EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee want answers about a new Department of Homeland Security policy that lawmakers say requires them to get privacy release waivers from criminal non-citizens accused of terror and assassination plots, in order for DHS to give them information about the threats.
In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, obtained by Fox News Digital, Republicans on the committee say the agency “has implemented a new policy requiring Members of Congress to obtain signed privacy release waivers from criminal non-U.S. citizens, including those illegally in the United States, and submit that waiver to the Department before the Department will provide the Committee with general information about the threats posed by such individuals.”
They say the policy was communicated to them after they requested briefings about two alleged plots. The first was an alleged ISIS-inspired plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush, and the second an alleged July 4 mass shooting plot by two illegal immigrants.
“It is unconscionable that DHS would implement or maintain any policy or practice to directly or indirectly inhibit Congress’s ability to conduct timely, highly relevant oversight that may require legislative action,” the letter by Reps. John Katko, R-NY, August Pfluger, R-Texas, and Mayra Flores, R-Texas, says.
7.13.22 House GOP Letter to Mayorkas on Privacy Waivers by Fox News on Scribd
The Department of Justice announced in May that an Iraqi citizen, Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, living in Columbus, Ohio has been charged with aiding and abetting a plot to kill former President George W. Bush.
US Representative John Katko (R-NY) is demanding answers from the DHS.
(Justin Hamel / AFP)
The agency said that the suspect originally came to the United States in September 2020 on a visitor visa and filed for asylum in March 2021 which is pending review. Shihab is alleged to have exchanged money with other individuals in an attempt to illegally smuggle foreign nationals into the United States and specifically planned to help four Iraqi nationals come into the United States across the southern border to help kill Bush.
Earlier this month, police said they uncovered a plot by two illegal immigrants for a mass shooting at Richmond’s July 4 celebration. One illegal immigrant had previously been deported, while another had overstayed his visa.
“There are clear homeland security implications when non-U.S. citizens enter our country illegally and plot violent crime or terrorist activities against Americans,” the lawmakers say in their letter. “We have serious concerns surrounding how these individuals entered into the United States, as well as how long they were permitted to reside in the country while planning their attacks.”
Reps. Katko, Pfluger and Flores argue that they cannot fulfill their constitutional role if they are not given timely information from the department.
“Further, requiring Congress to get permission from accused terrorists and criminals, who are not U.S. citizens, as a prerequisite to receiving information on homeland security threats is both unprecedented and absurd,” they say.
DHS did not respond to a request for comment on the policy from Fox News Digital.
Republicans on the committee say that this is only a recent policy, as DHS recently briefed the committee on another suspected terrorist who was in the country two weeks before authorities were able to arrest him – no privacy waiver was then needed.
Republicans, both on the committee and elsewhere, have been repeatedly raising security concerns about the crisis at the southern border, where hundreds of thousands of migrants have attempted to enter the U.S. in recent months.
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In addition to the more than 1.5 million migrant encounters so far this fiscal year, a high-level CBP source told Fox News last month that there have been 440,000 known gotaways since the fiscal year began in October — with over 50,000 in May alone.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently began publishing the number of border encounters with migrants on the terror watch list after months of Republican pressure.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, with a focus on immigration. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY