Tucked inside Democrats’ new spending bill is $15.3 million in emergency money for the FBI to investigate Afghan evacuees brought to the U.S. during last year’s chaotic airlift.
Congress is pumping the money into the FBI just a month after Director Christopher A. Wray told lawmakers that the bureau was having to conduct “lots of interviews” to keep track of the Afghans and obliquely warned of “a number of disruptions” of activities.
Lawmakers said the money is the latest evidence of a hasty evacuation that jeopardizes American safety.
“The Biden administration’s decision to let tens of thousands of unvetted Afghans into our country first and ask questions later has backfired,” said Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican. “We warned well over a year ago this would happen and two inspector general reports have since confirmed those fears, but the White House refused to listen and the horses are already out of the barn.”
The White House and FBI didn’t respond to inquiries about the bill, but the administration has said the money is needed to continue “investigative activities associated with Afghan resettlement operations.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the money was an indication that the administration failed to vet everyone properly before they were brought to the U.S.
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He said lawmakers have been told in “multiple classified briefings” about the vetting failures, but the FBI is blocking the public from learning about it by “improperly classifying it.”
“This funding request makes clear though that, contrary to the Biden administration‘s talking points, vetting failures continue to require the increased attention of federal law enforcement at the taxpayer expense of millions of additional dollars,” the senator said in a statement to The Washington Times.
Some 88,500 Afghans have been welcomed to the U.S. under what the government has dubbed Operation Allies Welcome. Most came during the airlift in the final weeks before the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in August 2021, though some 4,500 have arrived since the start of March.
The Homeland Security Department said those who made it to the U.S. went through “a rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process.”
Evacuees were run through databases overseas. As long as no red flags appeared, they were brought to the U.S.
If flags were raised, evacuees faced in-person interviews.
Once in the U.S., they cleared passport control at the airport and were sent to welcome camps to await vaccinations and resettlement assistance, though many walked off on their own, according to inspector general reports.
Early on, all of the camps were at military bases. For most of this year, Afghan arrivals were sent to the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia.
Homeland Security announced Tuesday that the last remaining Afghans had been cleared from the center.
Most have been released under Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ power to “parole” migrants into the country.
Mr. Grassley, Mr. Tiffany and others have raised concerns about failed vetting.
Multiple inspectors general have said the administration cut corners and failed to check a key Defense Department database with information gathered from the battlefields of Afghanistan before most evacuees were brought to the U.S.
When checks were run later, dozens of potential national security risks were found to have arrived — and many had been released from the holding camps.
Mr. Wray, in testimony to the Senate last month, said he wasn’t sure of the total numbers but acknowledged “there are a number of individuals through our Joint Terrorism Task Forces that we are actively trying to investigate.”
He added: “I know there have been a number of interviews of individuals who came. Lots of interviews, frankly, of individuals who came as part of the evacuation. I think there have been a number of disruptions, whether — how many of those have been arrests under what charges and so forth, that I’d have to get back to on.”
The FBI declined to say what Mr. Wray meant by “disruptions.”
Mr. Wray said in his testimony that the “massive number of people” and the short time frame officials had to check them “inevitably raises concerns.”
The Washington Times reported earlier this year on a crush of criminal cases that piled up while the Afghans were being housed at military bases around the U.S.
Among them were several that suggested culture clashes.
One involved a man accused of beating and slashing his wife after she didn’t move to give up her seat to another man. Another man was convicted of groping a child. He defended his actions as part of his culture.
A third man was found guilty by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, last month on charges of abusive sexual contact, enticement of a minor and possession of child pornography.
At one of the bases, in New Mexico, state police said they responded to dozens of call-outs concerning the Afghans.
Federal investigators said the actual level of criminality may have been even higher than reported. Afghan leaders discouraged reporting, seeking to settle matters internally. Military officials were also unsure whether to get prosecutors involved, fearing it would undermine the welcoming mission that the Biden administration had assigned them.
Once off the bases, some Afghans racked up criminal entanglements.
Zabihullah Mohmand entered an Alford plea this summer to a charge of misdemeanor sexual assault of a college student. He had been charged with rape but accepted the plea: He did not admit guilt but did acknowledge that prosecutors would win a conviction against him.
He was sentenced to time served and released.
The spending bill that includes the FBI money is considered must-pass legislation. It continues government functions into the next fiscal year, which starts Saturday. Without the legislation, the government would face a shutdown.
The bill includes nearly $1.8 billion for the Health and Human Services Department to process and house the ongoing surge of illegal immigrant children at the border. It also includes language granting Afghan evacuees access to benefits that are normally reserved for refugees.
Mr. Biden failed in most of his other immigration requests, including an attempt to pump money into federal efforts to welcome and move migrants from border states deeper into the country.
Congress also didn’t grant Mr. Biden’s request to create a special pathway to citizenship for Afghan evacuees.
Mr. Tiffany said the bill should have included reforms to rein in Mr. Mayorkas’ parole powers.