House Chairman frets ‘virtually nonexistent’ foreign screening

After a trip to Turkey last week, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee is raising new alarms about foreign efforts to contain violent extremists.

“The biggest security gap I saw was outbound screening — that would be foreign fighters going to the region, then leaving to Turkey, to Europe and possible to the United States,” Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulRichard Overton, America's oldest living WWII vet and man, dies at 112 Inside the Trump-Congress Christmas meltdown DHS to make migrants wait in Mexico while asylum claims processed MORE (R-Texas) said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

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“That screening is virtually nonexistent.”

Foreigners traveling into Europe usually are screened against European security lists, which are cross-checked against American lists.

However, the situation changes when the person traveling into Europe from Turkey or elsewhere in the region is a European citizen.

“It you’re an E.U. citizen, you’re not screened against our watch list or theirs,” McCaul worried. “They go undetected and unscreened out of the region, into Europe.”

After violent attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead, however, European lawmakers have grown increasingly skittish about their protections against terrorism, including the ease with which people can travel throughout the European Union. Countries such as France have begun reevaluating their intelligence and national security laws, with an eye toward expanding security agencies' powers. 

McCaul on Tuesday urged European lawmakers to go further and address the possible blind spots of people coming in and out.

“I think the Europeans are starting to understand that this is a problem for them, that they do need to start screening their own citizens against these watchlists,” he said. “We’re hopeful the E.U. Parliament, by the end of this year, can pass legislation to do that.”