Letter to DHS on Intelligence Assessments of Muslim ban

On Monday, Amnesty International USA wrote Department of Homeland Security demanding disclosure of all reports about the national security basis of the Muslim ban — including those that show it has no basis.

Re: National Security Basis for New Executive Order Banning Individuals from Seven Muslim-Majority Countries and Suspending Refugee Admissions

February 27, 2017

Dear Secretary Kelly,

Last week, the Associated Press reported on a leaked intelligence assessment prepared for your agency regarding Executive Order 13769, which bans individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The assessment — including its conclusion that citizenship is an “unreliable indicator of terrorist threat to the United States” — is a damning indictment of the executive order. It adds to overwhelming evidence that there is no credible basis for justifying this ban as national security measure.

To address public concern, I urge you to immediately disclose any and all DHS reports that assess the national security basis for the current and anticipated executive orders. This is vital to prevent any potential Trump administration attempts to conceal or obscure intelligence reports, including in an effort to preserve its case for a replacement order.

Indeed, the Trump administration has reportedly tasked your agency with building the legal case for the replacement order, sparking concern among intelligence officials who fear politicization of intelligence.[1] There is grave risk that now, under political demands of the Trump administration, your agency’s staff will face undue pressure to depart from its previous analyses and justify this new order as a national security measure. Your staff may even face political pressure to disregard intelligence reports that, like the leaked assessment, show that the ban cannot be justified.

That would be disastrous not only for the credibility of DHS as an agency charged with preventing terrorism, but for the rule of law. The courts, Congress and the public must be allowed to know the truth about this ban, and to fully assess the motives behind it. Indeed, withholding this information could stymie court scrutiny of the new order, and thwart congressional oversight.

The integrity of DHS is on the line, as well. If you fail to disclose these intelligence reports now, future assessments from your agency will be tainted as politically driven and illegitimate.

The original executive order led to fierce public debate. Much of it centered on whether this ban will actually make the country any safer — or whether it simply panders to prejudice, fear and hate, with devastating consequences to the ordinary people caught in its traps. Our country cannot afford your silence on this central question. We urge you to meet this public concern with candor and integrity.

Sincerely,

Naureen Shah

Director, Security With Human Rights

Amnesty International USA

cc:

Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Senate Comm. on Homeland Security

Senator Claire McCaskill, Ranking Member, Senate Comm. on Homeland Security

Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman, House Comm. on Homeland Security

Rep. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member, House Comm. on Homeland Security

Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman, Senate Comm. on the Judiciary

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member, Senate Comm. on the Judiciary

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Comm. on the Judiciary

Rep. John Conyers, Ranking Member, House Comm. on the Judiciary

[1] See Jake Tapper and Pamela Brown, “White House Effort to Justify Travel Ban Causes Growing Concern For Some Intelligence Officials,” CNN, Feb. 25, 2017, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/white-house-effort-to-justify-travel-ban-causes-growing-concern-for-some-intel-officials/index.html.

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