Columns

Obama: Refugees 'Will Continue to Get the Most Intensive Scrutiny of Any Arrival'

(Shutterstock)

President Obama visited the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia today to declare the intelligence professional “have a remarkable record of success” in stopping terrorism, acknowledging that “of course, when terrorists pull off a despicable act like what happened in San Bernardino it tears at our hearts.”

Obama met with his security team, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry. CIA Director John Brennan tuned in via a video link.

He said the meeting was held at the NCTC instead of the Situation Room “because this is the hub of where so many of our experts and efforts come together.”

NCTC Director Nick Rasmussen delivered a threat briefing, and Comey and Lynch updated Obama on the San Bernardino investigation. Obama plans to travel to San Bernardino on Friday.

“After the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, I know that a lot of Americans were anxious. And that’s understandable. It’s natural,” Obama said. “…But here’s what I want every American to know. Since 9/11, we’ve taken extraordinary steps to strengthen our homeland security… what you see here today is one, strong, united team.”

As he’s stressed in his previous addresses since the San Bernardino attack, Obama said “our intelligence and counterterrorism professionals do not have any specific and credible information about an attack on the homeland” — but vigilance is necessary.

“We are in a new phase of terrorism, including lone actors and small groups of terrorists, like those in San Bernardino. Because they are smaller, often self-initiating, self- motivating, they’re harder to detect, and that makes it harder to prevent,” he said.

Obama added that “any refugee coming to the United States — some of them victims of terrorism themselves — will continue to get the most intensive scrutiny of any arrival.”

“They go through up to two years of vetting, including biometric screening. And the review that I ordered into the fiance visa program, under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino came here, is ongoing,” the president said.

He stressed that “one of our greatest weapons against terrorism is our own strength and resilience as a people.”

“That means staying vigilant — if you see something suspicious, say something to law enforcement. It also means staying united as one American family — remembering that our greatest allies in this fight are each other, Americans of all faiths and all backgrounds. And when Americans stand together, nothing can beat us,” he said.

“Most of all, we cannot give in to fear, or change how we live our lives, because that’s what terrorists want. That’s the only leverage that they have. They can’t defeat us on a battlefield, but they can lead us to change in ways that would undermine what this country is all about. And that’s what we have to guard against. We have to remind ourselves that when we stay true to our values, nothing can beat us.”