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Sen. Grassley inquiring about terrorist ‘hands off’ list

Internal Department of Homeland Security emails show that officials discussed a “hands off” list allegedly allowing individuals with terrorist ties to enter the United States.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) brought the issue to light Tuesday, releasing an exchange of letters in which his office discussed the matter with top DHS officials, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Capitol Hill in April. (Cliff Owen/AP).
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Capitol Hill in April. (Cliff Owen/AP)

One of the DHS emails said an individual “sued CBP twice in the past and that he’s one of the several hands off passengers nationwide.” The message also said that “his records were removed in December 2010 and the DHS Secretary was involved in the matter.”

The e-mails indicate that the man in question was allegedly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that he had ties with Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups. The documents, which were heavily redacted, did not identify the individual.

Grassley letter to DHS.pdf

Kerlikowske responded in a letter last month that “CBP does not maintain any list or other mechanism which would render an individual free of the grounds of inadmissibility or from any other inspection requirement.”

The commissioner explained that CBP developed processes to resolve issues with authorities repeatedly stopping travelers whose biographical information is similar or identical to individuals on watch lists, even though they are not the individuals being sought.

“The process is used only in situations where CBP has determined through a thorough inspection of the person that they are not the subject of the [watch list] record,” Kerlikowske said.

The CBP chief also said he would arrange a meeting with Grassley to brief him in more detail on the matter.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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