Grassley Leads Effort Questioning Administration on Pending Visa Security Units
Senator Chuck Grassley is leading a group of senators who are asking for answers from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, about why pending applications for Visa Security units in several countries, including Yemen, have yet to be approved.
Grassley said that the application for Yemen has been pending since September 2008, while applications for Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Frankfurt and Amman have been waiting approval since September 2009.
Visa Security units assist the State Department in screening visa applicants for security concerns.
Earlier this week, Grassley renewed his request about the Visa Security units for additional information from the Department of State after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab received a U.S. visa in London and was allowed to retain it even after his father tried to warn U.S. officials in Nigeria. Neither post has a Visa Security unit. Abdulmutalleb has been charged with attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The senator began requesting information on Visa Security units in September 2007.
Here is a copy of the text of the letter to Napolitano from Grassley and Senators Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham and Tom Coburn.
January 14, 2010
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
Nebraska Avenue Complex
245 Murray Lane, Mailstop 0150
Washington, DC 20528-0150
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled, "Securing America's Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication." In preparation for this hearing, our staff was briefed by your department about the Visa Security Program, a key counterterrorism program that deploys trained and experienced special agents overseas to high-risk consular posts. We write to express concern that visa security units that are scheduled to be deployed in five countries have been waiting for your approval, even though funding for these deployments has been provided by Congress.
We learned that the NSDD-38 applications for Yemen, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Frankfurt and Amman are now pending with the Department of Homeland Security. The Visa Security unit for Yemen has been pending since September 2008 while the others have been pending since September 2009. Once approved these applications must also be approved by the Secretary of State, further delaying implementation of this valuable program to identify potential terrorist and criminal threats before they reach the United States. We do not believe these deployments should be delayed any longer. Therefore, we ask that you provide us with an explanation as to why these five applications are pending, including a time frame as to when we can expect the Department of Homeland Security to send these applications to the Department of State.
We would greatly appreciate a response to this matter before the Judiciary Committee hearing on