Ignoring the 9/11 Commission's Warnings

Even as terrorists expand operations in Europe.

the_9-11_commission_reportThe threats posed by terrorist organizations to the safety and security of America and Americans continue to grow.

Congress just voted to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security even as it is gearing up to provide millions of illegal aliens with temporary lawful status and official identity documents without in-person interviews -- violating commonsense, making a mockery of our legal immigration system and violating the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. We will revisit this issue later in this article.

The Nigeria-based terror organization Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS as both terrorist groups continue to expand through the Middle East and north Africa. This apparent development was reported in the Fox News report, "Boko Haram swears formal allegiance to ISIS" that was published on March 8, 2015.

Meanwhile terrorists continue to increase their efforts to recruit new members in European countries. On February 13, 2015 Fox News in association with AP published a report, "6 men of Chechen origin face terror charges in France; said to help recruit jihadis for Syria" that reported on how individuals from terror-sponsoring countries and regions are using the lawful immigration system to enter European countries for nefarious purposes -- to recruit terrorists and perhaps, carry out attacks in the countries willing to admit them.

For the United States the issue of Europeans being recruited by terror organizations raises the issue of the way that visas are issued and how, increasingly, aliens from an ever growing list of countries are no longer required to apply for a visa before seeking to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

It is worth noting that the U.S. Visa Waiver Program puts a premium on terror recruits in Europe and a handful of other countries that participate in this program. Eliminating the visa requirement for the citizens of these countries make them particularly appealing to ISIS and other terrorist organizations that ultimately want to attack the United States.

On May 18, 2004, I testified before a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the topic: "PUSHING THE BORDER OUT ON ALIEN SMUGGLING: NEW TOOLS AND INTELLIGENCE INITIATIVES."

There is a bit of a “back story” concerning that hearing. Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas was preparing to conduct a hearing into alien smuggling and I was asked to possibly participate in that hearing as a witness. I made the case for including visa fraud as an issue to be considered during that hearing. What most folks, including our politicians seem to not realize is that those who facilitate the entry of aliens into the United States in violation of our immigration laws do not only help such aliens to enter the United States without inspection but may also engage in enabling aliens who intend to work illegally or, perhaps, have far more nefarious goals in mind for coming to the United States to secure visas to enter the United States via the legal system.

Ultimately Ms. Jackson Lee agreed with my proposal that the hearing include visa fraud and I was happy to testify at that hearing.

On May 11, 2006 I testified at a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International Relations on the topic, "VISA OVERSTAYS:CAN WE BAR THE TERRORIST DOOR?"

This hearing examined a number of issues ranging from the routine enforcement of our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States including locating and arresting aliens who overstayed their temporary (non-immigrant) visas or otherwise violating their terms of admission into the United States and the impact that the Visa Waiver Program has on these issues.

A properly administered visa process can offer a significant layer of security- in essence, pushing America's borders out to the U.S. embassies and consulates where visas are issued. However, when aliens are able to apply for admission into the United States under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program, we no only lose that important layer of security but also miss other benefits that such an effective visa program can provide.

I have compiled a list of the six ways in which the visa process can be helpful to law enforcement and bolster our nation's efforts to prevent the entry of aliens whose presence on our country may prove harmful to our nation and our citizens. Under the Visa Waiver Program, not one of these important benefits applies:

1. By requiring visas of aliens who seek to enter the United States, this process helps to screen potential passengers on airliners that are destined to the United States.

2. The CBP inspectors are supposed to make a decision in one minute or less as to the admissibility of an alien seeking to enter the United States. The visa requirement helps them to do a more effective job. There's is a tough job I can certainly relate to, I began my career at the former INS as an immigration inspector at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and worked there for four years before I became a special agent.

3. The application for a nonimmigrant visa contains roughly 40 questions that could provide invaluable information to law enforcement officials should that alien become the target of a criminal or terrorist investigation. The information could provide intelligence as well as investigative leads. You can check out the application for a nonimmigrant (tourist) visa by clicking on this link:

4. If an alien applicant lies on the application for a visa that lie is called "visa fraud." The maximum penalty for visa fraud starts out at 10 years in jail for those who commit this crime simply in order to come to the United States, ostensibly to seek unlawful employment or other such purpose. The penalty increases to 15 years in jail for those aliens who obtain a visa to commit a felony. For aliens who engage in visa fraud to traffic in narcotics or commit another narcotics-related crime, the maximum jail sentence that can be imposes rises to 20 years. Finally, when an alien can be proven to have engaged in visa fraud in furtherance of terrorism, the maximum penalty climbs to 25 years in prison. It is important to note that while it may be difficult to prove that an individual is a terrorist, it is usually relatively simple to prove that the alien has committed visa fraud when there is fraud involved in the visa application. Indeed, terror suspects are often charged with visa fraud.

5. The charge of visa fraud can also be extremely helpful to law enforcement authorities who want to take a “bad guy” off the street without tipping their hand to the other members of a criminal conspiracy or terrorism conspiracy that the individual arrested was being arrested for his involvement in terrorism or a criminal organization. An alien who commits visa fraud can be arrested and prosecuted for that violation of law and not for other charges that might make it clear that the investigation underway is targeting a criminal or terrorist organization.

6. Even when an alien applies for a visa and his application is denied, the application he filed remains available for law enforcement and intelligence personnel to review to seek to glean intelligence from that application.

Our government is apparently responding to the extreme pressure being brought to bear by the United States Chamber of Commerce and executives of the travel, hospitality and related industries under the auspices of a program known as the "Discover America Partnership." That consortium has been joined by the National Retailers Federation.

On February 1, 2015 Progressives For Immigration Reform (PFIR) published my article, "Senator Addresses Immigration-Related Threat to National Security Not Related to US-Mexican Border" in which I discussed Senator Dianne Feinstein's statements about the Visa Waiver Program.

In writing my article I quoted from a January 11, 2015 article that appeared in The Hill, a Washington-based website under the title, “Visa Waiver Program Poses Security Threat, Dem Senator Says.” Among the statements attributed to Ms Feinstein in that article was, “The visa waiver program is the Achilles heel of America.” She went on to state that “the U.S. visa waiver program poses a threat to national security by making it easier for terrorists to enter the United States.” Finally she noted, “[Terrorists] could come back from training, they go to a visa waiver country and they could come into this country.”

However, rather than calling for the termination or at least curtailment of this dangerous and wrong-headed program, she simply “urged Congress to examine the program.”

We are in the midst of a “War on Terror.” Time is not on our side and our “leaders” are moving glacially even as our adversaries who would seek to destroy our nation and our way of life are moving rapidly to seize ever more territory.

We have an administration that refuses to consider violations of our borders and immigration laws to be serious crimes and utterly ignores the threats that a lack of border security and lack of integrity to the immigration benefits program creates for national security. This failure to “connect these dots” is infuriating, yet, as I noted at the beginning of my commentary, Congress still agreed to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security even as the administration ramps up a new massive amnesty program that will provide five million or more illegal aliens with lawful status and identity documents without so much as a face-to-face interview or field investigations to seek to uncover and thus deter immigration fraud.

Consider this statement from Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Commission Report:

Terrorist Travel

More than 500 million people annually cross U.S. borders at legal entry points, about 330 million of them noncitizens. Another 500,000 or more enter illegally without inspection across America's thousands of miles of land borders or remain in the country past the expiration of their permitted stay. The challenge for national security in an age of terrorism is to prevent the very few people who may pose overwhelming risks from entering or remaining in the United States undetected.31

In the decade before September 11, 2001, border security-encompassing travel, entry, and immigration-was not seen as a national security matter. Public figures voiced concern about the "war on drugs," the right level and kind of immigration, problems along the southwest border, migration crises originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere, or the growing criminal traffic in humans. The immigration system as a whole was widely viewed as increasingly dysfunctional and badly in need of reform. In national security circles, however, only smuggling of weapons of mass destruction carried weight, not the entry of terrorists who might use such weapons or the presence of associated foreign-born terrorists.

For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.

In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.

Before 9/11, no agency of the U.S. government systematically analyzed terrorists' travel strategies. Had they done so, they could have discovered the ways in which the terrorist predecessors to al Qaeda had been systematically but detectably exploiting weaknesses in our border security since the early 1990s.

We found that as many as 15 of the 19 hijackers were potentially vulnerable to interception by border authorities. Analyzing their characteristic travel documents and travel patterns could have allowed authorities to intercept 4 to 15 hijackers and more effective use of information available in U.S. government databases could have identified up to 3 hijackers.32

Looking back, we can also see that the routine operations of our immigration laws-that is, aspects of those laws not specifically aimed at protecting against terrorism-inevitably shaped al Qaeda's planning and opportunities. Because they were deemed not to be bona fide tourists or students as they claimed, five conspirators that we know of tried to get visas and failed, and one was denied entry by an inspector. We also found that had the immigration system set a higher bar for determining whether individuals are who or what they claim to be-and ensuring routine consequences for violations-it could potentially have excluded, removed, or come into further contact with several hijackers who did not appear to meet the terms for admitting short-term visitors.33

Our investigation showed that two systemic weaknesses came together in our border system's inability to contribute to an effective defense against the 9/11 attacks: a lack of well-developed counterterrorism measures as a part of border security and an immigration system not able to deliver on its basic commitments, much less support counterterrorism. These weaknesses have been reduced but are far from being overcome.

Recommendation: Targeting travel is at least as powerful a weapon against terrorists as targeting their money. The United States should combine terrorist travel intelligence, operations, and law enforcement in a strategy to intercept terrorists, find terrorist travel facilitators, and constrain terrorist mobility.

The 9/11 Commission could not be clearer on the nexus between immigration and terrorism. Yet precious few leaders in either political party are willing to step up and make the enforcement of our immigration laws a priority. Indeed, leaders from both parties are willing to make a mockery of our laws and our borders that serve as our first line of defense and last line of defense of a growing army of international terrorists who clearly have our nation and our citizens in their sights.

In case you missed these two brief paragraphs, here they are again:

For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.

In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.

In a manner of speaking, our “leaders” are willing to arm our enemies with travel documents and the ability to acquire new identities to conceal their movements as they go about their deadly preparations.

ISIS should give these advocates for massive amnesty programs the MVP Award for facilitating their deadly preparations.

George Santayana, the 20th Century philosopher said, "If we do not learn from the mistakes of history, we are doomed to repeat them."

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