Sen­a­tors say tu­ber­cu­lo­sis flier in­ci­dent ‘high­lights vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Sara A. Carter and Au­drey Hud­son

Sen­a­tors are de­mand­ing an­swers about why a Mex­i­can na­tional in­fected with a con­ta­gious form of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis was al­lowed to cross the U.S. border 76 times and whether gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were told not to dis­cuss the case out­side their de­part­ments.

Sens. Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent, and Susan Collins, Maine Repub­li­can, both mem­bers of the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, sent let­ters Oct. 30 to Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Michael Chertoff and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Michael O. Leav­itt about the in­ci­dent. The sen­a­tors said it “high­lights vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties we be­lieve still ex­ist within our na­tion’s border screen­ing sys­tems.”

The sen­a­tors specif­i­cally are ask­ing why the man — Amado Isidro Ar­men­dariz Amaya — was al­lowed to “re­peat­edly en­ter the United States af­ter U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion was alerted and di­rected to deny his en­try?”

Once in the United States he boarded nu­mer­ous do­mes­tic air­line flights.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) says it will not in­form pas­sen­gers whether they flew with Mr. Amaya — whose ac­tiv­ity dates back to at least Au- gust 2006. Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, mean­while, have de­clined to in­form the com­mit­tee how many or which flights he took.

Mr. Amaya has multi-drug re­sis­tant tu­ber­cu­lo­sis (MDR-TB).

“We ex­pect to re­ceive com­plete and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on this case in a timely man­ner,” the sen­a­tors said in the let­ters along with a list of more ques­tions that could ex­plain which agency is re­spon­si­ble for hold­ing up or man­gling the in­for­ma­tion.

CBP of­fi­cials stated that a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) alert was is­sued on April 16 when they were first no­ti­fied by CDC but that the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided was in­com­plete and in­ac­cu­rate.

Home­land Se­cu­rity em­ploy­ees told The Wash­ing­ton Times, which first re­ported the re­peated border cross­ing by Mr. Amaya, they would be fired if the story was ever leaked out­side of the CBP agency.

The sen­a­tors asked: “Were any DHS per­son­nel, in­clud­ing CBP per­son­nel in El Paso, Texas, ever in­structed not to dis­cuss the case re­gard­ing the Mex­i­can na­tional out­side the de­part­ment?

“If such a di­rec­tive was made, did it ex­tend to brief­ing mem­bers of Congress? If such a di­rec­tive was made, who made it?” the law­mak­ers asked.

Such a di­rec­tive would be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity said it is con­tin­u­ing to work with the sen­a­tors to an­swer ques­tions about the case.

“The facts of the case have not changed. We are work­ing with the sen­a­tors’ of­fices to an­swer any ad­di­tional ques­tions that they may have,” DHS spokes­woman Laura Keehner said.

The Se­nate com­mit­tee wants to know which agency knew what and when, and why it took at least two months be­fore the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion was alerted to put Mr. Amaya on a nofly list.

The De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­ferred all ques­tions to the CDC, which did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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