Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan

Vetting Year
Time from U.S. Entry to Discovery
4 years, 4 months
National Security Crime Type
Nationality of Perpetrator
Immigration Status Type
Refugee classification; Lawful Permanent Residence; Naturalized Citizenship
Agency Responsible for Failure
USCIS for Lawful Permanent Residence
Opportunities Missed
Nation(s) Vetting Occurred
Criminal Charges
Material support to ISIS, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, and making false statements
Case Outcome
Convicted 10/2016 for material support for terrorism
Case Summary

In 2009, 24-year-old Iraqi-born Palestinian Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan settled in Texas on a refugee visa after living for nine months in camps on the Iraq-Jordanian border. Less than two years later, in August 2011, USCIS granted him lawful permanent residence (LPR) during a process that would have required standard security vetting for terrorism ideology and activity. He was later caught up in a 2016 plot to bomb to Houston shopping malls.

FBI agents later learned that he was deeply radicalized by "at least" April 2013 and was expressing desire for martyrdom to another Iraqi refugee in Sacramento, Calif., named Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab and earlier to relatives. Al Hardan's fellow refugee and friend in California, Al-Jayab, was a hardened al-Nusra Front and ISIS jihadist whose own jihadist battleground experience USCIS security vetters entirely missed. Al-Jayab was planning a return to the battlefield and actually did. Al Hardan wanted to follow and die in a "martyrdom" operation overseas or in a terror attack inside the United States, the FBI later discovered.

No public evidence could be found confirming that Al Hardan had radicalized before he received his refugee visa in 2009 and so vetting failure was unlikely then. 

But the Al Hardan case is included here on the analytical judgement that he likely was already an extremist by the time USCIS adjudicators granted him legal residence in 2011, given the intensity of his commitment to suicidal violence that investigators said was traceable to “at least” early 2013 and earlier to relatives.

Furthermore, Al Hardan's 2011 quest for immigration status was incorporated into his later jihadist planning because legal residence is a precondition to applying for U.S. citizenship, which he thought was needed to travel abroad to fight with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, he did apply for citizenship in August 2014.

But that screening also did not turn up his radicalization or plotting. (In 2014, the FBI opened an investigation into Al Hardan as a potential terrorism threat during the investigation into the communications of Al Jayab and would not arrest him until 2016.)

His radicalization was discoverable in and around that early 2013 period, when Al Hardan repeatedly told family members he planned to die a martyr, and he was posting support for terrorist groups and attacks on social media for an unspecified period before his 2016 arrest. He also was collecting bomb-making components for potential plans to attack a military base in Grand Prairie, Texas, and to blow up two Houston shopping malls, federal investigators alleged in court records.

By the time Al Hardan applied for U.S. citizenship in August 2014, the citizenship vetting process would have been moot because the FBI already had an active investigation targeting him that involved undercover informants.

The government charged Al Hardan with attempting to provide material support and resources, including personnel, specifically himself; training; and expert advice and assistance to ISIS. In December 2016, a federal judge sentenced him to 16 years in prison.