Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is still waiting for answers from the Obama administration about an alleged terrorist “hands off” list that might be allowing individuals with potential terrorist ties into the United States.
Grassley last Tuesday released internal Department of Homeland Security emails between two immigration officials discussing the alleged list and an individual who the Department of Homeland Security may have admitted to the United States as a result.
The Iowa Republican first inquired about the alleged “hands off” list on Feb. 3 after obtaining the internal emails. R. Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency, which falls under DHS, wrote Grassley a letter dated April 10 laying out the department's travel and immigration policies for suspected terrorists in broad terms. He also said he would “be happy to” provide a more detailed briefing on the matter.
As of late Friday afternoon, Grassley's spokeswoman Beth Levine told the Washington Examiner that the the agency has yet to agree to a time for the briefing.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of the emails Grassley released discusses an individual who has twice sued the Customs and Border Protection agency and notes that “he’s one of the several hands off passengers nationwide.”
The emails also state that the individual in question was allegedly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a “close associate” of a supporter of “Hamas, Hizbollah, and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad.”
The 2012 email exchange was between a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official. The individual had scheduled an upcoming flight into the U.S. and set off alarm bells because he had been flagged for a secondary inspection “several dozen times of the past several years” but had not undergone one since 2010.
The reference appears to show that the suspect had been on the U.S. government's radar for years.
The emails go on to say that the individual's records were removed from a suspected terrorist watch list database in December 2010 and the DHS secretary, Janet Napolitano at the time, “was involved in the matter.”
In Grassley's initial letter to DHS inquiring about the email exchange, he identifies the individual in question as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an “un-indicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial” who has said the U.S. is staging car bombings in Iraq and it is okay “for men to beat their wives, question who was behind the 9/11 attacks.”
Grassley also points out that the individual is “an associate” of another questionable individual but the name of that person is redacted in the letter he released.
The Holy Land Foundation is the largest Islamic charity in the United States. In 2008 several of its employees were found guilty of providing material support to Hamas and related offenses in a trial considered one of the largest terrorism financing prosecutions in U.S. history.
A first trial in 2008 ended in a partial acquittal of one defendant and a hung jury on all the other charges.
Grassley, in his letter to DHS back in April, said he is “puzzled” how someone with this background could “be afforded the luxury of a visitor visa and de-watchlisted.”
To understand the contents of the emails, Grassley said he wanted to know why the individual allegedly was removed from the watch list in December 2010 and whether, why and to what extent Napolitano was involved in removing him.
He also asked for the individual's current watch list status, the number of people on the 'hands off' list mentioned in the email, what qualifies someone to receive a “hands off” designation, and whether filing a lawsuit against the United States could result in being designated “hands off” and prevent the individual from receiving “secondary security screenings.”