If you didn’t have much faith in our ability to screen the incoming 10,000 Syrian refugees, be prepared to give up whatever glimmer of hope you had left.
We can extrapolate from past experiences how successful our screening will be of Syrian Refugees, and as recent reporting from Marc Theissen of the Washington Post showed, we haven’t done a great job:
The State Department admitted to Congress last week that it had revoked the visas of 9,500 individuals since 2001 who were believed to have either engaged in terrorist activities or were associated with a terrorist organization. Think about what that means: Nearly 10,000 people considered too dangerous to enter the United States because of suspected terrorist activity or association were mistakenly granted visas to lawfully enter the country. They successfully penetrated our defenses, beat our screening system and got their hands on U.S. visas.
Worse still, after officials caught their mistake and revoked the visas after the fact, they lost track of the visa holders. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, pressed Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to explain what had happened to the 9,500. She replied: “I don’t know.”
We don’t know where these 9,500 individuals are, or how many of them — if any — are in the United States today.
So that looks bad – but it gets worse when you compare how many suspected terrorists have entered the country relative to how many we were able to keep out.
An examination of State Department records by American Enterprise Institute researcher Justin Lang found that since 2001, the State Department had denied visas to just 2,231 individuals because the applicant was suspected of terrorist ties or activity. Yet during that same period, the State Department granted U.S. visas to 9,500 people who it later figured out posed a terrorist threat — and had to go back and retroactively revoke those individuals’ visas.
The means our screening system is so bad, it let through more than four times as many suspected terrorists as it stopped. If a National Hockey League goalie let in more than four times as many goals as he blocked, he would be fired.
Theissen continues by noting that these revoked visas are only of the suspected terrorists that we know about. There are plenty that we don’t know about – the San Bernardino shooters having been two of them.
When the Syrian refugees start coming in and the Obama administration is able to screen out a few terrorists they’ll likely hold this up as a success – mocking those who ever doubted our ability to prevent terrorists from entering the country. But what it really means is that we can figure out how many terrorists have entered the country by multiplying that figure by four.
About Analytical Economist
The Analytical Economist is a freelance financial, political, and economics writer. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including National Review, the Foundation for Economic Education, Ludwig von Mises Institute, among many others.