Judicial Watch Sues DHS Office of Inspector General for Records Regarding Terrorist “Hands Off” List
MARCH 31, 2015
“Hands off” list allowed individuals with potential terrorist ties to enter the United States
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on February 13, 2015, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain a copy of an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report about an alleged “hands off list” used by the Obama administration to allow individuals to enter the U.S. who had previously been barred because of suspected terrorist ties. The suit also requested any and all records of former DHS Inspector General Charles Edwards regarding the OIG report. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:15-cv-00222)).
Judicial Watch filed the suit after DHS failed to comply with a July 14, 2014, FOIA request seeking:
- A copy of the DHS Office of Inspector General report regarding, concerning, or related to a “hands off list” purportedly maintained by DHS, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and/or US Customs and Border Protection (CDP) used to allow certain individuals to enter the United States, who had previously been denied entry to the United States or been made to undergo secondary screening by CBP based on suspicion of terrorism ties.
- Any and all records of communication to or from DHS Inspector General Charles Edwards from May 31, 2014 regarding the aforementioned OIG report.
On May 6, 2014, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) released internal DHS emails revealing an alleged terrorist “hands off” list allowing individuals with potential terrorist ties into the United States. The emails were attached to a letter Grassley sent to the DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson inquiring about the “hands off” list in general, and specifically seeking information about an unnamed individual DHS may have admitted into the country as a result.
The DHS emails included a 2012 email chain between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking whether to admit the unnamed individual with ties to various terrorist groups. The person was believed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a close associate and supporter of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the email exchange obtained by Grassley’s office.
In his letter to Johnson, Grassley quotes an email from an ICE official to a CBP official saying, “I’m puzzled how someone could be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, be an associate of [redacted], say that the US is staging car bombings in Iraq and that [it] is ok for men to beat their wives, question who was behind the 9/11 attacks, and be afforded the luxury of a visitor visa and de-watchlisted.”
On May 19, 2014, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Mike McCaul (R-TX) told Breitbart News that that the “terrorist hands off list” e-mails released by Grassley had been under investigation by the newly appointed DHS Inspector General John Roth for over three months. McCaul added, “The new IG has inherited this matter. He’s a new IG. He’s pretty decent–well respected. Obviously, his predecessor was not.”
Roth’s predecessor was Charles Edwards, who left office after a series of allegations that he had softened reports to avoid embarrassing the Obama administration. According to an April 24, 2014, report from an oversight panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee, Edwards “failed to uphold the independence of the OIG … and directed that reports be altered or delayed to accommodate senior DHS officials.”
“The Obama administration’s unlawful secrecy on this ‘hands off’ list raises concerns about terrorists being allowed into the country,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Even when it comes to protecting our borders from known terrorists, the Obama administration places secrecy and politics above national security. Our nation has reached a dangerous pass.”