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August 17, 2020

Thompson and Rice Demand DHS Comply with Trusted Traveler Investigation

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding compliance with the Committee’s requests for documents and transcribed interviews related to the Committee’s investigation into revelations that the Department made wrong and misleading statements regarding its decision to single out and ban New York residents from Trusted Travelers programs, including Global Entry.

After the Committee commenced its investigation last month, the Department wrote that it would refuse to comply with the Committee’s lawful and necessary requests and indicated, incorrectly, that they believe the Committee does not have a legislative purpose to conduct the investigation.

Letter excerpts:

Your letter claims that “the Committee does not appear to have a legitimate legislative purpose” to conduct its investigation and that the Committee is engaged in law enforcement.   This statement is incorrect. The Committee is not engaged in law enforcement, and the statement makes uninformed presumptions about the Committee’s motivations.  In fact, given the Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction over Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Trusted Traveler programs specifically, we would have assumed that the Committee’s legislative interests were obvious and did not need to be restated. To be clear, the Committee is profoundly troubled by DHS’ apparent mismanagement of the Trusted Traveler programs and is investigating to assess what, if any, legislative reforms may be required to ensure that CBP effectively, thoroughly, and fairly screens applicants. To that end, the Committee has requested “all documents and communications regarding the decision announced earlier this year by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to bar citizens of the State of New York from enrolling in Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP).”  

[T]he Committee has numerous questions regarding the timeline of the Department’s knowledge of the assessments that were being conducted of applicants for the Trusted Traveler programs.  For instance, the Committee would like to know whether, as it would appear, individuals have been approved for enrollment in the Trusted Traveler programs even though CBP did not have access to all of the background information on the individuals that CBP claimed was necessary to thoroughly vet applicants.  In addition the Committee has questions about CBP’s ability to screen foreign nationals who apply to the Trusted Traveler programs by applying the same level of scrutiny that is applied to residents of U.S. states, including for example, the level of access that CBP has to foreign driver’s license databases (as well as the extent to which such databases contain accurate information).  To inform the Committee’s legislative review of the Trusted Traveler programs, the Committee seeks full and thorough information to answer these and numerous other related questions.

Link to letter

Link to DHS response

Link to original investigation

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