House committee chair: ISIS has tried to use the refugee process to enter the United States

The righty take: This proves that the process for Syrian refugees is a risk and should be suspended. The lefty take: This proves that the process works since it sniffed these guys out before they made it over here. Or rather, it sniffed out the ones we know about.

The devil’s in the details. I hope McCaul clarifies and explains, to whatever extent he’s permitted given the natsec concerns, how the feds figured this out. Do they think jihadis are posing as refugees even now, or is this something ISIS tried once a few years ago and then apparently abandoned because the vetting was too exacting?

“ISIS members in Syria have attempted to exploit it to get into the United States,” McCaul said during a speech at the National Defense University on Monday.

“The U.S. government has information to indicate that individuals tied to terrorist groups in Syria have already attempted to gain access to our country through the U. S. refugee program.”

McCaul would not say specifically who informed him and other lawmakers about the revelation, only describing the sources as “elements of the intelligence community.”

“That was very courageous for them to come forward with this, to tell me about this personally, given the political debate on the Hill,” he added, suggesting that the news did not come from intelligence leaders.

Obama’s point in reiterating how tough the admissions process is for refugees isn’t just to claim that no jihadis would make it through, it’s to suggest that they’d figure out quickly that they shouldn’t bother trying. There are so many easier ways to enter the United States, starting with making the trek to open-borders Europe and then catching a flight to America once your new residency is established, that only a moron would endure the scrutiny and years-long waiting period of refugee admissions. And yet ISIS made an attempt. Why? And how far did they get in the process before they were either caught or abandoned the plan? There’s a big difference in the public’s comfort level between U.S. officials detecting the ruse in the initial application and detecting it at the final interview, when the jihadis’ bags are packed.

Speaking of ruses to enter the U.S., was that Tashfeen Malik’s game? I asked the day after the San Bernardino attack whether she and Farook had a love connection online or whether their marriage was a scam to get her into the country, either willingly on Farook’s part or unknowingly. The feds are wondering the same thing:

One theory being worked on by the FBI is that Malik was already radicalised by the time she arrived on US soil. Far from being a young graduate pursuing love and the American Dream, this theory goes, she was already intent on attacking the country from within…

The FBI believes this may show Farook was the victim of a jihadist “honeytrap” set by Malik in which she identified him as a potential accomplice; he was religious and proficient with guns. Crucially, his US citizenship gave her a means of getting into the country. If the theory holds, it will signify a level of sophistication and pre-planning by Isis that should strike fear into the hearts of the US security establishment…

Aged 27 when she married, Malik was her husband’s senior and on the older side for a Pakistani bride and appears to have been the more dominant figure in their marriage

According to witnesses who spoke to the authors of that piece, it was Malik who fired the first shot in the conference room, not her husband. Malik was also subject to “extensive background checks” by the FBI and DHS before arriving in the U.S. last summer on her fiancee visa but nothing turned up, although her family reportedly originates in a part of Punjab known for jihadi activism. It would take an amazing degree of premeditation and discipline to run your own freelance “honeytrap” plot from abroad with an eye to attacking America while also remaining scrupulously careful not to contact anyone who shares your views lest that raise a red flag that would bar you from entering the U.S. Occam’s Razor suggests that she was a casual jihadi sympathizer while she was in Saudi Arabia and then somehow escalated into active terrorist intent after she got here. But it’s obviously important to find the truth or else we won’t know what those “extensive” background checks did or didn’t miss.

Here’s Rand Paul endorsing a moratorium on all immigration from the Middle East, period. Exit question: Did Obama know that ISIS had tried to exploit the refugee program when he was lecturing Americans for being paranoid about that a few weeks ago?