Iraq Spy Suspect Oversaw U.S. Asylums

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, April 6, 2006

An Iraqi-born U.S. citizen suspected of being a foreign intelligence agent was employed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to rule on asylum applications, including those from unfriendly Middle Eastern nations, according to documents obtained from Congress by The Washington Times.

Michael J. Maxwell, the former head of the Office of Security and Investigations at USCIS, is expected to testify about the Iraqi case and other breakdowns at the agency to a House subcommittee today.

Mr. Maxwell will tell legislators that the immigration system is being used by enemy governments to place agents in the United States.

The suspected agent, whose name has not been released, judged 180 asylum applications while at USCIS, the agency that also rules on green cards, citizenship and employment authorization.

A database check during Mr. Maxwell’s investigation turned up national-security questions about nearly two dozen of those cases.

Mr. Maxwell will also tell the panel about criminal accusations pending against USCIS workers and that top USCIS officials have deceived Congress and obstructed the duties of his office, the agency’s internal affairs division.

“The immigration system as a whole is so broken that our adversaries can game it,” Mr. Maxwell told The Times when asked about the documents this week. “I can assure you they’re using it against us; they can with impunity.”

His testimony comes as the Senate debates whether to enact a guest-worker program that would allow current illegal aliens and future foreign workers a new path to citizenship.

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Mr. Maxwell began an investigation that found that the man had been hired by USCIS even though negative “national security information” in his background check caused other federal agencies to pass on him.

A national security polygraph showed repeated deception on his part, and in interviews with Mr. Maxwell, he denied having traveled to Iran, Syria and Jordan while he worked for USCIS, even though electronic databases showed he had made the trips.

The man also made “persistent requests” that Mr. Maxwell help him achieve secret or top-secret clearance so he could go back to work for the Defense Department. Mr. Maxwell said that request was weird because Defense would have had to do its own background check anyway.

The man has since left USCIS and the United States so Mr. Maxwell closed his investigation. But Mr. Maxwell said that despite his findings, USCIS doesn’t even have the ability to go back and see whether any of the 180 cases the former employee approved should be revoked.

“With no internal audit function at CIS, we don’t know who he let into this country,” Mr. Maxwell said.

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