Refugees and where RRA could help

In a short but eloquently argued article for the Wall Street Journal last November, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker made the bold statement that the US should be taking on 100,000 Syrian refugees per year. Putting aside the logistics and costs of such a humanitarian exercise (Syrian refugees make up a small percentage of the current refugee intake from nations such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq), there is an overriding concern that troubles the American public: how do we screen refugees so that the people we welcome to our shores are intent on a better life away from the horror and bloodshed of civil war, and not hell bent on bringing terror to the country they seek asylum in?

The Ambassador claims that taking in refugees from the Middle East and other Islamic countries “is not an unmanageable security risk to U.S. citizens” – and of course he’s right – until a lone wolf or small cell wreaks havoc on the very country that welcomed refugees in the first place. When that happens, everyone suffers. While the vast majority of refugees are simply seeking a peaceful existence, that tiny minority of bad actors can bring harm quite out of proportion to their numbers.

The sad fact is that current screening infrastructure and processes do present an unmanageable security risk. The reason is simple: the “vigorous” screening process referred to by Ambassador Crocker is fundamentally let down by reliance on data bases that cannot possibly run deep enough or be reliable enough to allow for proper security vetting of those seeking asylum. Vetting from multiple security agencies, and interviews by DHS officers abroad, will only catch those applicants already in the criminal justice system (which may be too grand a term) of the country of origin.

Having put it aside earlier in this article, let’s move back to the other issues that also dominate this debate: logistics. How do you solve a problem like refugee screening? Well, refugee screening is an exercise in risk management, but with one important constraint: in the case of Syrian refugees, the President of the United States has decreed that 10,000 will be accepted into the US over a 12 month period. That means, no matter what the estimated risks are at the outset, saying “no” is not an option. It is only when actual risks are identified that the immigration agencies can legitimately say no in the face of a direct Presidential order. But how can our agencies accurately determine those risks with their current systems and apparatus?

One suggestion might be to Polygraph every single refugee. Leaving aside the complex arrangements for setting up polygraph centers overseas, the sheer time and cost of this exercise makes it unfeasible. 10,000 applicants, each requiring 90 minutes of Polygraph time, amounts to 15,000 hours of testing, not to mention the thousands of hours spent processing both pre and post-interview. Add to this the woes of Polygraph in being seen as yesterday’s technology, easily fooled by counter-measures and, to some, no better that 20th Century witchcraft – and the American public would not be reassured.

What is needed is another layer of effective and highly accurate screening. Since any refugee population poses a potential risk – but particularly those populations from Islamic countries which are home to organizations sworn to the destruction of the US – then the most effective way to screen those refugees is to look for actual risk along the continuum that is present in every human.

Remote Risk Analysis – Clearspeed’s proprietary biometric risk assessment tool – would be one such solution. Gone is the reliance on the databases which in all likelihood never contained useful information. Gone is the need to spend hours with each subject to try to determine truth and lies. Instead, over a short 10-minute interview over a telephone line, each applicant would have attached to his or her file a risk assessment report with greater that 98% accuracy. DHS would have to decide how to act on the results of those reports, but with four levels to work with (low, average, potential and high) it would not be hard to establish Departmental protocols according to risk level.

As an example of the effectiveness in processing refugees, an 8-node RRA fly-away system placed in a refugee camp in Kurdistan or Turkey, could process 10,000 refugees in under 45 days. The results would state with 98% accuracy what the risk posed by those individuals was – with no false negatives (i.e. no high risk individuals slipping through the net). On a financial scale the cost would be a fraction of the significantly more expensive (but less effective) alternatives.

This technology could truly make a difference to the security of this nation, as it steps up to fulfill its global obligation to take refugees. As the Ambassador rightly says, the 1,682 brought over in 2014 is meager. America has far greater capacity to accept refugees, and there are strategic and political reasons to support immigration.

This company believes in good, controlled immigration with the right checks and balances to ensure ultimately that the American people are safe while they welcome those from some of the most brutal regimes and decimated nations on the planet. Neither a Presidential order, nor the desire to to the right thing should, however, jeopardize the security and safety of the people who live in this great nation. It is time to modernize our screening processes and work to effectively and properly identify those who wish us harm.