Donald Trump travel ban: Homeland Security intelligence report disputes threat posed by nations targeted in immigration order

A draft document concludes that few citizens from the barred countries are terrorism threats

Vivian Salama,Alicia A. Caldwell
Friday 24 February 2017 23:24 GMT
Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in the Oval Office
Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in the Oval Office (AP)

The rationale behind Donald Trump's travel ban was cast into even further doubt today after analysts at the US Homeland Security Department's intelligence arm found insufficient evidence to support claims that citizens of seven Muslim-majority pose a terror threat.

A draft document obtained by the Associated Press concluded that citizenship was an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to America, and that few people from the countries Mr Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the US since Syria's civil war started in 2011.

The US President cited terrorism concerns as the primary reason he signed the sweeping temporary travel ban late last month, which also halted the US refugee scheme.

A federal judge in Washington state blocked the government from carrying out the order earlier this month. Mr Trump has since said a new edict would be rolled out soon.

The administration has been working on a new version that could withstand legal challenges.

Responding to the report, Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen did not dispute its authenticity, but said it was not a final comprehensive review of the government's intelligence.

"While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency sourcing," Ms Christensen said.

"The ... report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete."

The Homeland Security report is based on unclassified information from Justice Department press releases on terrorism-related convictions and attackers killed in the act, State Department visa statistics, the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment from the US intelligence community and the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.

Trump considers "brand new" travel ban

The three-page report challenges Mr Trump's core claims. It said that of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in America, just over half were US citizens born in the country.

The others were from 26 countries, led by Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Of these, only Somalia and Iraq were among the seven nations included in the ban.

Of the other five nations, one person each from Iran, Sudan and Yemen was also involved in those terrorism cases, but none from Syria. It did not say if any were Libyan.

The report also found that terrorist organisations in Iran, Libya, Somalia and Sudan are regionally focused, while groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen do pose a threat to the US.

The seven countries were included in a law President Barack Obama signed in 2015 that updated visa requirements for foreigners who had travelled to those countries.

The report was prepared as part of an internal review Mr Trump requested after his executive order was blocked by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. It was drafted by staff of the Homeland Security Department's Intelligence and Analysis branch at the direction of its acting leader, David Glawe.

White House spokesman Michael Short said this was not the full report that Trump had requested. He said he believes "the intel community is combining resources to put together a comprehensive report using all available sources, not just open sources, and which is driven by data, not politics".

The intelligence document was circulated beyond Homeland Security.

The draft document reflects the tensions between the President's political appointees and the civil servants tasked with carrying out his aggressive agenda.

Mr Trump has repeatedly complained about leaks meant to undercut his policies and suggested he does not trust holdovers from the Obama administration.

Mr Trump originally said the ban was necessary to overhaul the vetting system for both refugees and would-be foreign visitors, saying that terrorists may try to exploit weaknesses to gain access to the United States.

The order sparked chaos, outrage and widespread protests, with travellers detained at airports.

But several courts quickly intervened and the 9th Circuit ultimately upheld a ruling blocking the ban and challenged the administration's claim that it was motivated by terrorism fears.

Trump's ban temporarily barred citizens from the seven countries from coming to the United States for three months. The order also temporarily shut down the US refugee program for four months and indefinitely banned anyone from Syria.

A senior administration official told AP on Sunday that a draft of the revised order will target those same seven countries. The official would not be named discussing the document before it is made public.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee, Mr Trump reiterated his claims on terrorism.

"We are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country," Mr Trump said.

He said he singled out the seven countries because they had already been deemed a security concern by the Obama administration.


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