i look forward to hearing some comment at some point on that. mr. chairman, with that i yield back the balance of my time. >> other members are reminded opening statements may be submitted to the record. we're pleased to have a distinguished panel before us today. first mr. francis taylor assumed his post as undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the department of homeland security in april of 2014. in this role, he provides secretary johnson, dhs senior leadership, dhs components and state local tribal private sector partners with the homeland security intelligence and information they need to keep the country safe, secure, and resilient. thank you for being here and
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thank you for your service. previously, he served as assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security and director of the office of foreign missions. mr. leon rodriguez was confirmed by the united states senate in june 2014, as the director of the united states citizenship and immigration services. he previously served as the director for the office of civil rights at the department of health and human services, a position he held from 2011 to 2014. part of that time he served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the department of justice. mr. kubiak assumed the role -- our next witness -- of assistant director for international operations at u.s. immigration and customs enforcement on june 30, 2014, and in this position he is responsible for a budget of more than $130 million and operational oversight of 63 offices in 46 countries and
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eight department of defense liaison office it is of over 400 personnel. and finally ms. michelle bond was sworn in as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs on august 10, 2015. she leads a team of 13,000 consular professionals and almost 300 locations across the united states and around the world who protect the lives and interests of u.s. citizens abroad. i want to thank all of you for being here today and i now recognize mr. taylor for his testimony. >> chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson, thank you for allowing us to appear before you this morning to discuss dhs's refugee visa and other admission screening and vetting efforts. i prepared a statement for the record, sir, but i will just highlight in my oral comments a few other items. dhs, together with our law enforcement intelligence colleagues leverage a range of information and processes to
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carry out screening and vetting supporting our operational missions including preventing terrorism. screening and vetting are key to refugee visa and other administrative admissions processes. everyday dhs with our interagency partners vet millions of individuals traveling to, from, or within the united states applying -- those applying for citizenship and immigration benefits and those applying for credentials and special accesses. as screening and vetting efforts include biometric and biografic information collection, in-person interviews, detailed research and analysis, database vetting and bulk data screening, publicly available information vetting, including social media and identity verification. because of the technological advances and evolving nature of
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the threat environment we face, we have efforts continuously under way to enhance our screening and vetting processes. additionally, since in december secretary johnson asked me to lead a review of the department's current use of social media in our vetting and identity processes to develop a future state that optimizes the use of social media vetting across our department. a review found while social media efforts are under way across departments, social media use as a vetting tool by components is varied and could benefit from a unified approach that leverages the strength of the entire department and state-of-the-art technological capabilities. the next step for us is to address these issues which we are aggressively working to do. while i cannot get into the specifics of many aspects of our
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screening and vetting efforts in an open hearing, these are the broad steps dhs is taking to further improve our screening and vetting of refugees and visa applicants. one, developing policies in a framework to systematically leverage all information and intelligence available to the u.s. government to inform our vetting programs and adjudication decisions. second, continuously screening applicants against u.s. government holdings at every stapelg of the vetting process, to ensure that new information regarding applicants informs our admission decisions. third, continuously refining and enhancing our policies, processes, capabilities and systems as we have since 9/11 to ensure we leverage emerging technologies and capabilities and adapt to a constantly evolving threat environment while we are protecting privacy and civil liberties.
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and fourth, determining the appropriate investment strategy needed to automate a process that enables bulk data screening and analysis in a manner that protects both individual liberties but produces information of value. these are just a few of the steps dhs is taking to meet this challenge and we will continue to seek new ways to solve our most pressing national security issues and fulfill our border security, immigration and travel security and other homeland security missions. chairman, ranking member thompson and members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you, i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you secretary taylor, the chair now recognizes director rodriguez. >> good morning chairman, ranking member, members of the committee. thank you all for convening this very important hearing. chairman and ranking member as both of you observed, there are very active and dangerous individuals in organizations who
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were sworn to the destruction of our country. every morning when i wake up to do my work i think about exactly that. i want to talk about where the refugee program sits in the context of those threats. we have heard the refugee program described as a purely humanitarian and optional undertaking. i am here this morning, among other things, to suggest to you that the refugee program is, in fact, a vital part of both our foreign policy and national security. let's talk about the specific syrian case. the four million refugees now dispersed throughout the middle east and europe are on the whole the victims of the very individuals sworn to destroy us here in the united states. they are now scattered throughout both the middle east and europe. 400,000 syrian refugee children are not in school and i do not
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need to dwell too long on what the consequences of that could be in terms of human trafficking, potential for radicalization, a long list of other risks and harms which should be intuitive to this body. and so therefore refugee admissions are a critical element of regional stability, stabilizing the regions where these individuals are located which, in turn, has important consequences to the united states in standing together with our european allies who, in fact, are facing this problem very imminently. while we are talking about taking 10,000 roughly here in the united states, many of my european colleagues are dealing with many, many times that already in their borders and, in fact, in many cases without any patrol at all. the 10,000 we're talking about is merely a quarter percent of the four million who are currently refugees and an even smaller fraction of the number of syrians who are displaced
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either within syria or elsewhere in the world. they also represent about one three hundredth of one percent of the overall population of the united states so i would suggest to fail to admit refugees who were, in fact, the most immediate and most severe victims of that sort of terrorism, of those sorts of threats would cede a vital part of the battlefield to the people seeking to destroy us. now, in order to admit those refugees, we need to do it safely. that is really the critical topic of this hearing today. and i'm here to talk about refugees and more generally about our immigration system and what we do and have been doing for a very long time to ensure that those who seek the benefit of coming to the united states and staying to the united states are not those who mean us harm either as threats to our national security or otherwise as threats to our society. in fact, refugees go through a
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very lengthy process involving multiple interviews, multiple screenings. they are checked against databases of the united states law enforcement, the intelligence community customs and border protection, state department advisory services, and many of these are tools that, for example, when we talk about september 11, did not exist at that time, were not in utilization at that time. even 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.
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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 denied 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
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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 new programs that have been instituted since 9/11 that increased the vetting process that 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 62 offices in 46 countries. our international staff works in conjunction with their foreign law enforcement counterparts to detect, disrupt and dismantle
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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 provide advice 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 vsp's primary purpose is to identify terrorists and criminals or other aliens ineligible for visa prior to travel or application to -- for admission to 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
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travel arrangements, to the time they appear at our border and beyond. as new information becomes available through our screening processes, it is provided 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 agents, 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
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which identify individuals of concern early in the visa application process, which then allows us to utilize our law enforcement tools in country, to participate in interviews and to 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
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applicants had 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 -- provided ice 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 record expansion is made possible by the additional congressional funding by cbp and ice's joint initiative to central vetting in collaboration with the department of state, on
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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 questions. >> 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.
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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,
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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 suspends visa processing and submits a request for a washington-based interagency security advisory opinion review. 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 locations, provide on-sight vetting of visa applications and other law enforcement support to our consular officers.
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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 higher 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
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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 social media had not been reviewed prior to coming into the united states.
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or as part of the visa application process. something as fundamental, that really any employer, before they hire someone, that i'm aware of, check. this is on social media. yet we seem to have this antiquated system that we want to bring into the 21st century when it comes to something so vitally property as the nation's security. i understand there's nothing derogatory on her facebook account. but your predecessor raised this as an issue as well, that the department was not looking at social media. it's my understanding that since that time, there have been three pilot programs launched, looking specifically at the syrian refugee program. it's important to note that since may, more than 40 suspected jihadists have been
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caught entering through the syrian refugee process. many if not all had links to isis. so i guess my first question is and i think mainly to our homeland security witnesses, is -- and i understand there are 10.5 million visa applicants per year. it's an enormous number, and there are hundreds of thousands of refugees. but when we look at the 10,000 syrian refugees, i think the american people are most concerned with with, and the congress, can you tell us now, in light of the san bernardino shooting, what are we doing with respect to the admittance of those 10,000 syrian refugees into the united states? are we checking their social media accounts, mr. taylor? >> thank you for the question, sir. i think director rodriguez can address that specific question, but i'd like for the record to
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be clear. that mr. cohen's suggestion that there was a prohibition on the use of social media in the department of homeland security is false. we've had policy in place since 2012, and to date, there are 33 instances within the department where components are using social media. the challenge the secretary recognized was that the -- it's not -- we were not doing it comprehensively as a department. and as you know, one of his big pushes has been to organize departmental information in a way that complements the various missions of our components. and that's what our task force is focused on, how can we organize ourselves to use this in a most effective way across all of the missions that the department performs. director rodriguez? >> and i want to give you the opportunity to respond because it's been made a big deal in the
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media. but when was the task force formed? >> my task force was formed on the 15th of december. and the policy in the department was written in 2012 that authorized the use of social media cross components. >> so, at this point, with respect to the syrian refugee stream, we are reviewing social media in those cases where there are existing flags of concern. we are building, as quickly as we can, to build to a point where we would, in fact, be screening the entire body of syrian refugee aficants. we're prioritizing as we bring new resources online, we're prioritizing those areas where we detect the greatest risk. i think we discussed some of that yesterday in the classified briefing. i think it's important to, as we talk about social media, to place it in the right context of
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the overall screening that we do. it's one tool among a battery of tools that we use in order to screen individuals. so it's used in conjunction with the information that we derive from intelligence databases. it's used in conjunction with the multiple interviews that are conducted of these individuals before they are granted admission, and particularly important to recognize that those individuals are done with the benefit of intense briefing to our officers based on both classified and non-classified sources on the country continues, to a great degree of gran layerity that exists in the countries from which they are coming. whether they're talking about syria or iraq. we're not only going to be talking about syria, but also iraq. if you look at the history of the individuals arrested for terrorist plots, there's more of a history, certainly of
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individuals having terrorist plots -- >> the time is expiring, but in those cases where we did have intelligence, we brought in terrorists? >> again, that's where the important and i'd like an opportunity to answer is that at some other point. that's why the important of the interagency check, which was not used in the same manner at the time of the -- >> and i understand all that. this is about social media. when the director of the fbi testified here and the 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 -- >> but not all of them? just the high-risk? >> right now and then we're going to be movering to cover the entire population. >> which leads to my next
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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 just to the 10,000 syrian refugees, but to all the visa security units across the globe. >> sir, that's our intent to be as comprehensive as we can in capability. to allow the maximum amount of vetting against that particular data set for the purposes of our department's missions. so it's not limited. we've started with the k-1s and the refugees because that's a starting set. but the longer term plan is to apply that capability against all of the vetting responsibilities that we -- >> well, you certainly have my
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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 questionin,g 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.
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>> if we are mandating 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 in fy-15 also was companied by an ability to carry some of that money over 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. so we're able to use some of the money congress gave us in '15 in '16 for that expansion 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
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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 be able 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 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.
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this committee has been very supportive of ina's efforts at using data within dhs. those -- that funding has been very useful for us in moving that forward, but we don't know yet what the 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 in this is that at the beginning, we probably won't have enough capability on board in the government to do this robustly and that we will have to do some contracting,
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particularly like 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 more readily available initially 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
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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.
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>> 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 not the case. >> the state department, i think, tries to skew the data a little bit and they say 2% are
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males connected to families, but if you leave off "connected to families" it suddenly expands to about a quarter are 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
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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 -- have 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 also against country conditions,
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we are -- >> i know, again, let me go to my question and hope you'll answer it. what percentage of syrian refugees do you have no 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
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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, again, 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 on a majority? >> no, we do. the individuals bring extensive government -- often bring extensive government documentation. we interview multiple family members, we interview multiple
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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 information and specific information about that individual, about that 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 unless we got it. >> that's what i'm looking for, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. smith. mr. keating is recognizing. -- is recognized. >> 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
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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 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
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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 amp 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 for example, the social media screening, as we increase the capabilities in that area, we do have access to language assistance contracts, in whatever the relevant languages might be. i think you understand that our funding model is fundamentally different than everybody else at this table.
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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
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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 in 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? >> yeah, i think your question
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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.
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i wanted to quickly in a few seconds -- the time frame for moving some of these pilots for social media review, in these critical areas, can you give us just an idea time frame when you'll be able to 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 of that 10,000 that we're seeking to admit this year as we can.
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