House Republicans Subpoena DHS, Demand Answers on Afghan Evacuee Screenings

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
November 2, 2023Politics
House Republicans Subpoena DHS, Demand Answers on Afghan Evacuee Screenings
Passengers prepare to board a Qatar Airways aircraft in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 9, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee issued a subpoena on Tuesday, seeking to legally compel the Department of Homeland Security to turn over documents explaining how its personnel screened evacuees during the Biden administration’s military withdrawal and civilian evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021.

House Republicans have pursued the DHS records for months while raising allegations that the department had not implemented a proper vetting process as it rapidly resettled approximately 88,500 Afghan nationals in the United States. In a Tuesday press statement, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said he was pursuing the subpoena after waiting more than 160 days for the department to provide “satisfactory documents and other materials” sought by Republicans.

In a letter to the DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Mr. Green said that of the 1,601 pages the department had turned over to his committee in an Oct. 20 document production, 150 pages “were either wholly redacted, devoid of content, or illegible,” while many other materials were provided in a format that rendered them “indecipherable” to the committee. Mr. Green said that at least one spreadsheet DHS had turned over was still password-protected, and that the department has since refused to provide the password.

Committee Republicans began pursuing the DHS records in May, and Mr. Green said they’d made several follow-up attempts without receiving an appropriate response.

“While the produced documents provide some basic information regarding Afghan evacuees, they fall well short of what was requested by the Committee. For example, the Department failed to produce a single e-mail or other communication from Department employees related to the withdrawal from Afghanistan or Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) screening, vetting, or inspection of Afghan evacuees at U.S. Ports of Entry,” Ms. Green said. “The repeated failures of the Department to provide a satisfactory response and protracted delays necessitate the issuance of the enclosed subpoena.”

The subpoena calls on Mr. Mayorkas to turn over the requested documents by noon on Nov. 7.

DHS Officials Say Subpoena is Unnecessary

In an emailed official statement, a DHS spokesperson insisted the department had handled its document productions in good faith, and instead accused the House Homeland Security Committee of being too demanding in their requests.

“The House Homeland Security Committee continues to misuse its authority and pursue media attention instead of conducting actual oversight for any legislative purpose. DHS has produced thousands of pages of documents, provided countless briefings, and sent dozens of witnesses to appear for hearings,” the DHS spokesperson said.

The DHS spokesperson said the department had turned over nearly 7,000 pages of documents and data in recent weeks.

“Rather than work with us, CHS floods the Department with an unprecedented and inordinate volume of requests and imposes unrealistic and arbitrary timelines. This conduct undermines the Department’s ability to respond effectively, not only to CHS, but to all of Congress,” the DHS spokesperson added. “Regardless, the Department is committed to and will continue to respond to Congressional oversight requests in good faith, all while working to protect our nation from terrorism and targeted violence, secure our borders, respond to natural disasters, defend against cyberattacks, and more.”

In the same emailed statement, another DHS official said the department is currently reviewing thousands of additional documents and plans to turn them over in “rolling productions” in the next several weeks.

“Once again, DHS has been cooperating in good faith with the committee by working to complete their enormous production request, and the subpoena was completely unnecessary,” the second DHS official said.

NTD News asked the DHS for a response to Mr. Green’s specific claim that the department had turned over some documents in an undecipherable or password-protected format. The DHS spokesperson did not provide further comment by the time this article was published.

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