Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christmas Day Attack: Senate Judiciary Hearing

“Securing America's Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication”

We almost missed this one.  The Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing yesterday related to the Christmas Day attack (January 20, 2010 | 10:00 AM | ROOM: Dirksen-226).  View Webcast

Witness Testimony:

The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III | PDF
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Department of Justice
Washington, DC

The Honorable David F. Heyman | PDF
Assistant Secretary for Policy
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC
Under Secretary for Management
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC

Excerpt from U/S Patrick Kennedy testimony:

In the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on the day following his father’s November 19 visit to the Embassy, we sent a cable to the Washington intelligence and law enforcement community through proper channels (the Visas Viper system) that “Information at post suggests [that Farouk] may be involved in Yemeni-based extremists.” At the same time, the Consular Section entered Abdulmutallab into the Consular Lookout and Support System database known as CLASS. In sending the Visas Viper cable and checking State Department records to determine whether Abdulmutallab had a visa, Embassy officials misspelled his name, but entered it correctly into CLASS. As a result of the misspelling in the cable, information about previous visas issued to him and the fact that he currently held a valid U.S. visa was not included in the cable. At the same time the CLASS entry resulted in a lookout using the correct spelling that was shared automatically with the primary lookout system used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and accessible to other agencies.
The State Department has broad and flexible authority to revoke visas and we use that authority widely to protect our borders. Since 2001, we have revoked 51,000 visas for a variety of reasons, including over 1,700 for suspected links to terrorism.
In addition to revocation efforts, consular officers refused 1,885,017 visas in FY2009. We now are renewing guidance to our officers on their discretionary authority to refuse visas under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act with specific reference to cases that raise security concerns. No visa is issued without it being run through security checks against our partners’ data. And we screen applicants’ fingerprints against U.S. databases as well.
DHS has broad access to our entire CCD, containing 136 million records related to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and covering visa actions of the last 13 years. Special extracts of data are supplied to elements within DHS, including the Visa Security Units of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
We give other agencies immediate access to over 13 years of visa data, and they use this access extensively. In November 2009, more than 16,000 employees of DHS, the Department of Defense (DOD), the FBI and Commerce made 920,000 queries on visa records.
In 2009 we expanded use of facial recognition from a selected segment of visa applications to all visa applications. We now are expanding our use of this technology beyond visa records. We are testing use of iris recognition technology in visa screening, making use of both identity and derogatory information collected by DOD. These efforts require intense ongoing cooperation from other agencies.
In addition, we have 145 officers and 540 locally employed staff devoted specifically to fraud prevention and document security, including fraud prevention officers at overseas posts.
We fully recognize that we were not perfect in our reporting in connection with the attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253. We are working and will continue to work not only to address that mistake but to continually enhance our border security screening capabilities and the contributions we make to the interagency effort.

Patrick F. Kennedy, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Under Secretary of State for Management on November 6, 2007. As Under Secretary for Management he is responsible for the people, resources, facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State and is the Secretary’s principal advisor on management issues. He also provides regular direction to the Bureau of Resource Management, and the Chief Financial Officer serves as a core member of the Under Secretary’s senior management team. The Bureau of Consular Affairs reports to him, and he reports to the Deputy Secretary Jack Lew.

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