Sen. Cornyn Demands Answers From Air Force On AWOL Afghans/National Security Breach

Friday, I sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley listing serious concerns with alarming reports indicating 17 members of the Afghan military have gone AWOL over the course of two years from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Specifically, I take the Air Force to task for failing to alert and inform me or my staff members given the dangerous security risks these individuals could pose for Texas residents. In his letter, I request an immediate report on how the violation was allowed to happen on 17 separate occasions; an assessment of the potential threats to Texas citizens; a response as to why I was not informed over the course of two years; and a report on the latest details and events surrounding this national security breach. The text of the letter is as follows:

June 18, 2010

The Honorable Michael B. Donley
Department of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330

Dear Secretary Donley:

I write today to express my serious concern with recent media reports that indicate 17 Afghan military members have gone AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. These reports are alarming, as is your Department’s failure to provide notification and information regarding each of these egregious incidents.

According to the media, these 17 Afghan military officers were brought to Lackland Air Force Base to receive training at the Defense Language Institute. Although reports indicate these 17 men disappeared over a span of two years—the most recent in January 2010—and that they each were issued Department of Defense Common Access Cards used to gain access to secure military installations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service did not issue a “Be-on-the-Lookout” (BOLO) bulletin until June 17, 2010.

My office has never received official notification from the Department of the Air Force regarding this potential national security threat, which could pose a danger to citizens in Texas and elsewhere in the country. Your Department’s failure to provide critical information related to this incident is unacceptable. I request an immediate report on how such a serious violation of security was allowed to happen not once, but on 17 separate occasions, and why safeguards were not put in place to prevent repeated incidents. Furthermore, I request an assessment of the potential threat of these individuals to Texas and its citizens; a detailed overview of your plan of action to correct this security failure and quell the current threat; an answer as to why I was not notified of these incidents as they occurred over the course of two years; and the latest information available as to the background, whereabouts, intents, and actions of these individuals.

Finally, it is a mistake for officials to approach this serious breach as an immigration violation rather than a threat to the safety and security of our homeland and our citizens. I trust you will direct relevant officials responding to this situation to address it for what it is—a breach of national security.

Thank you for your immediate attention and action in response to my request.

Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator

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