FBI Director James Comey last week noted that refugees may be responsible for at least a quarter of the terrorism cases investigated by the bureau.
Although most of Comey’s testimony last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week involved other investigations, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., asked Comey about the FBI’s probe into terrorism.
During his testimony, Comey affirmed that the FBI, as it did a year ago, has terrorist investigations ongoing in every state.
“That case load has stayed about the same since we last talked about it. Some have closed, some have opened. But about 1,000 home-grown violent extremist investigations in the United States,” he said.
Tillis then asked about the number of “persons who came in through various programs where questions about vetting have been raised.”
” … we have about 1,000 home-grown violent extremist investigations. … Home-grown violent extremists, we mean somebody — we have no indication that they’re in touch with any terrorists,” Comey said.
“Then we have another big group of people that we’re looking at who we see some contact with foreign terrorists. So you take that 2,000 plus cases, about 300 of them are people who came to the United States as refugees,” he said.
That statistic caused one commentator to suggest the refugee issue may be graver than Comey stated.
“So 15 percent of the FBI’s terrorism cases are refugees – far more than their share of the immigrant population, let alone the general population. And that denominator of 2,000 presumably includes people with no immigration nexus at all – skinheads, antifa, Klan, environmental and animal rights extremists, et al. So the refugee share of immigration-related terrorism investigations is more than 15 percent, perhaps much more,” wrote Mark Kirkorian in The National Review.
“This suggests that the president’s temporary pause in travel from six terrorist-ridden Middle Eastern countries … is almost beside the point,” he added.
“Better, tougher, more thorough vetting isn’t likely to make any difference since refugees really are pretty thoroughly vetted. The problem is that vetting people from failed or enemy states is impossible. Combined with the moral case against diverting refugee funds for resettlement of a few instead of protection-in-place for many more, the conclusion is clear: refugee resettlement should be discontinued except in the most extraordinary, emergency cases,” he added.
Kirkorian’s math differed from other estimates.
At the time President Donald Trump unveiled his revised executive order to limit travel from high-terrorism nations, Fox News, citing an unnamed Department of Homeland Security official, reported that nearly a third of the 1,000 FBI domestic terrorism cases – 300 – involve those admitted to the U.S. as refugees.
“People seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time. “Today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities.”