Defense

Pentagon watchdog tells GOP senators it will evaluate whistleblower claims on Afghan evacuees

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) arrives to the Capitol for procedural votes regarding the nomination of Federal Reserve Board Member nominee Michael Barr on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.
Greg Nash
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) arrives to the Capitol for procedural votes regarding the nomination of Federal Reserve Board Member nominee Michael Barr on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

The Department of Defense’s watchdog told two Republican senators that it will evaluate claims that hundreds of Afghan evacuees were allowed to enter the U.S. despite being on the department’s watchlist.

“As part of our ongoing body of work on Afghan evacuees, we are initiating an evaluation, to commence in the first quarter of [fiscal year] 2023, to address your questions pertaining to the DoD’s role in reviewing DoD databases for information on Afghan evacuees when requested by other agencies,” acting Pentagon Inspector General Sean O’Donnell wrote in a letter to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) obtained by The Hill.

The evaluation will also look into claims that officials at the National Security Council and Department of Defense “did not follow proper procedures when processing evacuees in Afghanistan and at staging basis.”

The development was first reported by Axios.

The inspector general’s evaluation is not criminal in nature but comes as the administration faces unanswered questions regarding the evacuation.

O’Donnell was responding to an Aug. 4 letter from the two senators regarding allegations they received from a Pentagon whistleblower. The senators said the whistleblower had told them that the administration evacuated 324 individuals from Afghanistan who appeared on the agency’s watchlist. The whistleblower claimed that those evacuated included “known suspected terrorists.”  

The senators also said the person claimed that White House and Defense Department officials directed agency personnel to not conduct fingerprint tests of Afghan evacuees and that Department of Homeland Security staff were authorized to delete old biometric data regardless of whether staff believed the data was out of date.

“This information may show the Biden Administration’s failure to vet those evacuated from Afghanistan was even worse than the public was led to believe. The following allegations demand an immediate investigation by your office,” the senators said at the time.

O’Donnell’s letter only addressed the concern about the evacuees entering the U.S. despite being on the Pentagon’s watchlist, and he referred their other questions to other agencies.

The agency’s evaluation will come as part of its “ongoing body of work” on evacuees. It released two reports regarding Afghan evacuees this year — one evaluation on the screening of Afghan evacuees in February and another audit on the Pentagon’s support for relocating Afghan nationals.

O’Donnell noted that the agency is also evaluating “security and life support practices for Afghan evacuees at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.”   

Tags Ron Johnson Sean O'Donnell

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