As ISIS, the Nusra Front (an al Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria) and other terror organizations continue spreading death and violence in Syria, increasing numbers of Syrians are literally running for their lives.
Europe has witnessed a tsunami of refugees and Secretary of State John Kerry has promised to increase the number of refugees that the United States will admit.
Communities that have already been accepting refugees, and not just from Syria, are questioning the wisdom of this effort and the way that refugees are being vetted. One such community is to be found in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
It is important to note that the member of the House of Representatives who represents Spartanburg in Congress is none other than Representative Trey Gowdy who also chairs the House Subcommittee on Immigration. He has also voiced serious concerns about the way that the refugee program is being administered and has been unhappy with the lack of information being provided -- even to him as the chairman of the subcommittee that is constitutionally mandated to provide oversight over our entire immigration system. He has been quoted as describing responses to his questions about the resettlement of refugees in Spartanburg as being “sorely inadequate.”
On June 4, 2015 the local newspaper, Spartanburg Herald Tribune (GoUpstate.com) published a report, “First refugees arrive in Spartanburg despite questions raised by Gowdy.”
As questions continued to go unanswered, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a public forum in Spartanburg, South Carolina on the issue of the vetting process being used to screen refugees on September 20, 2015.
Among those in attendance at the town hall meeting were newspaper reporters, including one from the New York Times, Richard Fausset.
Fausset's report appeared in the September 25, 2015 edition of the New York Times under the title, “Refugee Crisis in Syria Raises Fears in South Carolina.” Incredibly, Fausset omitted the fact that I was a participant in this town hall meeting. I am making this point, not because I want my name to appear in the New York Times (or anywhere else for that matter), but because Fausset clearly came to the meeting with an agenda -- not to objectively report on the facts but to create misleading impressions.
There were other speakers who addressed the large audience, however, the flyer distributed before and during the meeting announced that I would be the keynote speaker and included a brief version of my bio. The flyer also noted the national security concerns that would be discussed during the town hall meeting that was billed as a “Refugee Resettlement Informational Summit.”
This made it clear that the primary reason for the meeting was to provide information about the vulnerabilities of the vetting process in the immigration system, which have on numerous occasions enabled terrorists to enter the United States and embed themselves. These concerns, in fact, were prominently discussed by the 9/11 Commission in the 9/11 Commission Report and in the report issued by the 9/11 Commission staff. I was one of many experts, in fact, who provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission -- a fact that was noted in the flyer.
There was no mention of the 9/11 Commission Report in the New York Times article, either.
It is time that, in the interest of accuracy, that the New York Times finally change its slogan, “All the news that's fit to print,” to something more fitting. I would suggest that their new slogan should be: “You'll have a fit from what we print.”
In addition to the New York Times reporter, the local newspaper, the Spartanburg Herald Journal (GoUpstate.com) also covered the event. On September 20, 2015 that newspaper published the article “Speakers criticize refugee resettlement program.” It noted I was the keynote speaker but then quoted me as saying that the “immigration system is broken.” As I recall how I explained my concerns, I said that where the immigration system is concerned, the only thing “broken” was the lack of resources and political will to actually enforce our laws. The phrase, “broken immigration system” is generally used by advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I am adamantly opposed to such a massive amnesty program and have written many articles about my opposition to such an approach and have similarly voice my concerns at a number of congressional hearings.
It is disconcerting and disappointing that this reporter also neglected to report on my discussion about the nexus between immigration and national security and the numerous examples I provided during my lengthy talk about immigration. To make the point as clear as possible, I provided quotes from the 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel.
The residents of Spartanburg also arranged for me to address the County Council the following day, to provide the council with my perspectives and concerns about the shortcomings and inadequacy of the vetting process being used to screen refugees who are being resettled in the United States. This is a major area of concern for them, which was recently exacerbated by the disturbing news reports that many of the refugees who have been seeking asylum in Europe claiming to be from Syria were actually from other countries. It has been additionally reported terrorists affiliated with ISIS and other terrorist organization have been embedded within the huge numbers of refugees flooding into Europe.
A reporter from the local CBS-affiliated television station WSPA-TV interviewed me before the council meeting and reported on the issues in an article they posted on their website the following day: “Spartanburg CO Citizens Upset As Refugees Resettle in Upstate.”
In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that the folks at WSPA-TV did something unusual. While my segment on the video that was broadcast on that station only lasted a few seconds, the print version of the report included a link to my personal website so that anyone interested in my perspectives and concerns could easily find my articles and other materials. I have to commend the reporter Christine Scarpelli and her superiors for providing that link to my website in their report. Televised news reports don't provide enough information, so providing the link to my website was certainly a pleasant surprise.
Prior to the County Council hearing members of the community reached out to the council and asked that, inasmuch as only 30 minutes are provided for an opportunity for members of the community to speak about issues and that each person is limited to three minutes, that anyone who had signed up to address the council should be able to yield their time to me so that I could provide some in-depth information about the vetting process and concerns about how this process is largely ineffective under the circumstances that currently exist in Syria.
It was believed that this was going to be permitted and I prepared my remarks for the meeting accordingly. However, once the council was called into session and the issue of the refugee resettlement program came up, the first member of the community who was called immediately said that he wanted to yield his time to me. The chairman of the council, Jeffrey Horton, glared at the member of the community and said curtly, “If you want to yield your time you may sit down, but your time will not go to Mr. Cutler.” He went on to say that I would only get three minutes. When other members of the community objected, saying that they had been told I would be given their time to speak, Horton became downright nasty, glared at his fellow citizens and said that he would end the proceedings if everyone did not sit down and keep quiet.
What a wonderful demonstration of representative government!
I had to quickly decide what I could cram into just three minutes. I decided to make note of the fact that just as the late Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill famously remarked, “All politics is local” I told them that I had come to Spartanburg to remind the members of the council that all law enforcement is also, ultimately, local. I told them that while it is certainly true that the United States of America was attacked on September 11, 2001 that my home town, New York City, bore the brunt of that horrific attack. I then pointed to each of the 7 members of the council and told them that they each bear responsibility for the actions or lack of actions and would be held accountable by the same people who voted them into office. I told them that they would be directly accountable if their failures to act on behalf of the wishes of the residents of the community, who they swore to represent, ultimately cost the lives or the well-being of those residents that they would be made completely accountable.
Finally I provided a bit about my background, that my grandmother had been killed during the Holocaust and that I certainly had great concern about the plight of refugees, but that a government's primary concern must be the well-being of its citizens. I pointed out how terrorists such as Faisal Shahzad, the “Times Square Bomber,” and one of the Tsarnaev brothers, who attacked the Boston Marathon, had been granted United States citizenship just months before they participated in deadly terrorist attacks.
Prior to the beginning of the session I provided each of the members of the council with the print version of the latest edition (Summer 2015) of the quarterly journal The Social Contract that included my article, “The 9/11 Commission Report and Immigration: An Assessment, Fourteen Years after the Attacks” and so I concluded by telling them that if they were not going to extend the courtesy of giving me more than 30 minutes -- something that is almost always done when I have appeared before other state and local legislative hearings across the United States -- that at the least they could promise to read my article to understand the nexus between immigration, national security and the findings of the 9/11 Commission.
Every other person who followed me to the podium to address the council, made it clear that they were outraged by the conduct of the council and that they would never forget what had taken place that day.
As I left the building with the folks who arranged for my travel to Spartanburg, we encountered Bob Walker, a member of the council, in the parking lot. He was holding his copy of The Social Contract, I approached him and told him I would be glad to answer any questions he might have after he read the article and he half-jokingly asked me how I knew he was able to read. As you might imagine, a dozen retorts came to mind but I said nothing -- my goal was to try to persuade these people not engage in an insult session.
Walker then went on to make it clear that he had no interest in reading the article and bombarded us with one wisecrack after another, arrogantly smirking throughout our encounter. The folks who were with me were flabbergasted, but they told me that he had been a politician for most of his life and that this is the sort of attitude they had come to expect from almost all politicians.
Does anyone really wonder why political outsiders are so appealing to voters this year?
Of course not all politicians are “bad guys.” It is just that far too many are.
After my appearance before the Spartanburg County Council I was invited to attend a local women's Republican Club meeting where Rep. Gowdy was the featured speaker. The folks at this event, in stark contrast with the members of the county council, could not have been more welcoming or gracious.
I had the opportunity to ask Trey Gowdy a couple of questions and then I met with him and his colleague Mick Mulvaney, who was also in attendance, afterwards.
Although I have previously spoken with Trey when he had phoned me on a couple of occasions to discuss immigration and related issues and we have exchanged emails, this was the first time I ever met him in person.
It is clear that Trey truly understands the issues and is battling the administration to deal with the myriad failures of the immigration system. In my judgment these failures, that have subverted the immigration system, have been carefully crafted by Mr. Obama to achieve political objectives.
Obama's executive orders, policy decisions and other strategies have created a perilous situation for our nation and our citizens.
On September 15, 2015 I wrote an article for FrontPage Magazine that explored how the failures of the refugee program were undermining national security. My article was entitled, “The Refugee Crisis Must Not Undermine U.S. National Security."
Since that article was published, more evidence as surfaced that shows just how inadequate our efforts to vet individuals from Syria are.
On September 23, 2015 CBS news reported, “U.S.-trained Syria rebels lose officer, investigate al Qaeda claims.” This article included this quote:
The U.S.-based SITE intelligence group, which monitors militant websites, said supporters of the Nusra Front first reported that a group of those newly trained by America had handed over their weapons to the militants after they were arrested. The report made no mention of a defecting officer.
Other supporters of the Nusra Front posted pictures of what they said were weapons seized from the U.S. trained rebels.
In response to the allegations, Division 30 posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it is investigating. If allegations are true, the group said, it will refer the officer in question to a military tribunal on charges of treason because the weapons "belong to the Syrian people." The group acknowledged losing contact with the officer but denied any contacts with al Qaeda's affiliate.
The Times of London reports that the chief of staff of Division 30, Colonel Mohammad al-Daher, confirmed the reports of the mass defection in an interview from Turkey, and he slammed the American effort on the ground.
"The program of establishing and training 30th Division is not serious: 30th Division was not well equipped to go into action," he said, adding the force had been infiltrated by Islamic extremists.
The program to train and equip fighters on the ground aligned with the U.S. aim of ridding the country of ISIS has been pilloried on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the program an "abysmal failure" last week.
The fact there are reports that rebels we have been training and outfitting with weapons have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists should end any debate about the lack of integrity to the screening process.
It has been suggested by many, including Senator Jeff Sessions, that it would be far safer for the United States -- and far more cost-effective -- to provide safe refuge for refugees overseas rather than bring them to the United States. Caution and commonsense would dictate that this is the best way for the United States to save the lives of those whose lives are in jeopardy, without creating a national security nightmare for the United States.
Perhaps ironically, on September 11, 2015, the National Review published an article, “Jeff Sessions: Let Middle East Shelter Syrian Refugees” that also quoted Senator Chuck Grassley and his concerns about the dangers of importing thousands of refugees into the United States when it has been made abundantly clear that the FBI and other agencies are unable to effectively vet these people.
Ever since the terror attacks of 9/11 our leaders have repeatedly told us that for the United States to be safe our nation must “get it right 100% of the time.” In order to attack us, these same politicians from both political parties have told us that the terrorists only have to get it right once.
Every person admitted into the United States provides the terrorists with an opportunity for getting it right. Consider how much damage and how many casualties were slaughtered by just 19 terrorists on September 11, 2001. Consider that just 19 terrorists killed as many people on 9/11 as the Japanese military inflicted on the United States on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.
Consider the carnage and havoc created by the two Tsarnaev brothers. Both attacks were carried out by aliens from the Middle East who easily gamed the immigration system.
Senator Sessions also laid out the financial costs and burdens that the ill-conceived refugee resettlement program would impose on our nation and on communities across the United States.
Neither Senator Sessions nor Senator Grassley have suggested that the United States should ignore the plight of these desperate people -- only that the best solution is not to bring them here, but provide for them overseas to save not only money, but potentially, something of far greater, indeed, inestimable value: American lives.
My dad taught me that throughout my life I must teach those I encountered how they should treat me by consistently demonstrating what I was willing to accept and not willing to accept. If I complained that a classmate or someone else was being unfair, he would tell me to stop complaining because it was more than likely my own fault for allowing the situation to develop.
I strongly suggest you follow my dad's sage advice. Politicians who are unwilling to truly represent us are insubordinate and are undermining national security and endangering the future of our nation. They are also endangering our future and especially the future of our children and their children. Such politicians must be sent packing.
That is what elections are for!