During his 30-year career with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Michael W. Cutler investigated cases of terrorism, murder, narcotics and human trafficking. He has testified as an expert witness at more than a dozen Congressional hearings, as well as the 9/11 Commission, on issues relating to the enforcement of immigration law, national security and public safety. He currently hosts The Michael Cutler Hour on BlogTalk Radio.

Why is the U.S. Continuing to Ignore the Intersection of Immigration and Terrorism?


September 2014

By MICHAEL W. CUTLER

I begin with a quote:

“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.”

That statement is the first paragraph of the preface of the 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel.

It’s my contention that the threat of a terror attack being carried out inside the United States is greater today than at any time since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Let me provide a bit of background: I’m a retired Senior Special Agent of the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service).  In my early years at the INS, I worked as an immigration inspector. In that position I inspected arriving passengers at John F Kennedy International Airport to determine if foreigners should be admitted into the United States.

In a manner of speaking, I had my eye to the peephole of America’s front door. The corollary is obvious: homeowners and apartment dwellers perform the mission of immigration inspectors on a personal level by not admitting a stranger into his or her apartment without first peering through the peephole to decide if a stranger poses a threat before admitting that stranger.

On September 11, 2001 the ashes from the conflagration at what quickly came to be known as “Ground Zero” fluttered down on my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York and contained the remains of the victims — among them, my neighbors.  It is safe to say that anyone who was in New York on that horrific day still suffers post-traumatic stress.

It’s a day no one will ever forget: the sights, the sounds, the smells. My neighbors screaming as they realized that their loved ones–their spouses, their children, their parents, their siblings– were gone forever.

I was outraged beyond any words that could properly convey my emotions.  What added to my fury then–and, in fact, to this very day–is the fact that on May 20, 1997, more than four years before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I participated in my first Congressional hearing. That hearing, conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, was entitled: “Visa Fraud and Immigration Benefits Application Fraud.”

This important hearing was predicated on two terrorist attacks that were carried out more than four years earlier, in 1993, by people from the Middle East who, as was determined, gamed the visa process and/or the immigration benefits program. Here are the details:

In January 1993 a Pakistani national by the name of Mir Kansi stood outside CIA Headquarters with an AK-47 and opened fire on the vehicles of CIA officials reporting for work on that cold January morning in Virginia.  When the smoke dissipated, two CIA officers lay dead and three others were seriously wounded. Kansi fled the United States and was ultimately brought back to stand trial. He was found guilty and executed for his crimes. He’d been granted political asylum and had been subsequently found to have lied on his application, thereby committing a felony: fraud. Had the fraud been detected and had he been deported from the United States, those who were killed and wounded would not have been harmed.

Just one month later, on February 26, 1993 a bomb-laden truck was parked in the garage under the World Trade Center complex and detonated. The blast nearly brought one of the 110 story towers down sideways. As a result of the explosion, six innocent people were killed, hundreds were injured and an estimated one half billion dollars in damages were inflicted on that iconic complex of buildings located just blocks from Wall Street. That attack was also carried out by alien terrorists who managed to not only game the visa process in order to enter the United States but the immigration benefits program that enabled them to remain in the United States and embed themselves as they went about their preparations to carry out that attack.

Disturbingly, the 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel 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.

Two of the terrorists “concocted bogus political asylum stories” (page 47 of the report). A third “received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida.”

The Problem Today

In an interview This past June, former vice president Dick Cheney talked about the threats posed by Sunni ISIS militants. He said Iraq and Syria, home base for many of these militants, are “potential trouble spots.”

After citing data pointing to a 58 percent rise in the number of Salafi jihadist organizations, Cheney explained that the US could be at risk for a terrorist attack worse than 9/11.

Cheney’s concerns are only the most recent of a string of similar concerns voiced by prominent government leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

In a December 2013 interview, California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein (chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee) said she believed that there are now more terrorists with the technological means to carry out a bombing in the U.S.  She explained, “I think terror is up worldwide. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb-maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”

How careful is the government of the United States being when our borders are as porous as a sieve and unknown millions of illegal aliens from virtually every country on earth have evaded the inspections process designed to prevent the entry of international terrorists and transnational criminals–undermining national security, public safety and the well-being of America and Americans?

While the coverage of the threat of terrorism creating mayhem and mass carnage inside the United States periodically makes headlines and is covered by various news programs, the nexus between immigration and terrorism is almost never broached.

It seems that the narrative of the need to provide lawful status to unknown millions of illegal aliens continues to trump the reality of the situation.

The Department of Homeland Surrender

The continuing instances of ineptitude, incompetence and corruption of the DHS has caused me to come to refer to that screwed up agency as the Department of Homeland Surrender!

Based on an audit of the DHS, in July of last year The Washington Times published a truly disturbing report; to quote from it: “The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country.” The report goes on to state, “The department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.”

It’s interesting to note that the focus of the report was how this failure to track the departure of one million foreign visitors might adversely impact Comprehensive Immigration Reform, yet it blithely failed to recognize the most important point, that the failure to track the departure of one million nonimmigrant visitors poses a threat to national security!

The headline of that story should have read: “Homeland Security loses track of 1 million foreigners: America’s national security seriously compromised.”

Let me make it clear that the vast majority of employees of the various component agencies of the DHS understand the true importance of their missions and desperately want to do an effective job.  In fact, the union leaders who represent these employees have gone public and have been crystal clear in their frustration with the administration’s failures to provide resources and leadership to help these dedicated officials do an effective job. They are enraged that through executive orders and policy statements, our immigration laws are not only not being enforced, but hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens have been granted employment authorization and official identity documents without even subjecting these illegal and undocumented aliens to an in-person interview.

Moving Forward

When an airplane crashes, investigators go over the wreckage with the proverbial fine-tooth comb.  If the aircraft is equipped with black boxes that record cockpit conversations and technical data about engine performance, flight controls and other such systems, those recorders are recovered and the vital data extracted.  The manifest of the cargo and the list of passengers may be scrutinized to determine if the passengers and/or cargo in the belly of the aircraft, if there are any questions as to whether or not a crime or, perhaps, terrorism was involved.

When the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles suffered catastrophic failures, commissions were convened to determine what went wrong.

The goal for all of these investigations is simple — to make certain that everything is done so that history not be allowed to repeat itself. And yet in 2014, as we still in many ways reel from the traumatic events of 9/11, we find ourselves in an all-too-familiar danger.

The constant drumbeat of the news reports of the failures of the DHS to protect our borders and create even a modicum of integrity to the visa process and immigration benefits program, coupled with the constant reports of unaccompanied minors and other illegal aliens running our borders, evoke strong feelings of deja vu.

The “All Clear” for the “War on Terror” has most certainly not sounded.  Al-Qaeda continues to pose an extremely serious threat to national security and the safety of Americans no matter where they are.  The findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission must be the starting point for any discussion about any immigration legislation.

To do less is unacceptable and, indeed, potentially treasonous!

Michael W. Cutler can be reached via his website at michaelcutler.net

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