(CNSNews.com) - "There are thousands of fighters who are available and have -- we have pretty good confidence -- have the kind of papers that could get them passed into Western Europe, and certainly, by extension, into the United States," Homeland Security Secretary Gen. Jack Kelly told Congress on Tuesday.
"So the threat is real." Kelly said President Trump's executive order on immigration, issued on Jan. 27, is a "pause" that will give Kelly, working with the CIA and the Departments of Defense, Justice and State, "an opportunity to step back and decide what additional vetting we might add to what we already have, which is minimal, in my view. And then come out of that and say, these are the new rules."
Kelly said some of the seven countries listed in President Trump's temporary entry ban may remain on the list because they are in such chaos. Those countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.
"I believe that the travel pause from all of those countries will give us time to evaluate those countries and the information they can provide us, which will ultimately lead to safety for the American people."
Later in the hearing, Kelly said "no," the travel pause is not a Muslim ban. He said the seven countries were chosen because they are "failed states."
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), in his exchange with Kelly, quoted at length from various Obama administration officials, beginning with former CIA Director John Brennan, who said on November 18, 2015:
I think it makes it even more incumbent on the security and intelligence professionals to make sure that we're able to look at individuals who are coming into this country with an eye toward what it is that we might know about individuals or ways that terrorist organizations may try to secret people into these networks, into these refugee flows.
"Would you agree with that statement?" Duncan asked Kelly.
In response, Kelly rephrased the question: "That the terrorists are attempting to gain access to the United States, potentially passing themselves off as refugees? I do believe that they have got that in mind," Kelly said.
Duncan then quoted former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as saying on October 21, 2015 that there is "no risk-free process" for vetting Syrian refugees. "We know that organizations like ISIL might try to exploit this, the Syrian refugee resettlement program."
Duncan also quoted former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who expressed "huge concern" about the number of Syrian refugees flowing into Europe. "We don't obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees," Clapper said.