What Would We Do Without Experts?

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on December 3, 2015

What Would We Do Without Experts?

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.

What Would We Do Without Experts?
“Experts Explain How Global Powers Can Smash ISIS”—headline, New York Times, Nov. 18

Diagram This Sentence
“The dichotomies of creating a democracy while also forcefully preventing victims of the African diaspora from participating in their government and subjecting them to oppression and terrorist abuse, and being a religiously devout nation and one that values the separation between church and state, speak to this dissonance that Carson assuages.”—Barrett Holmes Pitner, Daily Beast, Nov. 17

Big-Government Libertarians
It seems your humble columnist is not alone in doubting the U.S. government’s ability to screen Syrian refugees and keep terrorists out. “Several high-level administration officials have warned in recent months just how challenging this can be,” the Washington Post reports:

While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check? . . .

“I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has “a pretty aggressive program” for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.

FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting,” he said.

Here’s an opposing view, from Ed Krayewski:

While the FBI’s common-sense acknowledgement it would be “challenging” to vet Syrian refugees is a primary argument deployed against the US accepting more of them, the FBI is not the only agency responsible for vetting refugees. . . .

The U.S. accepted 70,000 refugees in fiscal year 2013, down from 80,000 in fiscal year 2008. An additional 10,000 is not an overwhelming number. Because of the nature of refugees (people fleeing violence and persecution), they tend to come from countries with a poor security environment and sketchy datasets. Yet the federal government is capable of bringing them in. Of the numerous terrorist plots U.S. law enforcement says it’s foiled, none has been used [by] critics of accepting Syrian refugees [as] an example of refugees “infiltrating” the U.S.

To bolster his argument, Krayewski quotes this description of how the process works:

Applicants undergo multiple background and security checks involving the National Counterterrorism Center; the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center; Homeland Security; and the State Department. Details of the checks are classified.

And who is Ed Krayewski? An editor at Reason.com, a libertarian website. So we’re supposed to trust the process because it involves lots of government agencies acting in secret? That doesn’t sound very libertarian to us.

(NOTE: The excerpts above are from the Nov. 18 BOTW archives.) For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”