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Goose Creek case gets congressional scrutiny; Update 11:36am Eastern: Chertoff: “I will get back to you on that”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 5, 2007 10:18 AM

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11:57am Eastern. Both Chertoff and Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee want shamnesty resurrected. Good thing I haven’t had lunch yet.

11:30am Eastern. Here we go…Rep. Bilirakis brings up Goose Creek: “There are several questions that need to be answered to better understand the larger homeland security questions.”

1) To what extent is DHS working with DOJto determine terror links?

Chertoff answers: From the very moment something like this is detected, first priority…I can guarantee you from day of arrests…priority number one is to examine any linkages between those arrested and others who might pose a threat.

2) Does DHS have ability to monitor student visa holders to determine whether visas are simply being used to get into the country?

Chertoff: We do to a limited extent. We rely upon the schools…Most schools try to honor their obligation…some do not…

3) I need to know: How many foreign students have entered the US with student visas and not enrolled as required at their schools?

Chertoff: I will get back to you on that.

4) Screening past criminal histories. What criminal acts would preclude issuance of foreign student visas? I understand that this may apply to (Goose Creek) case.

Chertoff: Can’t give you comprehensive list. Obviously felones, some misdemeanors. Will get back to Bilirakis.

5) Expand upon info-sharing.

Chertoff: There is some, not perfect, flawless…we do have to sanction schools that don’t cooperate.

“I will get back to you on that.”

I will make sure to report Chertoff’s answer when and if he does.

Update 11:23am Eastern. Jane Harman gives Chertoff unsolicited career advice, telling him he shouldn’t move over the Attorney General’s office because “you’d be having to dig yourself out of a very deep hole.”

Update 11:13am Eastern. Norm Dicks presses Chertoff on tracking visa overstayers. Chertoff: “It’s not difficult to determine who’s overstayed. It’s finding them.” Well, duh. Same old, same old.

Update 10:54am Eastern. Pet peeve. ChairmanThompson just invited other House members to “axe” questions. “Axe.”

Update 10:50am Eastern. Peter King’s turn to question Chertoff. First topic is the Visa Waiver program. Chertoff acknowledges the blindingly obvious security flaws of the visa waiver program, which I spotlighted in Invasion and have reported on for years.

Update 10:40am Eastern. Chairman Thompson asks Chertoff whether he’ll be replacing Alberto Gonzales. Chertoff punts. Thompson follows up and asks whether he has done as Josh Bolten has done and asked leaders at DHS whether they’ll be staying on. Thompson presses Chertoff on inordinate number of vacancies at DHS. Thompson ends his questioning without bringing up the Goose Creek case publicly. Interesting. Guess whatever Chertoff told him privately satisfied him.

Here’s one of Chertoff’s powerpoint pages flashed during his opening statement. Feel free to make up your own Chertoff to-do list:

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Update 10:26am Eastern. Chertoff’s making his general overview statement on immigration enforcement. He tosses in a complaint pining for the failed shamnesty plan. “But,” he notes ruefully, “I’m sworn to enforce the law,” and says he’ll do his job. Boo-hoo.

***

DHS Secretary and lettuce-pickers’ spokesman Michael Chertoff is appearing right now before the House Committee on Homeland Security. (Hat tip: Audrey Hudson.) I’m watching it live online here. Chertoff will be complaining about having to answer to too many oversight hearings. Perhaps if the department were doing a better job, there would be fewer congressional inquiries about why they’re not doing their job. Just saying.

More interestingly, Florida papers report that Chertoff may be asked about the Goose Creek case. The Dems want to play the racial profiling card. The Republicans want to focus on policy and find out more about the screening process of foreign student visa holders:

The head of a U.S. House committee plans to press Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff today about the indictments of two University of South Florida students, one accused of trying to help terrorists.

Chertoff is scheduled to appear this morning before the Committee on Homeland Security, headed by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat. So far, even Thompson has been kept in the dark about specifics, including what led a Tampa-based federal grand jury on Friday to accuse one of the men, Ahmed Mohamed, of trying to aid terrorists, his committee spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“He expects to be briefed, and he expects to ask some questions,” spokeswoman Dena Graziano said.

Before the 10 a.m. hearing – Holding the Department of Homeland Security Accountable for Security Gaps – Thompson will meet with Chertoff privately for a classified briefing. Thompson also may question Chertoff about the case during the open hearing, Graziano said…

Another member of the committee, Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, also intends to question Chertoff about what may be larger homeland security implications of Friday’s indictments, said his spokesman, John Tomaszewski.

They include “the possible criminal background of one of the students [Mohamed] prior to entering the United States, the department’s ability to monitor the actions of foreign students once in the county, and whether there is proper coordination between all of the responsible federal agencies on cases of this nature,” Tomaszewski said.

Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said he could not comment about the questions being raised because the investigation is ongoing.

Both men are Egyptian citizens; Megahed a permanent, legal U.S. resident and Mohamed visiting on a student visa.

I’ll update with any newsworthy details.

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