State Department denies it has a secret plan to admit foreign Ebola patients

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Story highlights

  • Republicans say a draft State Department memo shows the government could import foreign Ebola patients
  • The State Department said the memo was just for planning
The State Department discussed plans to transport non-U.S.citizens infected with Ebola to the United States for medical treatment, but decided to shelve the proposal and insists it was never considered at senior levels.
But Congressional Republicans are seizing on an internal State Department memo outlining a possible joint State-Homeland Security department program to provide Ebola care at U.S. hospitals for non-Americans. They say the memo is evidence the Administration was working on a new plan but wasn't being transparent about it.
The memo, obtained by CNN, is labeled "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PREDECISIONAL" and drafted by State Department officials. It recommends that the two federal agencies come up with a system to admit into the United States non-citizens "as long as they are otherwise eligible for medical evacuation from the Ebola affected countries and for entry in the United States." It outlines the steps the U.S. government would need to take to contract with a commercial aviation company that specializes in bio containment. It also mentions other non-governmental agencies the U.S. is working with to assist with medevacing health care workers out of West Africa to European countries.
In one section the memo says the U.S. has "an obligation to assist non-citizen employees and contractors of U.S. agencies and programs, as well as NGOs and private firms based in the U.S."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed the memo on Wednesday as drafted by a "mid-level official, but not cleared by senior leaders."
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Saying there are "no plans" to transport non-Americans who contract Ebola in West Africa to the United States, Psaki said the U.S. has "discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third countries, subject to reimbursement and availability. But we're not contemplating bringing them back to the United States for treatment."
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last week asking if the Administration was developing any plans related to non-U.S. citizens, but complained on Wednesday he hasn't received a response yet.
On Wednesday he issued a written statement about the "leaked memo," suggesting the Administration was trying to hide something.
"It's alarming that senior Obama Administration officials so vehemently denied the existence of any plans to transport non-U.S. citizens infected with Ebola to the United States for treatment when a leaked State Department document shows that such a proposal indeed exists and was approved by Obama Administration officials," Goodlatte said.
But Psaki said the proposal never reached senior officials for their approval. The copy of the memo obtained by CNN does not include the final page that would show specifically which officials from the State Department signed off on the plan.
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also cited the memo as counter to the Administration's emphasis that stopping the spread of the virus means focusing on the source in West Africa.
"The Obama administration memo describing possible efforts to skirt the immigration laws and fast track the admission of people with Ebola fails to consider the risk to Americans and adds to the absurd refusal of the President to institute common sense travel restrictions that would better protect the homeland."