Forget about no-fly lists, full-body scanners and air marshals. All the loud recriminations about who should have done what to stop the UndyBomber from boarding a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day miss a more fundamental point: Young, single, rootless foreign Muslim Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should never, ever have received a temporary visa into our country in the first place. No visa, no plane ticket. No ticket, no passage to airline jihad.
Even absent the intelligence we had on this al-Qaida-trained operative before his fateful trip, Hillary Clinton's State Department was required to know better than to issue a coveted entrance pass to a globe-trotting, Nigerian-born nomad. Under federal law (section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act to be precise), State Department consular officials must determine that foreigners applying for temporary visas (students, tourists and business people) will in fact return to their home countries as required and will not abuse their visa privileges.
This means making sure that the temporary visa applicant has strong ties to his native land. It's supposed to be a tough burden to overcome. Yet, Abdulmutallab showed no such propensities at the time he applied for his temporary visa at the U.S. Embassy in London in June 2008. He was a 20-something student who had flitted from Nigeria to Yemen to Togo to England without a family or job. He was, in other words, a textbook itinerant waving more red flags than a bullfighter.
Question: How much due diligence did the State Department consular official on the front line who interviewed Abdulmutallab actually show? Reports say it took just four days for his visa to be approved. Barely two months later, Abdulmutallab turned up in Houston for a two-week seminar at Al Maghrib Institute, a Muslim Brotherhood-tied Islamic education center that has been dubbed “Jihad U” by veteran terrorism analysts.
Now, I'm presuming that a consular official did in fact interview Abdulmutallab before rubber-stamping his visa. Before the September 11 attacks, countless visa applicants — including 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers — skipped personal appearance requirements and bypassed the interview process as a convenience provided by Foggy Bottom panderers.
This was supposed to change.
I asked the State Department Thursday for more information about the presumed consular office interview and hasty approval of Abdulmutallab's visa. Spokeswoman Megan Mattson invoked confidentiality rules protecting his visa form. But there is an overriding public interest in what his application might reveal about our atrociously lax consulate practices. The General Accounting Office obtained and released the 9/11 hijackers' temporary visa forms, which showed that basic information about where they were headed (two hijackers wrote “Wasantwn”) and what business they claimed to be doing (one wrote “teater” as his occupation) was suspiciously shoddy.
Like Abdulmutallab, not a single one of the unmarried, rootless Muslim male nomads who secured student and business visas to commit mass murder on American soil should have ever obtained a temporary visa in the first place.
But the reckless customer-service mentality prevails under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The department continues to operate the dangerous “Diversity Visa Lottery” program — handing out permanent residency visas (green cards) randomly to some 50,000 foreigners from “underrepresented” regions. The bipartisan visa lottery was championed by the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy and signed into law by Republican President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Although originally intended to give a leg up to Irish immigrants, most of the winners are now from non-Western countries — including several terrorist-sponsoring and terrorist-friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and Yemen.
State Department flacks are busy pointing fingers at other homeland security bureaucracies, namely the National Counterterrorism Center, for failing to revoke the UndyBomber's visa. Foggy Bottom held a press conference earlier this week to boast that it had finally taken responsibility and stripped Abdulmutallab of his golden entrance ticket. But where does the buck stop for granting the visa in the first place?
Ominously, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley revealed that other suspected jihadi visas have been revoked. "It's more than one," he said. "But I don't think it's fruitful to get into a scoreboard." Of course not. Keeping score would mean accountability for negligent consular officials and their bosses. This administration would rather let sleeping bureaucrats lie.