Dem rep: 72 people on terror watch list work for the Department of Homeland Security, you know
posted at 10:41 am on December 7, 2015 by Ed Morrissey
That’s actually not quite accurate, but it’s close enough to undermine one of the Left’s arguments about gun control, offered up last night from the Oval Office. Once again, Barack Obama articulated his curious and incomprehensible non-sequitur last night on the subject of gun control and the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list. In his Oval Office speech last night, Obama demanded that Congress bar those listed by DHS from purchasing a firearm (transcript via Jeff Dunetz):
To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
We’ll get back to that in a second, but let’s stay with DHS for a moment and paraphrase the President. What could possibly be the argument for allowing 72 terror suspects to work at the Department of Homeland Security? Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, revealed last Tuesday that an internal audit of DHS hiring in August showed six dozen people employed there despite suspicions of connections to terrorism. It came up because Boston Public Radio challenged Lynch to explain why he’d voted with Republicans (and 47 other Democrats) in the House to delay the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees until the vetting process gets overhauled (emphasis mine, via the Free Beacon):
It’s a very simple bill, I know that it’s got subsumed within a larger discussion about immigration policy, but basically, the bill we voted on was a very short bill—four pages in length, basically, and it said that the director of national security shall review the vetting process as being conducted by both the FBI and the department of homeland security. Because of the disastrous results we’ve had so far with the screening process, especially the department of homeland security, I think it was a very good idea to have another set of eyeballs looking at that process.
Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector General did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security. The director had to resign because of that. Then we went further and did and eight-airport investigation. We had staffers go into eight different airports to test the department of homeland security screening process at major airports. They had a 95 percent failure rate. We had folks—this was a testing exercise, so we had folks going in there with guns on their ankles, and other weapons on their persons, and there was a 95 percent failure rate.
I have very low confidence based on empirical data that we’ve got on the Department of Homeland Security. I think we desperately need another set of eyeballs looking at the vetting process. That’s vetting that’s being done at major airports where we have a stationary person coming through a facility, and we’re failing 95 percent of the time. I have even lower confidence that they can conduct the vetting process in places like Jordan, or Belize or on the Syrian border, or in Cairo, or Beirut in any better fashion, especially given the huge volume of applicants we’ve had seeking refugee status.
Lynch may have a few details wrong on this. First, those 73 terror watch-list suspects (not 72) were employed by airports and airlines, not DHS, but it was TSA that cleared them for employment. The audit was published in June, not August. The real issue for TSA was that they didn’t have access to the full terror watchlist, as DHS and intelligence agencies didn’t give them a high enough clearance to check against all the names. It was a failure to “connect the dots,” which as I noted in a column at The Week when this broke is ironically why we formed DHS in the first place.
By the by, the IG report never mentions whether those 73 individuals lost their jobs at these airports. Bloomberg also noted that omission at the time. “The redacted report didn’t identify the individuals, their current employment status or what jobs they held,” Alan Levin wrote.
So … have they been fired? Shouldn’t that answer and issue be a little higher priority than Obama’s non-sequitur about no-fly list suspects buying “semi-automatic weapons,” especially after ISIS’ infiltration of the airport at Sharm el-Sheikh? It’s bad enough that they got access in the first place, but do they still have access? “This is a matter of national security,” is it not?
The no-fly list itself is another matter. No due process takes place for those whose names go on that list; the federal government can add people to it without notifying them of their status. There have been a number of mistakes in adding people, and some people who do have terror connections never make it on the list — such as Syed Farook, Tashfeen Malik, and so on. Boston Marathon mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev flew back and forth to Russia a year after the Russians had warned the FBI about him. The no-fly list is a tool for security, not a comprehensive or even accurate list of threats against the US.
Obama made an argument last night to deny Americans their right based on little more than bureaucratic whim. People do not have the right to work at airports, or to access secured government or military facilities for that matter, but citizens and legal residents have a constitutional right to bear arms. That right requires due process to abrogate for any individual, including a right to see the evidence, question witnesses, and have it adjudicated in open court.
One would think a “Constitutional scholar” would know this. Apparently, some “Constitutional scholars” care more about scoring points and exercising power through the use of non-sequiturs than respecting the Constitution.