(CNSNews.com) -- Israel was mistakenly designated as a terrorist-producing country in a list the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency provided to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) office of the inspector general, according to ICE Director John Morton.
ICE, a component of DHS, provided a list of terrorism-linked countries, which included Israel, to the DHS inspector general for a May 2011 audit. CNSNews.com first reported on that list on June 29.
In that list were 36 “specially designated countries,” which included Israel, and which ICE said “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”
CNSNews.com had asked ICE about Israel’s inclusion on the list on June 8. That day, ICE provided a statement on the subject, which is included in the CNSNews.com initial report. When CNSNews.com attempted to follow-up (on June 13) with additional questions about who added Israel to the list and when, ICE declined to comment further.
In its June 8 statement, ICE never said that Israel was erroneously included in the list found in the audit. Instead, the agency attempted to justify why Israel was included on the list. Now, ICE Director John Morton is saying that Israel was never designated as a country linked to terrorism.
Morton made this change clear in an e-mail statement provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and reported on July 6.
“The addition of Israel in the OIG's list of ICE's ‘Third-Agency Checks’ (TAC) was based on inaccurate information provided to the OIG during the course of its audit. No such designation for Israel exists in ICE enforcement protocols,” Morton said, according to JTA. “The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism."
Morton continued: "The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with Israel in order to address security issues within its own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe."
In the July 6 statement by Morton, ICE changed its message from its original June 8 statement and ICE on July 14 declined to explain the change any further.
“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism. Further, ICE does not issue such designations,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told CNSNews.com on June 8. “As the OIG report notes, the purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien ICE has in custody.”
“This list of countries has been in existence for at least seven years; countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself,” said ICE. “The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe.”
The original list in question was comprised of 36 nations designated by the U.S. government as “specially designated countries” (SDCs). It was included in the May 2011 DHS inspector general’s audit.
However, the DHS audit now excludes Israel from the list of specially designated countries.
On July 8, two days after the Morton comment to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency came to light, the DHS inspector general’s office announced, “The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been advised that ICE incorrectly included Israel in a list of countries subject to Third Agency Checks. This list was provided to the OIG during the course of its audit, Supervision of Aliens Commensurate with Risk, OIG-11-81 (May 2011) and included in Appendix D. Accordingly, the OIG has revised Appendix D and reposted the report. The OIG appreciates the Department’s effort to correct the record promptly.”
The DHS inspector general used the same Web link of the original report to publish the one that excludes Israel.
As a matter of policy, according to the inspector general’s report, citizens of Israel and other “specially designated countries” are subjected to a special security screening called a “Third Agency Check” (TAC) when they are actually detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS component responsible for enforcing the immigration laws.
ICE officers are supposed to check all aliens they take into custody against the Terrorist Watchlist, which includes the identities of individuals the U.S. government knows or reasonably suspects to be terrorists. When ICE holds a citizen from a “specially designated country” in its own detention facilities, according to the agency’s standing policy, the individual is also supposed to be run through a TAC.
“In addition to the Terrorist Watchlist screening, ICE uses a Third Agency Check (TAC) to screen aliens from specially designated countries (SDCs) that have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” states the audit.
“The purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien," reads the audit. "ICE’s policy requires officers to conduct TAC screenings only for aliens from SDCs if the aliens are in ICE custody. As a result, ICE does not perform a TAC for the majority of its population of aliens, which includes those incarcerated or released under supervision.”
The original list of specially designated countries that ICE provided to the inspector general’s office at DHS was primarily comprised of Muslim-predominant countries, except for five, including Israel. Included in the list are U.S. Middle East allies, such as Turkey and Egypt.
Also included on the list, separately from Israel, are the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon: the four nations bordering Israel.