House Committee on Homeland Security: Preliminary Findings on Counterterrorism Challenges of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Released yesterday, “Syrian Refugee Flows: Security Risks and Counterterrorism Challenges,” is a Majority Staff Report by the House Committee on Homeland Security. This report presents the preliminary findings of the committee’s year-long inquiry into the counterterrorism challenges associated with Syrian refugee flows. With just ten findings and seven recommendations, this preliminary report lays bare the high-consequence risk of ISIS fighters infiltrating refugee routes to western nations.

The ten findings are supported by statements from various foreign ministries, U.S. departments and agencies, educated opinions, and Syrian refugee accounts. The committee identifies the lack of U.S. intelligence at the ground level in Syria as a serious roadblock in the vetting process of refugee applicants. Essentially, the U.S. has minimal human sources in Syria and does not have a government to partner with, which are both key to the screening process. Regarding Europe and the European Union, the committee identifies the Schengen Area as a “cause célèbre” and “ground zero” for jihadists. They also note that the lack of a transnational European police and lack of intelligence-sharing may have contributed to the failure to prevent entirely, or lessen the effect of, the Paris attacks on November 13. In the ninth finding the committee recognizes that “many European countries lack the resources to establish effective assimilation programs,” which are a critical part of refugee settlement and reduce the risk of extremist recruitment. The committee calls this failure of societal inclusion a “potential threat to U.S. interests.” The final finding is a pointed statement that the U.S. “is put at risk when partner countries fail to conduct adequate counterterrorism checks on refugees and are unable to cope with the radicalization challenges[.]”

Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) of the House Committee on Homeland Security introduced “H.R. 4038, The American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015” the day before the committee released their preliminary findings. This bill acts upon the recommendations of the committee report and calls for increasing the extensive refugee screening process for any refugee population and provides assurances of continued work countering threats from terrorism.

Read the report, its ten findings and seven recommendations here, with no log-in required. 

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