Sen. Paul Questions U.S. Access for Terrorists at Homeland Security Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In response to the apprehension of two suspected terrorists in his hometown of Bowling Green, Ky., last month, Sen. Rand Paul immediately insisted on an investigation into what procedures and safeguards broke down, allowing the men into the United States.
Following Sen. Paul's calls for an investigation, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a full hearing today with officials from the Departments of State and Homeland Security to discuss the issue. Officials from State and DHS offered testimony, and Sen. Paul addressed them with questions focused on how to prevent terrorist travel to the United States.
Sen. Paul issued this statement following the hearing. Below is video and a transcript of Sen. Paul's questions at the hearing.
"The role of the federal government in preventing terrorists from entering our country must include the ability to secure our borders and keep out those who wish to do us harm. We must prevent the kind of terrorist travel that allowed two Iraqi refugees and suspected terrorists into my hometown of Bowling Green.
"But after today's hearing, I remain deeply concerned. We learned that our entire security apparatus is inundated with information. There is so much information, it causes a backlog of fingerprints, yet, we continue to process visas and create the potential for people who wish to do us harm to enter our country," Sen. Paul said.
"If our screening process is broken because of a backlog, then let's fix it. By continuing to allow people into the country without having all relevant information, we put ourselves in grave danger."
I think the most serious threats to our country from terrorism come from probably travel visas, refugee visas, and student visas. Some might argue with that, but 16 of the 19 [Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks] hijackers were here on student visas, weren't policed well, and had overstayed their welcome.
I'm still concerned we may not have figured out and aren't doing a good enough job on these problems. I believe we continue to have security breaches and I think there are two possibilities: We can say 'well, there are so many people visiting that we will have these breaches. It's inevitable we'll have a certain amount,' or you could say that 'maybe we're inundated with information that it's our philosophy that's mistaken.'
Perhaps it's that our philosophy is that everyone is potentially a terrorist and everyone has an equal chance of being a terrorist. I think if you take that philosophy you inundate yourself with information. So much information, you'll never get through it. Nobody can talk to each other because you're wallowing in electronic and paper information and you can't get to who the people are which would really require good police work.
We had the head of the TSA here last week and the head of the TSA, after we showed him the outrage and he's got to be reading the newspaper, the outrage over patting down these children said he was changing his procedure. But then he sends to me a rather curt note and says "Well, an eight-year old had a bomb in Afghanistan."
The problem is there's a logical error there. An 8-year old in Afghanistan had a bomb. What does that have to do with an 8-year old or a 6-year old in Bowling Green? Absolutely nothing.
They're the same age but that's not a risk factor. Age isn't a risk factor. It's where this girl lived. How she grew up. It's sort of like telling me that if an eight-year old in Afghanistan sacrifices a goat that we'd now have to be worried about kids sacrificing goats at 8 in America.
They have nothing to do with each other but that's the logic. It's this universal approach that everyone's the same, and everyone's an equal threat. But I think it makes us less safe, but it makes us more insulted.
This morning in the airport in Nashville, a 41-year-old mother was arrested because she didn't want them putting their hands inside the hands of her 6-year-old girl. They say they are going to change, but they are not changing. They continue to pat down 6-year-old girls. The real threat is from people coming here internationally.
So we here we get to the situation in Bowling Green. I compliment the FBI and our local law enforcement for doing a good job, but I think this person was only caught because an informant tipped him off and we finally starting looking and eventually we looked through a database that we hadn't been looking through.
Chairman Lieberman remarks that this is from the FBI database. Why wasn't this going on? I mean why does it take an informant to find somebody for us, for us to do our job. Do we need to replace people who aren't doing their job? It sounds like no one thought this through that you had to be tipped off by an informant and then you're like 'oh my goodness, we let a terrorist in.'
But it gets back to the universal versus the specific. Why can't we search everybody? Why don't we know everybody's background? Cause we have let 60,000 Iraqis in, in the last three years. It's a policy question; why do you admit 60,000 people?
Now here's the point, people will argue well it's dangerous over there. Well we've got 50,000 of our young men and women putting their lives on the line every day, some of our relatives and some of my relatives are over there, putting their lives on the line for the Iraqi's. Do you think they ought to stay, even if it is a dangerous place?
It's been dangerous since 900 AD, since the massacre. Not the recent massacre, the massacre at Karbala in 900 AD. They have hated each other for a millennium, it's not safe. But should we be admitting 60,000 people over here to our country?
And then to add insult to injury, one of the alleged attackers lives in government housing; most of them do. We're encouraging them to be on Welfare. We have a whole cottage industry, set up to get them in government housing, on food stamps. It's insulting to us that we are doing this.
But it would take a policy change, I don't fault you for missing a needle in the haystack; you got to make the haystack smaller. You know you need to admit less people, so there is no reason we should admitting 60,000 people. We need to address that policy. I'm almost out of breath.
Why don't we start with that question, and tell me why do we need 60,000 and are we going to keep admitting 18,000 in a year? Can we possibly know who these people are? And just one other example of how we can't, even in the military over there, we have an attack almost every 6 months, where we admit someone into the Iraqi military or into the Afghan military and then they attack our soldiers on base.
It's hard to know who your friends are and who foes are because they will lie to you on the admission statement. But I would appreciate your comments.