CIA chief wants to strengthen refugee screening

Posted at 1:06 PM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 13:06:19-05

CIA Director John Brennan insisted that the U.S. should maintain its longstanding policy of welcoming refugees from around the globe, but said he is evaluating how to strengthen the existing system.

Speaking at a State Department event Wednesday morning, Brennan addressed the importance of both accepting refugees from Syria and maintaining security safeguards to keep terrorists from exploiting the resettlement program.

Brennan also spoke about the importance of striking a balance between civil liberties and national security in the digital domain in order for the government to protect its citizens. “I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.

Secretary John Kerry, speaking after Brennan as part of the same event, took a different approach to the CIA chief, seemingly dismissing critics of U.S. refugee resettlement policy.

“We’re going to do the right thing by refugees,” Kerry said. “I mean, how is it that somebody can suddenly say that a 50-year-old woman with her grandchildren is going to be a threat? That we can’t process people adequately to keep faith with our values in this country?”

Kerry also spoke in support of the administration’s broader Syria policy, including its participation in diplomatic talks on a political transition — talks that have brought it to the negotiating table with Russia and Iran, who support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I’m convinced that if we are clever, creative, patient, tenacious, persistent and steady, we will have the ability to be able to destroy Daesh,” Kerry said, using another term for ISIS, “and in the doing of that, send a message to Boko Haram, to Al Shabaab, to Al Qaeda, to any other entities in the world, that the world will stand united against barbarism and against an attack on our very purpose and reasonableness itself.”