Can it happen again?

We’re now coming up on the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11.  Yet in that interval, very little has changed.  We’ve little control of our borders and we remain lethargic in implementing monitoring of overstays.  Given our recent history of home-grown terrorists, we’re likewise negligent in screening applicants for immigration.
For example, just recently we’ve learned that the immigrant hotel maid accusing International Monetary Fund president Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape may be implicated in a web of lies.  She’s now admitted to lying on her application for refugee status, claiming she was ganged raped.  In a recorded conversation with her boyfriend in an Arizona jail two days after her accusations, she commented, “This person is rich and there’s money to be made.”  It’s also reported she’s stashed money in several banks, some of it drug dealer money and given false information to the government on her taxes.
Hey, how does someone like this, a rogue liar, not get checked out before being granted asylum?  Strauss-Kahn, however, was compelled to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund and has possibly lost a chance to become France’s next President.
Two weeks ago here in KY, the FBI took into custody two Iraqis who had also been granted refugee status.  They had been caught in a sting, trying to provide material support to al Qaeda in Iraq.  One of them bragged that he had employed IEDs against Americans in Iraq.
While we hear much about illegals flooding across the Mexican border, the truth is their numbers are dwarfed by those who simply overstay their visas.  Of the estimated 12 million illegals in the U. S., half of them have done so.  Fact is, it’s now the favored method of sneaking-in.  It sure beats swimming a river, squeezing through a tunnel, or paying a ”coyote,” only to be abandoned in the Arizona desert with the border patrol at your heels.
Unfortunately, the Congress and the Naturalization and Immigration Service have made jumping the queue enticingly easy.  Once foreigners are in our country the INS lacks any mechanism to check on where they are or if they’ve left.  As Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington has put it, “We certainly don’t know who they are or where they are.”
The danger this leads to in staging an attack on the homeland is obvious.  The events of 9/11 were perpetrated by 19 terrorists, all of them granted visas.  Four of them took flight lessons in the U. S., three of them lacking proper visas for doing so.  Two of them had overstayed their visas.
According to the 9/11 Commission, all 19 used driver’s licenses for ID purposes to avoid showing their passports and possibly raising suspicion.  Licenses were procured from VA (7), FL (13), CA (2).  And yet we have advocates of granting driver’s licenses to illegals like 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, arguing we need to ”bring these people out of the shadows.”  Sounds like political pandering to me.
As early as 1996, Congress actually passed a law requiring the INS employ a “rigorous” system to track foreigners entering and leaving the U. S.  Congress, however, delayed its implementation due to protests from border towns, complaining it would interfere with commerce.  Under its provisions, it would call for a swipeable ID card to record entering and leaving the U. S.
Again, the situation isn’t as simple as it sounds.  In any given year, some 30 million visas are issued.  Just recently, the Government  Accounting Office indicated a backlog of 1.6 million overstayed visas, leading Sen. Joe Lieberman, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, to comment,  “It is simply unacceptable that we are still systematically unable to identify people who overstay—some of whom may be terrorists . . . .”

The resources, however, needed to capture a relative few are enormously cost prohibitive and unlikely to secure approval in a down economy and a Congress embroiled in a heated budget debate.  At best, the Homeland Security Department has settled to prioritize the more egregious cases.

If we’re derelict in monitoring overstays, we’re far too lenient in screening would-be immigrants. Consider a few instances supplementing those I mentioned at the outset with regard to the Strauss-Kahn accuser and the two Iraqis picked-up in KY:

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized citizen, who attempted a car bombing in Times Square in May 2010.
The Lackawanna Six involving six Yemeni-Americans in 2001, who confessed to providing support to al Qaeda interests in Afghanistan.  Some had participated in al Qaeda training camps.
The Fort Dix Plot, involving six foreign born Muslims, four of whom were illegal immigrants.  In 2007 they had plotted to kill soldiers at the army base.
Mohammed Osmud Mohamud, who in November 2010 attempted to ignite a car bomb during a Christmas tree lighting tree ceremony.
I’m aware we have our own American terrorists who represent the extremes of the ideological perspective, Left and Right, but I’m dealing here with lapses in security in the context of immigration and visa monitoring. 

In my view, it’s more productive to pursue intelligence gathering as a preventive to domestic terrorism, whether by foreigners or Americans.  Under the Patriot Act, provision has been made to allow greater surveillance.  Unfortunately, the Patriot Act has been increasingly under attack by liberals who see it as an infringement on civil liberties, or invasion of privacy rights.  The ACLU is adamantly opposed to some of its provisions, recently renewed for the next four years, and they have a point in that one of its provisions allows for the government to seize the personal records of any American without concrete evidence of conspiracy.

Still, since 2001 no attack on our homeland has occurred, and thus the threat has receded for many, a telling irony to the Patriot Act’s success in preempting another attack on the homeland.

Again, we need to beef up our borders as well, since they provide a funnel into the   U. S. for terrorists.  Proposals such as Amnesty and the Dream Act are misguided, since they serve as incentives when there should be deterrents.

Unless we’re more scrupulous in handling visas, controlling our borders and screening immigrants, we will surely increase the likelihood of another 9/11, though the targets may change:  perhaps a train, a shopping mall, a crowded stadium of unsuspecting fans watching a World Series or Super Bowl.

As Thomas Jefferson, one of my heroes, famously said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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