Synagogue Attack Prompts Review of Potential Vetting Gaps (1)

  • DHS probes Colleyville terrorism perpetrator’s travel record
  • British national held synagogue members hostage

(Adds information about vetting process in final paragraph.)

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to root out any weaknesses in international traveler vetting after a British national took hostages at a Texas synagogue two weeks ago.

“If we identify any gaps or deficiencies in our processes, we’re going to work closely with our partners” to close them, Deputy Secretary John Tien said Friday. The agency’s vetting partners include U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and other countries, he said at a virtual Center for a New American Security event.

British officials placed the attacker on a watch list in 2020 but later concluded he no longer posed a threat, the BBC and other outlets have reported. U.S. officials didn’t have any concerning information about him before he left the U.K. or when he arrived in the U.S., Tien said.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week told DHS and State Department leaders they were “extremely concerned about the adequacy of our visa adjudication and admission screening protocols.”

Photographer: Emil Lippe/Getty Images
Congregation Beth Israel synagogue is shown on January 17, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas.

Malik Faisal Akram, the British citizen who held four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, entered the U.S. through a visa waiver program available to residents of the U.K. and several other countries.

Synagogue Attack in Texas Prompts Calls to Boost Security Money

The visa waivers allow residents of designated countries to enter the U.S. for business or tourism for up to 90 days without a visa. Travelers who apply for the streamlined process undergo vetting by DHS and several other U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that use databases to identify red flags, Tien said.

Individuals with arrest records in U.S. databases are denied streamlined processing and referred to the State Department for evaluation, a DHS spokesperson told Bloomberg Government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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