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When Gov. Larry Hogan asked the Obama administration to stop settling Syrian refugees in Maryland in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks two weeks ago, he couched his opposition in gentle terms. He did not cast aspersions on Muslims, as a number of prominent Republicans have done, nor did he foreclose the possibility that he would change his position. He said he just wanted more information from the White House on the vetting process so that he was confident that "refugees from Syria pose no threat to public safety." He has been widely lauded for his measured tone, most recently in a glowing New York Times opinion piece on Sunday.

But what remains to be seen is whether there is a practical difference between Mr. Hogan's approach and those of his more hard-line brethren. The Obama administration has provided the governor with detailed verbal and written briefings on the process for vetting Syrian refugees, and now the White House has promised to give governors regular access to information about the number, gender, age and nationality of refugees resettled in their states. A spokesman for the governor called that a step in the right direction but said Mr. Hogan still has unanswered questions about the process and about President Barack Obama's pledge to bring 10,000 more Syrian refugees to the United States.

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Meanwhile, though, the governor's rhetoric has hardened. "It's not going to change," Mr. Hogan said of his stance last week, after he received a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford participated in a conference call with the White House on the issue. "An overwhelming majority of Marylanders support my position. Most people in the country support my position, as does a majority of Congress and the super-majority of all the states," he said at a news conference, according to the Washington Post.

But what "an overwhelming majority" of people want is not the issue here. The question, at least as Governor Hogan initially posed it, was whether the White House could offer reasonable assurances that the process it uses for vetting Syrian refugees is sufficient to keep Americans safe. And the Obama administration has explained that process quite thoroughly, outlining a nine-stage process including screening by United Nations agencies that eliminates 99 percent of applicants, followed by checks from the State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense; fingerprint and iris scans; document reviews; interviews; medical screenings; and cross-references with several defense and intelligence databases to determine any known associations with bad actors. New information at any stage of the process can trip up an application.

Hogan administration officials have pointed to testimony in the last few months from FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch conceding that the process is not infallible and that they could not offer absolute assurances that no one who poses a risk could be admitted. Because we have little presence on the ground in Syria, both have said, there are limits to the intelligence we can bring to bear on the vetting of any individual.

No doubt it's true that someone could, theoretically, slip through the cracks of that process. But it's hard to imagine why ISIS would try to infiltrate the United States using a path that involves so much risk of being discovered — and which takes 18 months to two years in any case — rather than any one of a number of easier ways to enter the United States. Notably, the Sept. 11 hijackers didn't come as refugees but under tourist and business visas, the process for which, though tighter than it was then, still isn't nearly as exhaustive as the one for refugees. If Governor Hogan is worried about the vetting process for Syrian refugees, he probably ought to shut off travel into Maryland altogether.

Mr. Hogan asked for more information about the vetting process for Syrian refugees, and now he's got it. If he has more questions, he should publicly state them. If he finds what the White House is doing to be insufficient, he should explain why and say what more should be done to satisfy his concerns. The Times portrayed Mr. Hogan as a pragmatic governor unmotivated by partisanship. Here's a good chance for him to prove it.

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