MEDIA & PRESS RELEASES

National Security Leaders Send Letter to All U.S. Governors Countering Misinformation, Underscoring Facts Surrounding Afghan Resettlement

November 2, 2021

cropped-CNSI-logos-2-1-1.png

November 2, 2021

Dear Governor:

We appreciate the work you do to provide your constituents with both economic opportunity and a safe and secure living environment. As former government officials, we understand the enormity of this task and commend you for your service.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan has left thousands of our Afghan allies stranded without a clear path to safety for themselves and their families. As evacuation and resettlement efforts continue, we write to share our conviction that the vetting and screening process for these individuals remains robust, secure, and effective. We have a moral obligation to honor our promises to our Afghan allies. Welcoming them into our communities is safe and will bolster our economic and national security.

The safety of the United States and its citizens is paramount. As national security leaders, we are troubled by recent misinformation asserting that Afghan refugees are not being thoroughly vetted and may pose a threat to national security. We write today to share information and expertise that we hope will instill confidence in our robust vetting system and assure you that Afghan refugees brought into the U.S. are processed under rigorous security standards. 

Here are the facts: In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has developed the most robust and comprehensive screening and vetting apparatus we’ve ever seen. The system utilizes a whole-of-government approach, coordinating numerous federal agencies and the intelligence community to quickly identify derogatory information and potential threats.

Before any evacuee from Afghanistan is permitted to enter the U.S., they are required to undergo multiple layers of vetting and screening including biographical and biometric checks. Their identification information is checked against numerous agency watch lists and biometric holdings, and any flags result in further vetting and investigations until the flags are resolved or a denial of entrance into the country. 

The Biden administration’s use of humanitarian parole has allowed vulnerable Afghans without visas —   including those mired in processing backlogs for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) — to depart Afghanistan quickly to escape the immediate threat posed by the Taliban and ISIS-K.  Parolees have gone through vetting and screening at the airport in Kabul prior to their departures, rigorous screenings in third countries, and by FBI and CBP officials upon arrival to U.S. airports. Parolees also receive pre and post-arrival medical screenings and inoculations and as well as additional security checks at U.S. military bases. Our personal knowledge of the system and many of our experiences at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) give us confidence that these processes are highly effective.

Media reports of a relatively small number of evacuees being flagged at various stages of the vetting process are further evidence that the system is working as expected: Individuals who raise security concerns are identified, and their entrance to the U.S. is either postponed pending further vetting or denied.

This rigorous vetting apparatus is keeping our communities safe despite the deeply flawed withdrawal process from Afghanistan. By providing a safe home for these allies, we are doing our humanitarian duty and bolstering our national security: Welcoming Afghan evacuees to the U.S. is a way for us to champion ideals of democracy and freedom and to demonstrate that we will always stand by the allies who are critical to our military and diplomatic efforts.

Again, we truly appreciate the work you are doing in your own states to ensure the safety and security of your constituents. We offer our group, the Council on National Security and Immigration, as a resource to you — our leaders would be happy to discuss these processes with you or provide further information.

Many Afghans who were evacuated risked their lives to protect Americans. We encourage you to demonstrably welcome these vulnerable allies into your communities. Doing so will help ensure that they become our neighbors, not our enemies. 

Sincerely,


Rick “Ozzie” Nelson
Former Director, Office of Combatting Terrorism
National Security Council Staff, President George W. Bush
Former U.S. Navy, Afghanistan Veteran

Elizabeth Neumann
Former Assistant Secretary of Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Randy Beardsworth
Former Director of Defense Policy
National Security Council

Elaine Dezenski
Former Assistant Secretary for Policy Development
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Marc Frey
Former Chief of Staff, Office of Policy Development
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Robert Mocny
Former Director of the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Michael Neifach
Former Principal Legal Advisor
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Stewart Verdery Jr.
Former Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy and Planning
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Joe Whitley
Former General Counsel
U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

Jim Williams
Former Director
US-VISIT Program
U.S. Department of Homeland Security