Why U.S. Attorney For Idaho Says Refugees Are Not A Big Security Threat

Jan 19, 2016

A Spokane pastor was in Boise last week to warn Idaho lawmakers that refugees pose a security threat to the United States. That’s a position some Idaho lawmakers already hold and the issue may come up in the current legislative session.

Few people in this country have more experience with the idea of refugee as terrorist than U.S. Attorney for the State of Idaho Wendy Olson. She prosecuted Uzbekistan native Fazliddin Kurbanov, who came to Boise as a refugee and last summer was convicted of plotting terrorist acts.

Olson says it’s certainly possible people claiming to be refugees could come into the country with the intent to do harm. But she says that’s a pretty small part of what she calls the threat picture.

“The biggest concern is that people who are here already - whether they’re people who came from another country, whether they’re people who grew up in Idaho – for some reason are radicalized, who will embrace an extremist ideology, whatever that extremist ideology is, and being able to find out who those individuals are in a timely fashion,” Olson says.

Olson says Fazliddin Kurbanov for example was radicalized after he came to Idaho. She says focusing on refugees or Muslims or any one group distracts from that overall threat picture.

And she says it can get in the way of law enforcement maintaining good community relationships needed to help identify people who may be listening to radical ideology.

Olsen says she has recently briefed Idaho’s governor on this topic and is happy to do it for legislators as well. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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