Could Lindsey Graham's terrorism amendment target immigrants from Ireland?

On Tuesday, a landmark immigration bill that would put 11 million undocumented immigrants on the path to U.S. citizenship cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not before Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) added an amendment requiring additional screening for immigrants hailing from an unspecified number of countries that pose a heightened terrorist threat. As Hayes Brown reports over at ThinkProgress, the Graham amendment mandates additional review for those who are from "a region or country known to pose a threat, or that contains groups or organizations that pose a threat, to the national security of the United States."

"[I]t's pretty clear what I'm trying to do," Graham said during a markup of the bill. "I'm trying to make sure that in addition to looking at your criminal background, when you adjust status, that if there are certain parts of the world or countries -- like Yemen -- that you're adjusting from, I want to know a little more about you, given the world we live in."

The Graham amendment declines to name specifically which countries would trigger the additional screening, but leaves the determination up to the secretary of homeland security in consultation with the secretary of state.

When reached for comment, Graham's office reiterated that the decision would rest with the Department of Homeland Security but confirmed that the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations list could conceivably serve as a guide. "The DHS Secretary can simply use the list maintained by State but is free to go beyond it," a spokesman for Graham told FP in an email.

If the State Department list were to ultimately serve as the guide, however, Graham's amendment might apply to an exceptionally broad class of applicants. The list, which identifies foreign terrorist groups that threaten "the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States," catalogues 52 organizations operating in dozens of countries, including many not ordinarily associated with terrorism.

The irony of the Graham amendment is that it's been billed by critics as an attempt to resurrect the post-9/11 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which forced immigrants from 24 Muslim countries to undergo additional scrutiny until it was mostly abandoned by the Obama administration in 2011. But by targeting immigrants from states that "contain groups or organizations" that threaten the United States -- assuming the State Department list is used to make such determinations -- Graham's amendment would go far beyond the NSEERS, applying to immigrants from dozens of countries on virtually every continent.

Far from only applying to Muslim or Middle Eastern countries, the amendment would apply, for example, to immigrants from Greece, Ireland, and Spain, all of which have terrorist organizations that appear on the State Department's list operating within their borders. It would also apply to immigrants from India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name just a few. Countries "where terrorists operate," as Graham put it during the markup, actually make up a sizable chunk of the planet.

Graham's amendment, which passed by voice vote and was inserted into the bill, will most likely face opposition from Democrats when it's debated on the Senate floor next month. Whether or not they take issue with its extraordinary breadth remains to be seen.  

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U.S. admits droning four Americans (but just one deliberately)

Ahead of President Obama's big counterterrorism speech tomorrow, Attorney General Eric Holder has written a letter, obtained by the New York Times, to the Senate Judiciary Committee disclosing the four American citizens killed by targeted strikes during the Obama administration, three of whom "were not specifically targeted by the United States":

Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qa'ida and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi. The United States is further aware of three other U.S. citizens who have been killed in such U.S. counterterrorism operations over that same time period: Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi, and Jude Kenan Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.

The letter does not include the names of all Americans who have been killed in drone strikes. A fifth U.S. citizen, Ahmed Hijazi (a.k.a. Kamal Derwish) was killed in 2002 during the Bush administration in the first ever U.S. drone strike. That strike, in Yemen, was directed at Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, who was associated with the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. An unnamed FBI source told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer several years ago that another U.S. citizen was believed to have been killed by a U.S. cruise missile in Somalia sometime between 2006 and early 2009.

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were propagandists for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and the U.S. government believes that Awlaki played a role in planning the attempted underwear bombing in 2009. His son, 'Abd al-Rahman, had reportedly linked up with AQAP members while looking for Awklaki when a drone targeted his vehicle. The three men were killed in a series of airstrikes in September and October 2011.

The only new name is Jude Kenan Mohammed, whose death in Pakistan was rumored in a February 2012 local news story in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C but had not been previously acknowledged.

With the letter, the Obama administration has now admitted killing more U.S. citizens than detainees the Bush administration admitted waterboarding. Hooray for transparency?

The full text of Holder's letter is included below:

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