Comey Says Most Open Terror Cases Are On US Citizens, Undercutting Travel Ban

FBI Director James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
May 3, 2017 2:06 p.m.

Without directly indicting the Trump administration, FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday tore down the logic behind the President’s travel ban and noted hostile rhetoric and government policy towards Muslims made the jobs of law enforcement officials “harder.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing if Comey agreed that citizenship alone is “not a reliable indicator of a terrorist threat posed by an individual to the United States.”

“Correct,” Comey replied. “Most of the people we have open cases on are U.S. citizens.”

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In announcing its revised travel ban blocking immigration from a handful of majority-Muslim countries, the Trump White House argued it needed to “protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals.”

That executive order was blocked by multiple federal judges, who said its primary intent was to discriminate against Muslims.

Earlier in his questioning, Leahy asked if proposals like Donald Trump’s campaign promise to ban all Muslims from entering the United States “can perpetuate division and hatred,” ultimately making “America less safe.”

“I’m not going to comment on the particular statement,” Comey said, “but I do agree that a perception or a reality of hostility towards any community, in this particular the Muslim-American community, makes our jobs harder.”

“Those good people do not want people engaging in acts of violence in the name of their faith or in their neighborhood, and so our interests are aligned, but if anything gets in the way of that, it chills their openness to talk to us and to tell us what they see,” he continued.

Trump has repeatedly accused Muslim Americans of willfully harboring terrorists in their communities.

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