Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, said “there is a danger” in allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States at this time and cautioned the Obama administration to be “prudent” with the process.
“With regard to the refugees, sure, there’s no requirement to be stupid, along with being generous, so my short summary would be simply I would advise the chief executive to speak like and act like Mother Teresa and then before the meeting broke up to grab whoever is filling my chair now, pull them aside, poke his finger into his sternum and say, ‘now you make sure nothing bad happens.’ We can do both. We are talented. We’ve got talent at this,” Hayden said during a homeland security discussion held by the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Look, there is a danger. We should be prudent about it, but just simply saying ‘it ain’t going to happen’ is actually destructive of our security, not just destructive of our character,” he added.
Hayden served as NSA director from 1999-2005 and as CIA director from May 2006 to February 2009.
Former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Robert Bonner said the U.S. visa waiver program poses more of a threat than the refugee process.
“We had, the estimates are, 5,000 Western Europeans, French, Belgians, U.K. that have gone off to Syria and are fighting for ISIS. I mean, some of them are going to be killed and that sort of thing, but now we know ISIS is intent on sending some of these people back asymmetrically to attack countries in the west. So that’s the more, I think, fact of concern,” he said.
Bonner urged other countries to share information with the U.S. related to their citizens who have left to fight for ISIS in the Middle East.
“We’re going to have to have the capability of knowing who they are and that’s an intelligence issue. But let me just say I am not too impressed with what our EU colleagues are doing with respect to even having the data that we need to help protect not only them – to ultimately help protect the United States,” he said.
According to Bonner, there is currently some intelligence-sharing going on but critical issues remain.
“If you are a German citizen, you’ve been to Turkey for 6 months, you come back into Germany, they don’t even know you returned to Germany. There’s a random checking occasionally of passports in the international airport of Frankfort of their own citizens or you could fly into France,” he said.
“You could be a German who was radicalized and trained there. I am just saying they are so far behind in terms of actually having a system to protect their own borders.”