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Hearing of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations of the Judiciary Committee - "The Department of Justice's Handling of Known or Suspected Terrorists Admitted into the Federal Witness Security Program"

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

The Inspector General's recent report on the appalling handling of known and suspected terrorists in the federal Witness Security Program raises serious concerns about whether this traditional law enforcement program should be used to hide and relocate suspected terrorists.

The IG report found that the number of known or suspected terrorists admitted to the Witness Security Program is unknown to the Department, that the Department has lost track of two suspected terrorists in the program, and that critical national security information is not being shared with other agencies.

For example, the Inspector General found that after the known or suspected terrorists received a new name and necessary identity-related documents, their new names were not placed on the Transportation Security Administration's No Fly list -- even though their previous names had been listed because they pose a threat to our national security.

As a result, there was nothing to stop these terrorists from joining the general public on commercial airplanes here in the United States. In some cases, witnesses on the No Fly list were even permitted to fly commercially with the Department's approval.

All of this is especially problematic since the IG report found that terrorists admitted to the program include persons who have been trained in aviation and explosives and individuals who have been involved in bombing attacks.

The Department's mismanagement of the WITSEC Program has put American lives needlessly at risk, which simply can't be tolerated. As we saw in regard to the recent Boston bombings, the IG's report highlights that a lack of robust information sharing persists more than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The terror threat has not diminished since 9/11--it is ever-present and evolving, and requires effective counter-terrorism programs. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on the steps the Department has taken and will take to make sure that appropriate interagency coordination is occurring within the WITSEC Program, across the Department and the Administration.


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