Vetting Syrian Refugees: Mission Impossible

The recent ISIS attacks in Paris and elsewhere has rightfully heightened concern over bringing an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S., and more after that. While most Americans are sympathetic to the plight of these refugees, it represents a significant security threat to the nation which cannot be easily discounted or falsely represented as the Obama Administration has sought to do.

Debate in the media as was as in Congress has largely centered on the issue of "vetting" or security screening of incoming Syrian migrants. While an admirable concept, it is realistically the case that this is just impossible to accomplish in this situation - truly a "mission impossible" where the ongoing Syrian civil war has already produced a refugee population in the millions. Data to accomplish a thorough vetting or screening process simply doesn't exist - anywhere. These refugees are coming from war-torn Syria - not Switzerland.

Speaking on the Sunday news shows last week Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes hung to an absurd claim that such a thorough screening of the refugees could be accomplished using "Intelligence Community resources." Recall this is the same Ben Rhodes who was behind the ridiculous video narrative in the Benghazi terrorist attacks that left four Americans dead. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have not been quite so foolish. Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and NCTC Director Nicholas Rasmussen have all made public statements recently that the intelligence data to support such a through screening process for these Syrian refugees didn't exist or was inadequate for this requirement.

Senators Rubio and Grassley, as well as Congressman Ryan among others have all called for a thorough screening process which may be largely naïve on their part. No act of Congress, even if President Obama were to sign it could make this happen.

If databases to support a thorough vetting process did exist, where would they come from? Syria - highly unlikely that the Syrians have anything like this, or if they did would certainly not share them with the U.S. that has sought their demise for some five years now. Does the CIA or any other allied intelligence service have a database that covers the millions that have fled Syria, and how would it have been compiled? This is an equally absurd notion and no responsible intelligence official has even suggested that one exists. A related notion that somehow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could step in and magically concoct one is equally laughable. The bottom line here is that these supposed databases don't actually exist and never will.

Next is the argument that incoming Syrian refugees will be interviewed to see if they are jihadist radicals or ISIS agents. How exactly will that work? Does any U.S. Government agency have a task force of qualified Arabic speaking personnel for this and would they be able to spot all of the ISIS operatives if they did? Will the U.S. try and polygraph every incoming refugee? Highly unlikely.

What is clear from recent news reports and social media postings is that any ISIS operatives coming into the U.S. will have good paperwork and a good story. At present there are a huge number of Syrian passports in the hands of refugees, some stolen and some forged. When ISIS took over Raqqa they also took over the Syrian passport offices so they had the equipment and passport stock to manufacture a large number of "genuine" Syrian passports. They have also confiscated genuine passports from ISIS recruits which they have passed on to their operatives. It is also the case that Syrian passports are being forged in Turkey and other places. Somehow ISIS has failed to provide us with a database that tells us which ones are genuine, and if they are actually held by those named in them.

In terms of the very real threat to the U.S. there is no major secret here. Despite the fact that intelligence reports appear to have been skewed to discount the threat, ISIS has been very clear that they intend to attack targets in the U.S., and have also been claiming on social media for more than two months or more that they had a "clandestine program" to insert ISIS operatives into the Syrian migrant population.

Why should anybody be surprised that they showed up in Paris, or doubt that they will appear elsewhere as well? If nothing else the intelligence services in the U.S. and Europe have failed miserably to monitor and correctly analyze what ISIS has been putting on social media, and communicating to its operatives. A serious question remains as to whether these rosy intelligence reports have been politically driven by a White House living in denial and totally detached from reality.

A major killer here is the law of large numbers, which states that a small fraction of a large number is still a large number. If only one percent of the 10,000 Syrian refugees are ISIS terrorists, it's more than the number who slaughtered the people of Paris this past week. This is a risk that the U.S. should not take. ISIS has clearly told us what they want to do and how they intend to do it. Further they have amply demonstrated the will and the resources to get it done. Is the Obama Administration that divorced from reality that they won't pay any attention?

If ISIS has its way and stages a major attack in the U.S., what will be the Obama Administration's response? These weren't radical Muslims; it was because of some mythical anti-Muslim video: it was just workplace violence; or the fault of FOX News and the Republicans. Hopefully the Congress can act quickly to stop this before it happens. If we didn't have adequate warning before 9/11, we certainly have it now.