The Lessons of 9-11--We Were--And Still Are--Unserious

by PETER HUESSY September 11, 2017

Unless and until we get serious and reform our immigration system, we will not significantly lessen future terror attacks in this country. That is one of the lessons of the attacks of 9-11. The other is we are apparently repeating history as it is obvious we were also not serious about stopping terrorism before 9-11.

Let us look before 9-11.

In 1996, the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act mandated an electronic entry/exit system. It was subsequently recommended to be implemented by the 9-11 Commission report. Congress actually followed through and reiterated in new law that such a system be put in place. To date, no system is in place.

In the summer of 2000, a staffer at the National Security Council-Richard Clarke-testified before a House subcommittee in a staff briefing that the administration, even nearly 8 years after the first World Trade Center terror attacks, did not have a plan to deal with terrorism, and because terror threats "were so many", had not even determined what terror threats were a priority for the United States to defend against. The subcommittee chairman, Chris Shays, wrote the White House describing the briefing as nearly worthless.

We were obviously not serious.  

Should our immigration policy conform to a world where international terrorism is a serious threat? As former Speaker Gingrich has argued, no serious nation in the age of terror can afford to have wide-open borders with millions of illegal aliens crossing at will.

We often hear that any effort to carefully determine who should or should not come to America cannot succeed. The New Yorker tells us immigration policy is a political decision and absent an "esteemed group of experts" deciding on the standards for entry the decisions will remain wholly political.

The implications are of course staggering. The current system purposively embraces large-scale chain migration primarily from one ethnic group. And for the sole admitted purpose to so change the political demographics in America as to usher in one party rule.

Thus to reform immigration policy and move toward a merit based system obviously has huge road blocks in place. And as Victor Davis Hanson explains, should America make immigration merit based--such as a person's love for our constitutional republic, free enterprise, liberty and equal opportunity--we would have to openly claim American culture is better than other cultures. Speaker Gingrich put it this way-everyone must learn the key values and key facts of American history as the foundation of their growth as citizens.

But in America, the open borders enthusiasts are wedded to multiculturalism and diversity--no one culture is necessarily better than another. Except, if anything, American culture is certainly racist and colonialist.

Thus as open borders diversity prevails, we will see in America more of what we see in Europe---London has Islamic shariah courts; female circumcision is practiced in France; Sweden has become the rape capitol of Europe; and a judge in New Jersey dismisses murder charges for an honor killing.

In addition, as long as the antiquated 1965 immigration standards remain in place, particularly daisy chain family reunification, we will continue bringing immigrants-legally-- from terror sponsoring, terror harboring or terror afflicted states. From 2009-13, 680,000 immigrants from some of the most dangerous countries in the world, (Bangladesh, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) have been admitted. Too often, as we have seen recently, their children refuse to assimilate, and in horrible terror attacks, kill scores of Americans in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando.

As the Institute for Economics and Peace reports, terrorist attacks are at an all-time high having tripled since 2009, refugees largely displaced by terror,  have doubled to 60 million, (the highest in 60 years), and terrorist organizations have grown 34%, yet we have an open borders and amnesty centric immigration system. Still. 


We are not serious.

As far back as 1976 Congressman Bernie Sisk [D-Cal] said illegal immigration and overstays had to be dealt with using a secure social security and visa system exactly as envisioned today through e-verify/biometrics.

In 1980, the New York Times, commenting on the prospect of an Immigration Commission being formed, acknowledged the entire immigration system amounted to one "great big wink"--we pretend it's an immigration system we actually enforce, even as we pretend it doesn't do us any harm.

South of San Diego, the border patrol have been told don't deport illegal border crossers but put them in vans and send them to the interior of the United States.

Border agents increasingly are identifying aliens from terror sponsoring states in those apprehended at the border.  

Tens of thousands of alien felons are released from prison and instead of being deported they are put back on the streets of America. 

Illegal aliens commit violent felonies many times the rate of Native Americans and legal immigrants and in one year accounted for 95% of the outstanding homicide warrants in Los Angeles and large proportions of gang violence.

As the former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich said you cannot have open borders in the age of international terrorism.

Is having more border patrol officers a bad thing?  

Or building a barrier, fence or wall or some combination?

Or enforcing employment law through E-Verify or employer sanctions?

Every year, over a million notices are sent out by the Social Security Administration to illegal alien workers who are using bogus social security numbers.

The recipient is not required by law to do anything.

The employer gets a similar mismatch letter but is warned that no adverse employment decision can be taken as a result of the notice. Who got this gem of a regulation implemented? The late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Obviously, we are not serious. 

In 2008, the Director of National Intelligence told Congress after much study it was clear the 9-11 hijackers had collectively: (1) lied on their visa applications, (2) overstayed their visas, (3) were arrested for speeding and driving without a license, (4) had a known role in blowing up the Navy ship USS Cole and (5) one of which was a known al-Qaeda operative.

Years earlier, in a detailed 241-page report produced by the staff of the 9/11 Commission, "9/11 and Terrorist Travel" America learned how the hijackers gamed the visa system by supplying fraudulent information to gain entry while the US gave Mohammed Atta visas despite "discrepancies in the stories that caught the attention of federal inspectors".

But no-one connected the dots because we were not serious.

We now know the 9-11 hijackers came in on fraudulent visas; one important hijacker, Mohammed Atta, was stopped in Florida for a traffic violation in 2000. He had overstayed his visa and was in violation of the law. And a warrant was outstanding for his arrest on a traffic violation in a neighboring county.

If the police officer had accessed an immigration and law enforcement database routinely, he would have easily determined Atta had been in violation of immigration law and was subject to arrest. Atta could have been jailed and then deported. 

In June 2002 Newsweek explained police could not check the immigration status of those arrested and that is why the hijackers slipped through the system.

Would subsequent smart police work have unraveled his flight school work and identified his other 18 terror accomplices? Would 9-11 and its aftermath ever have happened if we had a sound entry-exit visa tracking system?

We won't ever know because we were not serious.

Even SLATE figured this out: "This raises the haunting possibility that [Atta's] fatal path might have been interrupted had these transgressions been linked to other legal violations, such as overstaying a visa." [emphasis added]

While there is no definitive number on how many people annually have overstayed their visas, Senator Sessions says its now 500,000 a year while the Pew Hispanic Center estimates between 4.5 and 6 million people are here in total overstays.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not comprehensively match entry and exit records.

Because we are not serious

In a country of serial amnesty ("You can't keep the borders secure") and open borders ("A wall is so xenophobic"), Americans have lost their ability to say "Yes" or "No" to potential immigrants and visitors. Sovereignty has been perceptively destroyed.

But someone gets to decide who comes to America.

Obviously in part terrorists and drug dealers.

So the question before us is how much longer we will refuse to be serious?

When will the American people take back our sovereign right to say "Yes" or "No" to those wishing to come to our country?

Sanctuary cities, open borders, serial amnesties all give the big "flip off" to the American people and the notion of sovereignty.

That is why people are angry.

They are well, telling America, "Get serious".  

Peter R. Huessy is President of Geostrategic Analysis and a guest lecturer at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was formerly Senior Fellow in National Security at the American Foreign Policy Council.


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