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Top DHS official denies WSJ story on alleged Mossad assassins in the U.S.

The U.S. government does not believe that two of the 26 alleged Mossad assassins responsible for the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai came to the United States following the murder, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday. Rand Beers, the under secretary of homeland security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, ...

The U.S. government does not believe that two of the 26 alleged Mossad assassins responsible for the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai came to the United States following the murder, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday.

Rand Beers, the under secretary of homeland security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, told a roundtable at the Heritage Foundation Wednesday that Monday’s Wall Street Journal report, which claimed that "at least two" of the Dubai assassination suspects had entered the U.S., was flatly inaccurate.

"We have no indication and they would have had to have shown that passport and that travel documentation with it to enter this country," Beers said, addressing the Journal story directly. "So we would know if they had entered with that passport and that name and that picture."

Beers acknowledged that the official U.S. government position was not to comment on the Journal report, but confirmed twice he believed the report to be inaccurate.

The Journal report, which had a Dubai dateline, said, "Records shared between international investigators show that one of the suspects entered the U.S. on Feb. 14, carrying a British passport, according to a person familiar with the situation. The other suspect, carrying an Irish passport, entered the U.S. on Jan. 21, according to this person."

Mabhouh was assassinated on Jan. 20.

The story goes on to speculate that UAE officials would seek extradition if any suspects were found in the U.S. and that "the investigation could prove an irritant to U.S.-Israeli ties if Mossad is implicated."

Asked if the U.S. was vulnerable to infiltration using such forged passports, which appeared to be issued by visa waiver countries Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany, Beers said he just didn’t know.

"I haven’t actually seen a forensic report on the passport itself to know whether or not a good machine-readable system would have determined that was a falsified passport," said Beers.  "I’m not saying that it’s not possible to get around that with a high technology solution."

The U.S. government has been communicating with both the UAE and Dubai governments, sharing information about the incident, Beers said.  He said that DHS was working with Interpol’s program to share information about missing or stolen passports, but that will work "only if nations choose to collect the information in a systematic way."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin