Hundreds of unvetted Afghan refugees released in the United States by the Biden administration are on a Department of Defense (DOD) watchlist of suspected and known terrorists, according to a Pentagon whistleblower. The database is known as Biometrically Enabled Watchlist (BEWL), and it identifies individuals whose unique physical characteristics have been flagged by analysts to be national security threats. Some 324 Afghan evacuees who appear in the system were freed in the U.S., the DOD whistleblower says. The information has sparked outrage among some members of Congress who assert known suspected terrorists were let into the U.S. last year “after the administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
At least two U.S. Senators are demanding and immediate investigation by the DOD Inspector General. In a letter to the Pentagon watchdog, the lawmakers, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, write that the whistleblower’s information may show the Biden administration’s failure to vet those evacuated from Afghanistan was even worse than the public was led to believe. The whistleblower also alleges that political appointees at the National Security Council (NSC) and DOD instructed agency personnel to cut corners when processing evacuees in Afghanistan and at staging bases in Europe, the lawmakers write. Rather than administer fingerprint tests on all ten fingers, personnel were told to abbreviate tests to promote the rushed evacuation from Afghanistan. “Finally, it is alleged that personnel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who work on vetting Afghan evacuees have been authorized to delete old biometric data, whenever they personally believed that such information is out of date,” the senators write. “This is a troubling development that could threaten national security and public safety.”
The legislators want the DOD IG to investigate how many BEWL matches were generated by biometric submissions from Afghan evacuees, how many of those individuals were denied entry in the U.S., how many were admitted and how many are currently in the country. They also want to know the number of BEWL matches generated by evacuees after their arrival in the U.S. and what steps have been taken to identify, vet and deport the individuals who appeared on the watchlist or if the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has investigated any of them. The probe also needs to reveal if political appointees at the NSC or DOD instructed personnel to administer abbreviated fingerprint tests to Afghan evacuees, according to the senators, and under what conditions may agency personnel delete biometric information. They specifically want to know if any biometric information associated with Afghan evacuees been deleted.
The disturbing security lapses exposed by the whistleblower come on the heels of a federal audit confirming that dozens of Afghan refugees released in the U.S. were flagged by the Pentagon for “potentially significant security concerns.” In that probe the DOD IG found that the agency responsible for clearing the Afghans by conducting thorough background checks is not doing its job, creating serious national security issues, and undoubtedly threatening the safety of Americans. The agency is known as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and it functions under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). It was launched in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks by consolidating intel gathered by the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), DHS, and the DOD. Besides missing the significant DOD security concerns of at least 50 refugees, the nation’s lead counterterrorism intelligence entity also failed to stop at least four dozen Afghans with “derogatory information” in their record, the watchdog found.
Under the Biden administration’s Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), approximately 80,000 “displaced persons from Afghanistan” have been admitted into the country under a special immigrant visa (SIV) or humanitarian parole. The president directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead the chaotic plan to resettle the Afghans and the administration assured Americans the refugees would be thoroughly screened. That has not materialized and for months media reports have exposed crimes, including child molestation, assault and domestic violence committed by Afghans housed at military bases throughout the U.S.