When President Trump signed an executive order last month temporarily barring visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries, he said he was moving to protect the United States from terrorist attacks. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly echoed the president, saying the travel ban was necessary because vetting procedures “in those seven countries are suspect.”
But an internal report written by intelligence analysts at Kelly’s department appears to undercut the assessment that people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — pose a heightened threat of terrorism. The three-page report found that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”
The Department of Homeland Security assessment, first reported by The Associated Press, found that only a small number of people from the seven countries had been involved in terrorism-related activities in the United States since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. In addition, the report said, while terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen pose a threat to the United States, militant groups in the other four countries have a more regional focus.
The report also found that in the past six years, the terrorism threat reached much more widely than the seven countries listed — people from 26 countries had been “inspired” to carry out attacks in the United States.
Furthermore, few individuals from the seven countries affected by the ban have access to the United States, the report said, noting the small numbers of visas granted by the State Department to citizens of those nations.
The White House said the report was politically motivated and disregarded information that would have provided support for the ban. The Department of Homeland Security said the report was just a draft and “not a final comprehensive review of the government’s intelligence.”