- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Tuesday that his department had to release two men who admitted they were part of a terrorist group from Turkey, after a judge ordered them to be let out — a decision he said he disagreed with.

Earlier this year, Mr. Johnson had told Congress that four men who were caught crossing the southern border and who claimed to be part of a Marxist terrorist group would be deported. But Tuesday he told the Homeland Security Committee that two of them remain in U.S. custody, and two others were released into the U.S. and then fled to Canada, where they are seeking asylum.

“You tell the world that you’re going to deport these four people tied to terrorists — these are terrorists — and they don’t. They get released,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican.

Mr. Johnson said he would have preferred the two men be kept in custody but didn’t have a choice after the judge ruled.

“I’m not sure of their exact whereabouts,” Mr. Johnson said.

The Washington Times reported earlier this year on the apparent existence of a smuggling network that shepherded the four men from Istanbul through Paris to Mexico City, where they were stashed for several days before being driven to the U.S. border. They crossed illegally in early September.

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The men initially claimed to be members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, known by the acronym DHKP/C. The group is a Marxist insurgency that claimed credit for a 2013 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, last year.

But U.S. counterterrorism officials said the men were more likely members of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been battling for Kurdish rights within Turkey for decades, though recently PKK and Turkish leaders have tried to broker a political agreement.

Both the PKK and DHKP/C are listed by the State Department as terrorist groups.

Mr. Johnson, at Tuesday’s hearing, initially questioned whether the PKK should be designated a terrorist group but later said those questions should be directed to the State Department.

Mr. Johnson’s office didn’t respond to follow-up questions, but Canada’s immigration service released a statement saying that while it couldn’t comment on a specific claim, it bars those involved in terrorism from being granted refugee status.

Canadian officials also said under a U.S.-Canada agreement, would-be refugees are generally required to make their claim in the first country they arrive in — which would mean the U.S.

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• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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