The most recent horrific terror attack, this time in Nice, France on Bastille Day, is the latest of a string of attacks overseas as well as inside the United States. It has shaken people around the world, causing them to question what their governments need to do to protect them.
Our leaders are forever reacting to the latest attack, placing us on an elevated defensive posture, whenever and wherever it may occur. Often news reports are aired that show video clips of heavily armed police officers patrolling our airports and other venues in response to the latest attack no matter where the attack was carried out, to create the illusion of protecting us.
This perspective can most generously be called folly. The terror threats we face do not go up and down like the stock market. While it makes sense to marshal snow plow drivers and those that drive the trucks that spread salt on highways when a blizzard is forecast for the region, in preparation for the impending storm to quickly clear the roads, terrorism presents a constant threat.
The only questions are how, when, where, and how many will be killed or injured. We are in this battle for the long haul and failure is not only not an option but would spell the catastrophic demise of our nation.
While some have simplistically said that our military alone, combating ISIS overseas can protect, the reality is that we must fight this war on two fronts- overseas and within our borders. Domestically this battle must be waged by many elements of the law enforcement apparatus- including, especially, immigration law enforcement authorities.
This was my focus in my recent article, “Fighting The War On Terror Here, There and Everywhere.”
The 9/11 Commission was created to determine how terrorists were able to carry out deadly attacks in the United States to make certain that it would never happen again. This is comparable to the way that the NTSB and the FAA investigate plane crashes to make the appropriate fixes.
The preface of the official report, “9/11 and Terrorist Travel – Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” begins with this paragraph:
“It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.”
That report was a companion document to the The 9/11 Commission Report which also discussed how failures of border security and the lack of routine immigration law enforcement, including the identification of immigration fraud and visa fraud, enabled terrorists to enter the United States and embed themselves in communities throughout the United States.
However, at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Visa Waiver Program which should have been terminated on September 12, 2001, has been continually expanded. On September 11, 2001 26 countries participated in this program. Today their are 38 member countries even though, as I wrote in a recent article, GAO Revelations: Our Open Door For Terrorists –The deadly failures of the visa waiver program, more than one-third of these countries fail to provide us with vital information about terrorists.
It should be clear that our borders and our immigration laws are our first and last lines of defense against international terrorists entering our country- yet our borders have become little more than speed bumps to those who smuggle drugs and illegal aliens.
The massive quantity of heroin and other illegal and dangerous drugs that pour across our borders 24/7 show how porous our borders are. Those drugs are not only smuggled across the U.S./Mexican border but across our northern border and along our 95,000 miles of coastline and through our international aiports located in states across our nation.
Page 61 contained this passage:
Exploring the Link between Human Smugglers and Terrorists
In July 2001, the CIA warned of a possible link between human smugglers and terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.149 Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that since 1999 human smugglers have facilitated the travel of terrorists associated with more than a dozen extremist groups.150 With their global reach and connections to fraudulent document vendors and corrupt government officials, human smugglers clearly have the “credentials” necessary to aid terrorist travel.
Furthermore most of the terrorists who have thus far been identified, including the 9/11 hijackers, were admitted into the United States through ports of entry. Some terrorists succeeded in being granted political asylum, lawful immigrant status and even, in several cases, United States citizenship before they carried out terror attacks.
Meanwhile the administration continues to admit thousands of refugees from Syria even though they cannot be screened, an issue made abundantly clear by sworn testimony of James Comey, the Director of the FBI and other high-ranking officials, as I noted in my article, “Syrian ‘Refugees’ and Immigration Roulette .”
Politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties have insisted that since we cannot deport 11 million illegal aliens- the number they frequently cite, we should simply give them lawful status and somehow this would magically enable us to identify who they are. They also claim that this would get these heretofore illegal aliens “out of the shadows.”
The only question this raises is are these proponents for such a massive legalization program ignorant or are they so driven to placate their super-wealthy campaign contributors that they are willing to lead our nation down the path to our own destruction?
Here is what you need to consider. First of all, there are likely two or three times as many illegal aliens as they claim- this means at the very least 30 million illegal aliens would participate in any such massive program.
With numbers that humongous, there would be no way to conduct any face-to-face interviews let alone any field investigations to determine if they provided false information in their applications. This would include their true identities- including even their actual countries of citizenship, providing terrorists with the opportunity to game this process to acquire lawful status under false identities that would enable them to embed themselves in the United States and travel freely around the United States and even overseas where they could threaten our safety and the safety of our allies.
There would be absolutely no way to determine when they actually arrived in the United States. Therefore it would be meaningless for politicians to establish a cutoff date of entry for aliens applying for amnesty. Illegal aliens would simply claim to have been present in the United States prior to that date and there would be no way for our adjudications officer to deny their claims.
Additionally, terrorists and wanted criminals who know that they could be identified by their bio-metrics would simply continue to hide in the “shadows.” There would be no resources to track them down and arrest them. The amnesty program would require all of the resources (money and personnel) allocated to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and other immigration-related components of the DHS be devoted to the amnesty program.
If we are to truly harness the immigration system for the best interest of America and Americans we need to have a much larger number of ICE agents to enforce our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States.
What is generally not known by most Americans is that while the second largest contingent of law enforcement personnel assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force are ICE agents. Most international terrorists commit immigration law violations including visa fraud and/or immigration benefit fraud.
Yet we have precious few agents assigned to ICE- no more than 7,000 for our entire country. More than half of those agents are assigned to pursuing customs investigations that have nothing to do with immigration. To put this number into perspective, the Border Patrol has well over 20,000 agents, there are more than 20,000 CBP (Customs and Border Protection) inspectors at our 325 ports of entry and roughly 45,000 employees at TSA. The NYPD has more than 35,000 police officers to protect the City of New York. We need to have many more ICE agents.
For roughly half of my 30 year career with the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), the agency that was sliced into several agencies when the DHS was created, I was assigned to the Drug Task Force and to DEA Intelligence. I frequently assisted other law enforcement agencies including the FBI, DEA and many other federal as well as state and local police agencies in cultivating alien informants who were part of various ethnic immigrant communities who were eager to assist us.
As an INS agent, one of the biggest incentives I could offer to any illegal alien who was able to help us was to provide him/her with temporary employment authorization and, if the assistance was of particular importance and/or long term, we could provide such aliens with lawful immigrant status and even bring their family members to the United States.
In many instances, these informants were central to our ability to perfect criminal cases against major drug trafficking organizations and other such entities. Such techniques could also be used to great advantage to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding Middle Eastern communities involving aliens who may be involved in supporting and plotting terror attacks.
Illegal aliens who have no criminal histories should never be ignored. Most terrorists, like most spies, understand that to embed themselves they must keep an extrmely low profile to not call attention to themselves. Consider what the 9/11 Commission Staff Report noted:
“Once terrorists had entered the United States, their next challenge was to find a way to remain here. Their primary method was immigration fraud. For example, Yousef and Ajaj concocted bogus political asylum stories when they arrived in the United States. Mahmoud Abouhalima, involved in both the World Trade Center and landmarks plots, received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida.” Mohammed Salameh, who rented the truck used in the bombing, overstayed his tourist visa. He then applied for permanent residency under the agricultural workers program, but was rejected. Eyad Mahmoud Ismail, who drove the van containing the bomb, took English-language classes at Wichita State University in Kansas on a student visa; after he dropped out, he remained in the United States out of status.
On November 20, 2013 ABC News reported, “Exclusive: US May Have Let ‘Dozens’ of Terrorists Into Country As Refugees.” This is not a new problem, on July 13, 2011 the Washington Times published a truly disturbing article, “Visas reviewed to find those who overstayed / Aim is to find any would-be terrorists.”
Consider that on September 2, 2014 ABC News reported, “Lost in America: Visa Program Struggles to “Track Missing Foreign Students.”
Here is how this report began:
The Department of Homeland Security has lost track of more than 6,000 foreign nationals who entered the United States on student visas, overstayed their welcome, and essentially vanished — exploiting a security gap that was supposed to be fixed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“My greatest concern is that they could be doing anything,” said Peter Edge, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who oversees investigations into visa violators. “Some of them could be here to do us harm.”
Homeland Security officials disclosed the breadth of the student visa problem in response to ABC News questions submitted as part of an investigation into persistent complaints about the nation’s entry program for students.
ABC News found that immigration officials have struggled to keep track of the rapidly increasing numbers of foreign students coming to the U.S. — now in excess of one million each year. The immigration agency’s own figures show that 58,000 students overstayed their visas in the past year. Of those, 6,000 were referred to agents for follow-up because they were determined to be of heightened concern.
“They just disappear,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. “They get the visas and they disappear.”
Coburn said since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, 26 student visa holders have been arrested in the U.S. on terror-related charges.
The failures of the administration to enforce our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States hobbles our efforts to protect America and Americans.
Indeed, page 54 of The 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel contained this excerpt under the title “3.2 Terrorist Travel Tactics by Plot.”
Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.
In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.
Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.
The threats America and Americans face are real. Our government and our leaders must finally take the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 commission seriously. Our very survival hangs in the balance.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Front Page Magazine.