By Melanie Hunter
(CNSNews.com) - A Homeland Security Department official testified Friday before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security that U.S. authorities are not “routinely” notified when foreign sex offenders enter the United States.
“We can receive information on foreign criminal records, and in fact the NCB (National Central Bureau) is the vehicle through which 190 countries can communicate, and there are … registered sex offenders, but routinely, that information actually would not come unless there’s a specific case or a specific law enforcement inquiry,” Alan Bersin, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary of International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer, told the subcommittee.
The hearing was called to examine the issue of passport security in light of the recent revelation that two Iranians boarded missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 using stolen passports.
Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) asked whether INTERPOL would be alerted if a sex offender from Germany, for instance, flew into the U.S.
“If somebody in Germany who was a sex offender … got on an aircraft and was flying into the United States, would they be sharing that kind of information through INTERPOL with us – not just talking about terrorism, but other kinds of threats to security here in the United States? Just so I understand sir how the information sharing works through the organization,” Miller asked.
Shawn Bray, director of INTERPOL Washington, said “that type of information can be received from Germany” and other countries.
“We routinely receive information regarding traveling sex offenders, generally registered sex offenders in many of the countries that have a registry for that, but certainly from countries that may be just simply notifying us that a sex offender from their country is traveling,” Bray said.
That information is then relayed to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials “so a determination can be made as to admissibility in the United States.”
“There’s information regarding criminals, terrorists, modus and operandi that are transmitted on a daily basis,” Bray added.
According to Bersin, however, “when a German gets on an airplane to the United States, CBP knows that he’s coming, but the German authorities don’t know that he’s coming, and unless that German sex offender or murderer— unless that record is in the FBI database, we have no routine insight into what is in the criminal data records of other countries.”
“That’s the issue that— Mr. Bray is entirely right— that if there’s a specific case or specific inquiry, NCB would receive that information, but the point is it’s not a routine data exchange, because we don’t have routine access to German criminal records anymore than they have routine access – unless there’s a case – to our criminal records,” Bersin added.