Pentagon says some foreign-born recruits have ties to overseas intelligence

Matt Saintsing
July 17, 2018 - 4:04 pm

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Some foreign-born military recruits who sought to gain U.S. citizenship through a special program lied about their background, falsified documents, and have connections to other foreign intelligence agencies, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Released court documents show, “issues with the MAVNI program are not about immigration, they are about national security,”  said Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason. She added that no recruits are being released from their contracts or discharged due to their immigration status. 

The lawsuit is an ongoing lawsuit, Tiwari v Mattis, which was filed on behalf of 17 immigrant recruits that enlisted through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which allows certain legal non-citizens in the U.S. to join the military and immediately apply for U.S. citizenship. 

In the filings, the Defense Department argued that the program contained lapses in security procedures. Roger Smith, head of personnel security for the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence said that some MAVNI recruits “attended universities that did not exist.” 

“Some MAVNI recruits attended, and later falsified transcripts from, universities owned by a Foreign National Security agency and a State Sponsored Intelligence Organization,” said Smith. 

Other recruits, however, have much more sinister ties to foreign adversaries. For example, Smith said one MAVNI recruit, who gained entry into the United States on a student visa, “professed support for 9/11 terrorists and said he would voluntarily help China in a crisis situation.” Additionally, one applicant “failed to list foreign contacts from Eastern Europe and Russia, even though the recruit’s father manages the military department of a foreign factory and his brother-in-law worked for a foreign political party.” 

Smith said that security screening for some MAVNI applicants is challenging due to “limitations in the Department’s ability to verify information in the individual’s home country.” 

From 2009 to 2016, the military recruited more than 10,000 non-U.S. citizens through the MAVNI program. 

But that program was put on hold in 2016, and around 1,000 recruits are caught in a precautious legal status. They can’t ship off to basic training until their security background checks clear, but while they are waiting, they run the risk of having their visas expire and may be required to leave the country. 

MAVNI was stood up to attract people with crucial expertise vital to the military, like medical skills and those who speak certain critical languages. Last year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he wanted to extend the program so long it didn’t impact security. 

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