Lieberman: Rescind State Department’s Visa Authority

Posted January 3, 2010 at 11:17am

In the aftermath of the attempted Christmas bombing of an airplane over Detroit, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) suggested Sunday that the State Department should no longer have the authority to handle visas for foreigners travelling to the U.S.“We ought to take a look at taking the visa application and admission responsibility from the State Department,— Lieberman said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.— “It doesn’t really fit with foreign policy anymore, and in an age of terrorism I think the Department of Homeland Security ought to be handling visas abroad.— Ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) also expressed concern over the State Department’s handling of a report from the bombing suspect’s father that he posed an imminent threat to the United States.“What we have in this case is a failure to act on a very credible report from the father that at the very least should have caused the State Department to revoke his visa. To me that is the biggest question. Why wasn’t this individual’s visa revoked once we had such a credible report that he posed a threat?—The Senators’ comments were part of a broader terrorism discussion in which Lieberman, Collins, Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) discussed the threat presented by al-Qaida in Yemen and the attempted terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day. “These folks have moved an attack on the United States’ homeland to the top of their priority list,— Hoekstra said.The lawmakers all agreed that Yemen is a growing locus of terrorist activity, expressed concern over the proposal to send Yemeni citizens who are being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, back to their native land.“I think it is a bad time to send the 90 or so Yemenis back to Yemen,— said Harman, chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment. “I support the administration’s plan to open a prison in Illinois.—Lieberman echoed the concern about moving prisoners to Yemen. “Because we have put so much pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Waziristan, they’re moving to Yemen,— he said. “This is fertile ground for this group to fester in.— But Lieberman did not support moving detainees to Illinois — he said he opposes closing the Guantánamo detention facility.Lieberman also expressed disapproval over the fact that Abdulmutallab will not be tried as a military combatant.“He should be questioned now and ever since he was apprehended for intelligence that could help us stop the next attack or get the people in Yemen who directed him to do what he did,— he said. “We should follow the rule of law, but the rule of law that is relevant here is the rule of the law of war.—Lieberman and Collins plan to hold a series of hearings this year to investigate how the suspect was able to board the plane as well as the communication breakdown between various government agencies.“We’re going to conduct these in the same bipartisan way that we do everything in our committee,— he said. “We’re not out to protect anybody or attack anybody. We’re out to fix what went wrong on Dec. 25.—The Senate Intelligence Committee is also slated to investigate the attempted attack, beginning with a hearing on Jan. 21.“With all of the leads dangling out there, somebody screwed up on not reporting it,— Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said on “Fox News Sunday.— Bond admitted that he has not yet been briefed on all the classified documents pertaining to the attempted attack but said he hopes to receive the information this week.Bond also raised concerns about Abdulmutallab being tried as a criminal instead of an enemy combatant, arguing that he has now “lawyered up— and that it will be harder to get information out of him about other possible attacks. Bond suggested an “immediate halt— to transferring any more prisoners out of Guantánamo.