Sleeper Cells: The Immigration Component of the Threat

Washington's deadly political games.

Long_border_fence750x420In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, France terror raids were carried out in Belgium and Greece to identify, locate and hunt down so-called “sleepers cells.” Journalists and politicians have finally raised the issue of the threats potentially posed by sleeper agents in the United States, going back to the future -- the same concerns about sleeper cells in the United States were voiced in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 including by the then-director of the FBI, Robert Mueller.

Of course any discussion about sleeper agents gaining entry into the United States would logically call into question the multiple and massive failures of the immigration system. Today politicians from both sides of the political aisle are hell-bent on making certain that the flood of foreign workers, foreign tourists and foreign students continue without impediment. Consequently admitting that immigration is a vital component of national security and must be treated as such would run contrary to the goals of advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

The “solution” politicians and journalists who oppose effective immigration law enforcement have devised to resolve the quandary that this creates is to describe sleeper agents as being “homegrown,” hoping that Americans will ignore the obvious: That foreign nationals are seeking to enter the United States to launch terror attacks.

Incredibly, even such foreign national terrorists have come to be referred to as being “homegrown” by journalists, politicians and high-ranking members of the law enforcement community who should know better. This is nothing short of Orwellian propaganda.

Former NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly apparently fell victim to this mis-identification of foreign terrorists when he described Faisal Shahzad, the so-called “Times Square Bomber” as being “homegrown.” The title of a New York Post article, published on May 11, 2010, quoted Commissioner Kelly, "Kelly: NYC bomb suspect ‘homegrown,’" and contained the following statement:

The Times Square threat was “a classic case of homegrown terrorism,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a briefing for private security executives.

Shahzad had legally immigrated to the United States when he was roughly 20 years old. How on earth is he “homegrown”? He may not have come to the United States with the intentions of ultimately carrying out a terrorist attack, however it is impossible to know when he made that decision. What is clear is that he is absolutely not “homegrown.”

In fact, in that article, Kelly was also quoted as referring to Najibullah Zazi, the leader of a group that planned a suicide bombing of the New York City subway system, as also being “homegrown,” blatantly ignoring the fact that Zazi had immigrated to the United States from his native Pakistan when he was a teenager

Does this mean that native-born Americans are not being recruited by ISIS or al-Qaeda? Of course they are, but it is lunacy to ignore the failures of the vetting process by which we admit immigrants and grant them visas and provide them with immigration benefits including political asylum, lawful immigrant status and even United States citizenship through the naturalization process.

While some native-born American citizens, who for a variety of reasons may have decided to heed the call of terror organizations to take up arms against America and Americans, to date, most of the terrorists who have carried out terror attacks inside the United States were foreign nationals who, in one way or another, often through the legal entry system, managed to enter the United States, bide their time, hiding in plain sight or, in the parlance of the 9/11 Commission, embedded themselves in communities around the United States as they went about their deadly preparations.

The terror attacks carried out at the CIA Headquarters and at the World Trade Center in 1993, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and most recent, the attack on April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon were all carried out by foreign nationals – not “homegrown” terrorists.

I have raised the issue of “sleeper agents” at congressional hearings year ago. What I had to say is a part of the congressional record -- a record I suspect many of today's politicians would rather not want Americans to even know exists.

In fact, to cite one such hearing, roughly ten years ago, on March 10, 2005, I testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the topic, "Interior Immigration Enforcement Resources."

The Center for Immigration Studies posted my prepared testimony for that hearing. Here are some excerpts from my prepared testimony (which are every bit as relevant today as they were back then):

 A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls. The task of securing America's borders falls to the dedicated men and women of CBP and ICE. These law enforcement officers are often put in harm's way as they try to prevent aliens from gaining unauthorized entry into our country. They are not succeeding in this vital mission, as evidenced by the millions of illegal aliens who currently live within our nation's borders today. This is not because of failings which the employees of ICE or CBP bear the responsibility, but rather because our Government has consistently failed to provide them with the resources that they need to make certain that this basic job gets done.

The 9/11 Commission ultimately came to recognize the critical nature of immigration law enforcement where the war on terror is concerned. In fact, page 49 of the report entitled, ''9/11 and Terrorist Travel: A Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,'' contains a sentence that reads, and I quote, ''Thus abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity,'' unquote.

Clearly, the effective enforcement of the immigration laws from within the interior of the United States is critical for our nation to gain control of its borders and to protect its citizens from aliens who come to this country to engage in criminal activities and terrorism.

Our nation's inability and apparent unwillingness to enforce the immigration laws has caused our nation to pay a heavy price. As we know, on September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were launched from within our borders by aliens who exploited various weaknesses in the immigration system.

The specter of terrorist attacks is not the only price to be paid for our failure to secure our borders. Illegal immigration impacts more aspects of this country than does any other issue. It impacts everything from education, the economy, health care, criminal justice, and national security. In fact, it is estimated that some 30 percent of the Federal inmate population is comprised of aliens. It is not unreasonable to say that more people lose their lives each year as a result of crimes committed by criminal aliens within our borders than were killed on that horrific day in September of 2001.

When he testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified that he is very concerned about the lack of data on a network of al Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. He went on to say, and I quote, ''finding them is a top priority for the FBI, but it's also one of the most difficult challenges,'' unquote.

Sleeper cells are not like cicadas. They do not simply slip into our country and then burrow into a hole for months or years awaiting instructions to emerge to carry out a terrorist attack. Sleepers are, in fact, aliens who, upon entering our country, manage to hide in plain sight by finding a job, attending a school, or managing to hide in plain sight by doing things that do not call attention to them. Someone once said that an effective spy is someone who could not attract the attention of a waitress at a greasy spoon diner, and the same could be said of an effective terrorist.

It is, therefore, vital that we regain control of our borders and the entire immigration bureaucracy and enforcement program if we are to protect our nation against terrorists and criminals, and this requires that we have an adequate number of law enforcement agents dedicated to this critical mission.

There's another critical element to the interior enforcement of the immigration laws that's seldom discussed, the investigation of applications for immigration benefits to uncover fraud, which, according to a GAO report issued 3 years ago, is a pervasive problem within the immigration benefits program. A terrorist bent on attacking the United States would most want three things to attack our nation: Money, a weapon of mass destruction, and a U.S. passport. The passport enables an alien to easily travel across our borders, but also across the borders of other countries. And, as we now know, the 9/11 commission found that the ability to travel freely and extensively was essential to the terrorists of 9/11 as they prepared to attack us.

Aliens who succeed in acquiring resident alien status can more readily embed themselves in our country and ultimately attain U.S. citizenship, making them eligible for that highly coveted U.S. passport. Immigration fraud enables aliens to avail themselves of this opportunity through deception.

On July 27, 2006 I testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the topic: "Whether the Attempted Implementation of the Reid-Kennedy Immigration Bill Will Result in an Administrative National Security Nightmare." 

In my testimony I made my opposition to the Senate immigration bill, S.2611, abundantly clear. I noted that any member of Congress who would vote to provide lawful status and identity documents for millions of illegal aliens should be given “The MVP Award by al-Qaeda.”

video of a segment of my testimony has been posted on YouTube. In my testimony I addressed the the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, especially where sleeper agents and the Visa Waiver Program are concerned. I also tackled the notion of “security checks” vs. actual field investigations. As I have said to members of Congress, “If I cannot sleep at night, I don't want you to be able to sleep either.”

Although the hearing was held to consider legislation that had been approved by the Senate nearly 9 years ago, my testimony at that hearing would absolutely apply to the current DACA (Deferred Action-Childhood Arrival) program (DREAMers), the expanded amnesty program that the Obama administration is seeking to implement by executive order and Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation being touted by the Republican leadership in Congress today.

On September 20, 2013 CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) posted my commentary, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Background Checks Require A Reality Check."

On November 1, 2013 CAPS posted my commentary, "Speed Kills at USCIS.”

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) is the woebegone division of the DHS that would be tasked with administering this program. As it is, this beleaguered and inept agency cannot keep up with its workload without “rubber-stamping” approvals on many applications where this slipshod approach enables fraud to often go undetected.

On November 30, 2013 CAPS posted my commentary: "Political Asylum Fraud: Where America's Companssion Becomes Vulnerability

My article was predicated on a hard-hitting report posted by ABC News on November 20, 2013, "Exclusive: US May Have Let 'Dozens' of Terrorists Into Country As Refugees."

On July 20, 2013 the Washington Times published a truly disturbing report, "Homeland Security loses track of 1 million foreigners; report could hurt immigration deal."

The Washington Times article focused on how this obvious ineptitude of the DHS would impact passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform while ignoring the potential threat that this poses to national security and public safety.

America's borders and immigration laws are, or at least are supposed to be, an integral component of national security. In the days, weeks and months after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 a parade of political leaders seeking a “photo-op” stood in front of a forest of microphones and television cameras and self-righteously pounded the podium and thumped their chests demanding an answer to the question, “Why had no one connected the dots?” Clearly the dots have been connected time and again but are being ignored by all too many of our political “leaders.”

The concerns I raised also apply to the sort of amnesty program that the Republican leadership has strongly advocated.

On March 21, 2012, the Huffington Post published an extremely disturbing article that was entitled: "Peter King: Iran May Have 'Hundreds' Of Hezbollah Agents In U.S."

The Huffington Post article focused on a hearing that was conducted that day by the House Committee on Homeland Security that is chaired by Congressman Peter King of New York. The topic of the hearing was, “Iran, Hezbollah, and the Threat to the Homeland.”

Here is how the Huffington Post article began:

Iranian-backed Hezbollah agents, not al Qaeda operatives, may pose the greatest threat on U.S. soil as tensions over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program ratchet up, according to the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

"As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons and there is increasing concern over war between Iran and Israel, we must also focus on Iran's secret operatives and their number one terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, which we know is in America," said New York Rep. Peter King at a Wednesday hearing of his committee.

The hearing, which featured former government officials and the director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department, follows a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., and testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in late January that Iran's leaders are "more willing to conduct an attack inside the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime."

Opening the hearing, King said, "We have a duty to prepare for the worst," warning there may be hundreds of Hezbollah operatives in the United States, including 84 Iranian diplomats at the United Nations and in Washington who, "it must be presumed, are intelligence officers."

What is impossible to understand is how any politician, of either party, can support legislation to provide unknown millions of illegal aliens with lawful status and identity documents. Given the lack of resources, any massive program of this sort would undermine national security and public safety.

Let's start out by noting that virtually every politician who has supported one version or another of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” has justified support for that legislation by claiming that the “immigration system is broken.” These politicians are actually declaring that they want to use a system they concede is broken, to provide millions of illegal aliens with identity documents and and lawful status.

This level of lunacy and duplicity takes my breath away.

It is, in fact, not difficult to find evidence of the failings of the entire immigration system. The evidence can be found in the presence of millions -- perhaps tens of millions -- of illegal aliens living and working illegally in the United States, virtually with impunity.

The point being ignored by our supposed “leaders” is that our immigration system is our first line of defense and last line of defense against international terrorists and transnational criminals. When politicians talk about how broken the system is, they need to be asked how they would be willing to entrust a major component of national security to the “broken bureaucracy at USCIS” that adjudicates these applications.

Simply addressing the issue of border security in four out of fifty border states and utterly ignoring the utter lack of integrity to the system by which the applications they want to send to USCIS in conjunction with Comprehensive Immigration Reform or other such massive program to provide millions of illegal aliens with lawful status and official identity documents, is a blatant prescription for disaster.

On December 21, 2014 CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) posted my extensive article, “Obama’s ‘Gift’ to International Terrorists: Immigration Executive Action.”

Here is a short excerpt of my article that discuss two of many hearings that Congress has conducted that have made it clear that USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) is unable to truly adjudicate the applications it is already receiving each year:

Within the past year the House Judiciary Committee has convened two hearings to consider the lack of integrity to the process by which applications for political asylum are adjudicated.

On February 11, 2014, a hearing was conducted on the issue: “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?”

On December 12, 2013, a hearing was conducted on the issue:
Asylum Abuse: Is it Overwhelming our Borders?”

Both hearings made it clear that there is a serious lack of integrity to the political asylum program. This important humanitarian program processes thousands of applications each year. Yet, the fraud rate in this program bears witness to the lack of integrity. Because USCIS cannot effectively identify fraud and take measures to counter this fraud, national security is compromised.

Consider this excerpt from the prepared testimony of the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte:

Accounts indicate that aliens are being coached in the asylum process and are being taught to use certain terms to ensure that they are found to have a credible fear. According to critics many of these claims are often an orchestrated sham.

In addition to this alarming trend, the House Judiciary Committee recently obtained an internal CBP memo that states many people claiming a ‘credible fear’ of persecution at our ports of entry have a direct or indirect association with drug trafficking and other illegal activity, such as human smuggling. Since there are intelligence gaps and loopholes in the system, the asylum process is often being abused by individuals who would otherwise be subjects of interest or subjects of criminal investigations. Once these unscrupulous individuals falsely claim a ‘credible fear’ of persecution, there is virtually no investigation by U.S. authorities. Because the Obama Administration refuses to detain most of them, criminals and those who pose national security threats are then able to live and work in the U.S. for many years before their cases are ever heard by immigration judges.

The term “adjudicate” implies the judicious consideration of these applications which, according to the 9/11 Commission and the staff report quoted previously, have serious national security implications. Today USCIS is little more than a rubber-stamp operation where Adjudications Officers must approve nearly every application that they receive if they are to meet their quotas for productivity. (It takes just minutes to approve an application but may well take days to deny an application.)

In point of fact, that beleaguered agency is already inundated with more than 6 million applications annually.

The evidence can be also found in the high levels of fraud documented in a series of reports issued by the GAO (General Accountability Office) and the OIG (Office of Inspector General).

On May 2, 2013, I was interviewed by Megyn Kelly of Fox News about the nexus between the systemic failures of the immigration system and the terror bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. The video of my interview is posted on the Fox News website under the title, "Immigration Expert: The System Failed in Boston and Keeps on Failing."

The Summer 2013 edition of the quarterly publication, "The Social Contract" included my article, "Political Asylum: Where Compassion and National Security Intersect."

On November 26, 2014 FrontPage Magazine published my article, Obama ‘Solves’ Immigration Crisis by Ordering ‘Shields Down.’

I won't rehash information contained in that article (I strongly suggest you read that article) but I do want you to consider that the "9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel" that was prepared by the staff that assisted the 9/11 Commission began with this first paragraph of the preface of that report:

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 also detailed numerous examples of instances where terrorists not only made use of visa and immigration benefit fraud to enter the United States, but to also embed themselves in the United States. Page 47 of this 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.

This paragraph is found on page 98, under the title “Immigration Benefits”:

Terrorists in the 1990s, as well as the September 11 hijackers, needed to find a way to stay in or embed themselves in the United States if their operational plans were to come to fruition. As already discussed, this could be accomplished legally by marrying an American citizen, achieving temporary worker status, or applying for asylum after entering. In many cases, the act of filing for an immigration benefit sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated. Terrorists were free to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, obtain and receive funding, go to school and learn English, make contacts in the United States, acquire necessary materials, and execute an attack.

Evidence of incompetence and ineptitude of the immigration system can also be found on no less an authoritative website than the Department of Justice website.

On March 10, 2010 the following press release was posted on that website: "Eritrean Man Pleads Guilty to Alien Smuggling."

Here is my analysis of the information contained in the press release:

The defendant in the case, Samuel Abrahaley Fessahazion, a citizen of Eritrea was arrested and prosecuted for alien smuggling (inducing and encouraging) and conspiracy to commit these crimes. However, it is worth noting that Eritrea, Fessahazion's country of citizenship, has been identified as a country that has provided shelter to al-Qaeda. Consider this article that was published on April 17, 2009 by The Telegraph, a British newspaper, "US threatens Eritrea over support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists ." The paper noted, "The US has warned Eritrea it risks American military action for its support for a Somalian terrorist group linked to a plot to attack President Barack Obama."

According to the DOJ press release, Fessahazion himself ran our nation's border on March 20, 2008 and then he applied for political asylum roughly 6 months later. He had either studied our immigration "system" or had been well coached. In any event, in under six weeks he was granted political asylum.

It is extremely important to note that while there was no evidence provided in the press release that any of these aliens were involved in terrorism, the Tri-Border Region of Brazil has terror training camps. Yet there was no mention of any efforts being made by ICE to identify, locate and arrest any of these smuggled aliens.

Clearly Mr. Fessahazion committed fraud in his application for political asylum, lying about his whereabouts at the time he sought political asylum, yet there was no mention of any charges being brought against him for lying on his application. Had he been convicted of committing fraud in that application he would face removal (deportation) from the United States upon completion of his jail sentence. However, since he was not prosecuted for having committed fraud in his application for political asylum, he will likely be permitted to remain in the United States when he completes his prison sentence.

Adding to the failures of the immigration system in Washington are the policies of “Sanctuary Cities” and “Sanctuary States.” On September 24, 2014 FrontPage Magazine published my article, "‘Sanctuary Cities’ or ‘Safe Havens’ for Terrorists?"

Could you imagine waiting to board and airliner and the pilot, having performed the mandated pre-flight inspection of the aircraft you are about to fly on, proclaiming that the aircraft has serious mechanical issues but that the flight would nevertheless be leaving on time on a journey over mountains and other inhospitable terrain? Would you be willing to board that airliner? Would you not question the sanity of the pilot?

The congressional hearings, GAO reports and other clear evidence of the failures of the immigration system cited above amount to a pre-flight inspection of a critical component of national security. Every hearing, every report and news accounts of terrorists who have been apprehended provide stark and unequivocal evidence that the immigration system is indeed broken.

Unlike the airline passenger who can simply opt to not board the defective airliner, the citizens of the United States are indeed a “captive audience” and are forced to go along for the ride.

The obvious question is why political “leaders” who were elected to represent the citizens of the United States and adhere to their oaths of office including defending the Constitution of the United States would ignore the obvious.

Is it stupidity or a lack of moral compass? Here is a bit of food for thought: On April 21, 2014 the Washington Times published a succinct but extremely disconcerting article, the title of which says it all -- "America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds."

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