Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway stepped in it this weekend after she referenced the “Bowling Green massacre” while defending Donald Trump's controversial executive order suspending the refugee program. She asked why the media didn't cover it. The problem, of course, is that there never actually was a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
However, something of great significance to the refugee debate did happen in Bowling Green in 2011 - she's right that the media hasn't been discussing it much. Conway's error is finally shedding some light on it.
In 2009, per an ABC News exclusive report, two Al-Qaeda terrorists from Iraq moved to the United States and settled in Bowling Green by posing as refugees through the refugee program.
The Iraqi insurgents, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, had blood of U.S. troops on their hands before resettling here. The vetting process completely failed to flag them, despite the fact that they had been detained by Iraqi authorities in 2006 and Alwan had even confessed to being a terrorist on video.
It wasn't until the FBI received an intelligence tip nearly a year later that they were aware of what had happened. Authorities proceeded to conduct an undercover sting operation, which led them to the horrifying truth:
After the FBI received the intelligence tip later that year, a sting operation in Kentucky was mounted to bait Alwan with a scheme hatched by an undercover operative recruited by the FBI, who offered Alwan the opportunity to ship heavy arms to al Qaeda in Iraq. The FBI wanted to know if Alwan was part of a local terror cell — a fear that grew when he tapped a relative also living in Bowling Green, Hammadi, to help out.
The FBI secretly taped Alwan bragging to the informant that he'd built a dozen or more bombs in Iraq and used a sniper rifle to kill American soldiers in the Bayji area north of Baghdad.
After they started digging, they even found Alwan's fingerprints on explosive devices found in Iraq.
Their intentions weren't limited to secretly shipping weapons to terrorists. The FBI also learned that the two “refugees” had discussed carrying out an attack against a U.S. Army captain on American soil:
Worse, prosecutors later revealed at Hammadi's sentencing hearing that he and Alwan had been caught on an FBI surveillance tape talking about using a bomb to assassinate an Army captain they'd known in Bayji, who was now back home – and to possibly attack other homeland targets.
Senior government officials in the Obama administration were paying attention to the case and, shocked by the severe lapse in security, temporarily shut down the Iraqi refugee program for six months while they investigated the vetting process. (Sound familiar?)
The media has been mocking Conway for her remark about a Bowling Green “massacre.” They are right that there was no massacre. But there could have been, if not for the FBI investigation, due to a flawed refugee vetting process.