Among the 31 states that stand against bringing in Syrian refugees, Kentucky has the most reason to be skeptical of background checks. Two Iraqi refugees residing in Bowling Green were discovered to be linked to al-Qaeda and were responsible for the death of American soldiers. Both of the suspects pleaded guilty to terror related charges after trying to obtain heavy weapons in the U.S.
In 2013, ABC News conducted an investigation which revealed that dozens of suspected terrorist bomb makers may have been accidentally allowed into the U.S. under the guise of innocent immigrants.
The Obama Administration claims that Syrian refugees are now subject to intense scrutiny before they are allowed to settle in the U.S. Millions of refugees have flocked to the U.S. since the 1970s, the bulk of whom are peaceful and normal people. Nevertheless, the program has had security problems in the past.
A fly in the ointment
In 2009, for instance, a flawed background check of Iraqi refugees permitted two al-Qaeda-linked terrorists to settle in Bowling Green, which fueled a temporary suspension of the refugee program. A security tape in 2010 revealed the two men, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, attempting to steal heavy weapons from a storage locker in Kentucky, including a Russian-made machine gun and a Stinger missile launcher.(1)
An FBI agent was responsible for a sting operation which led to the downfall of the two men. Alwan had touted to an informant about killing American soldiers in Iraq. He said he had them “for lunch and dinner,” Tim Beam, FBI Louisville Supervisory Special Agent Tim Beam, told ABC News in 2013.(1)
Alwan was arrested in Iraq in 2006. He admitted that he was an insurgent during an interrogation, which was taped and stored in a U.S. military database. In 2009, Alwan applied as a refugee to the U.S. Screening officials failed to access the tape in the military database. He was allowed to move to Bowling Green, which is home to a refugee program.
The FBI narrowed in on Alwan after receiving an intelligence tip. They conducted a sting operation in which they fooled Alwan into believing that the weapons he was acquiring would be shipped to al-Qaeda-Iraq, which would later contribute to the formation of ISIS.
President Obama was briefed about the situation by the FBI. After investigators determined that no other co-conspirators were at play, they arrested the two men. The Iraqis pleaded guilty to terror-connected charges and were sentenced to multiple decades in prison.
“We need to take this as a case study and draw the right lessons from it, and not just high-five over this,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, told ABC. “How did a person who we detained in Iraq — linked to an IED attack, we had his fingerprints in our government system — how did he walk into America in 2009?”(1)
In the aftermath of the Kentucky case, the U.S suspended the refugee program for Iraqis for six months; a fact that the Obama Administration concealed from Congress at the time. The U.S. takes in approximately 70,000 refugees each year. The White House wants to increase that number to 100,000 by 2017.(1)
Lawmakers demand Obama temporarily suspend refugee program
Security concerns about refugees have only intensified in wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. European officials believe one of the terrorists who aided in the killing of 120 innocent people used a Syrian passport under a fake name to enter the country.
As reported by ABC, more than half the governors in the U.S. have objected to accepting Syrian refugees following the Paris terrorist attacks, and lawmakers have urged President Obama to impermanently suspend the program. Despite these concerns, President Obama tweeted:
“We will provide refuge to at least 10,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria over the next year after they pass the highest security checks. Here, our focus is giving safe haven to the most vulnerable Syrians – women, children, and survivors of torture. Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.”(1)