WASHINGTON— Hundreds of refugees who sought shelter in the United States during the early years of the Iraq war are coming under fresh scrutiny from US government security officials for possible links to al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq.
FBI Director Robert Mueller surprised some terrorism experts Thursday when, in response to a question about threats inside the United States, he said the FBI was closely monitoring al-Qaida's Iraq-based offshoot. The group has killed thousands in Iraq but had not been viewed as a threat inside the United States.
Mueller said the possible threat rested with "individuals who may have been resettled here in the United States that have had some association with al-Qaida in Iraq."
Lawmakers did not follow up on the remark, but a US intelligence official confirmed that multiple agencies were working to determine whether the group posed a domestic threat. A second US official said the focus was primarily on Iraqis who arrived in the early years of the war. Security screening was not as rigorous then as it became in 2007, when the US significantly increased the pace of resettlement.