How reliable is our refugee screening process?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 18, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. PAUL RYAN, R, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We will not have a religious test, only a security test. If the intelligence and law enforcement community cannot certify that a person presents no threat, then they should not be allowed in. This is common sense, and it's our obligation.


BRET BAIER, HOST, ‘SPECIAL REPORT’: House Speaker Paul Ryan on the House floor talking about the issue of refugees. It's a big issue here at the Republican Governors Association annual meeting in Las Vegas. There are 31 states now that are pushing back against the White House plan to bring in some 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. What about all of this and how it's playing out? We welcome in our panel from Washington, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Charles Hurt, political columnist for "The Washington Times." Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, look, I think the president would like to have this fight. I mean, we saw comments from him today, which I thought were disgraceful comments, that he welcomes the fight over refugees and he thinks that this is a winning argument for him. And I suppose if you look back at his -- at the alternative, the fact that we might be having a broader discussion about the massive failure of Obama's policy on ISIS, this could be a good fight for him.

But I think it's reasonable to have some kind of moratorium on refugees given the nature of the threat, given the fact that we understand that ISIS is trying to infiltrate into the United States, given the fact that we have 1,000 investigations, ISIS-related investigations ongoing in the United States right now. It's very, it's a very least a good move to take a pause, to take a second look and to make sure that the procedures we have in place would actually work.

BAIER: Mara, is there a disconnect between what the administration is saying on this and some of the intelligence officials, including the FBI director, who concede that there is a gap here in potential vetting for Syrian refugees?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes. It's hard to guarantee. It's impossible, as intelligence officials will tell us, to guarantee 100 percent that someone will not commit a terrorist act if they're let into the United States. There are a lot of layers of vetting and it takes about 18 months to 24 months for any Syrian refugee to be allowed into the United States. However, these are people who often don't have any documentation. As Marco Rubio is fond of saying, there's no one to call up in Syria and find out about their backgrounds. So it is difficult.

On the other hand, the United States says it doesn't let anybody into the country if they're a terrorist threat.

BAIER: Charlie?

CHARLES HURT, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, I think that Steve is exactly right. Obviously the president sees this as an opportunity to win a political fight. But I would actually argue that this is the first time where the president is facing a shutdown showdown that he really might lose. The White House today announced that they are going to veto this bill and that the Republicans are pushing in the House. It's not a drastic bill. It's not a bill that says we're going to not allow any refugees in.
It's simply a bill that says that the director, the DNI director, the FBI director and Homeland Security secretary would all check off on every single refugee that comes into the country and assure that they are not an unreasonable risk. This is not -- that's not a draconian sort of bill.
And for the president to put all of his chips on that argument I think puts him if a real position where if there were showdown for the first time we would have a showdown where Republicans might, might have the upper hand.

BAIER: Secretary of State John Kerry, we talked about it on the panel last night, had a statement about the attacks on "Charlie Hebdo" in France that really raised some eyebrows today. He had to walk that back. Take a listen to the two sound bites.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There's something different about what happened from "Charlie Hebdo." There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they're really angry.

Such atrocities can never be rationalized and we can never allow them to be rationalized. There's no excuse. They have to be stopped.


BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: Well look, the damage was done yesterday. I mean, for him to think out loud and suggest that there might be legitimacy to the attacks on "Charlie Hebdo," because the terrorists saw legitimacy in them I think is a disgrace.

And the way that he corrected himself I think was really telling. You can see that he knew he stepped in it when he said the word "legitimacy."
So he corrected to the word "rationale." Well that doesn't solve the problem, either. It's every bit as bad. It's an offensive comment. It was a stupid comment. There's -- it's no wonder that they're trying to walk it back today.

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