The Five Years War: Public Safety vs. Special Interests (2006)

Executive Summary

On the fifth anniversary of the tragic assassination of nearly 3,000 Americans and foreign residents in al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorist attacks on America’s homeland, the nation is at a crossroads. One avenue leads towards a continued process of greater control over illegal entry into the country and greater ability to know who is staying illegally in the country after a legal entry. The other avenue leads to continued lax standards on screening of international travelers and more easily penetrated borders.

The proponents of both paths claim to be pursuing the need to achieve greater national security. Unfortunately, the consensus among all experts on national security, whether in government, academia or think tanks is that — five years after the nation’s vulnerability was so appallingly demonstrated — we are still far from having control over our borders and from knowing who may be in the country plotting the next terrorist attack. This paper analyzes the alternative approaches of the competing camps, explores whether the claims make sense, and notes how those making the claims may stand to benefit from the agenda they advocate.

There is no question that the country remains vulnerable to further terrorist attacks despite corrective measures to identify and deny visas to potential terrorists. Testimony from experts on security issues have made this point at the series of hearings conducted across the country in the past two months. Our greatest vulnerability lies in the continuing likelihood of intending terrorists being able to enter the country illegally, or legally with fake documents, and avoid apprehension as they obtain false U.S. documents and blend into the enormous illegal alien communities across the country.

We remain at risk of pursuing the wrong course of action. Opposition to border control policies — that was silenced by the 9/11 attacks — is again surfacing in opposition to continuing efforts to curtail the ability of international terrorists to exploit the remaining loopholes in our policy and enforcement operations. The globalists, who include business interests as well as ideologues — who have found support from ethnic advocacy groups as well as the Bush Administration — are working to thwart greater security precautions on arriving international travelers.

A key issue remains the need to gain greater control over the border by deterring illegal immigration. This requires turning off the job magnet that attracts most illegal migrants. This is also critical to diminishing the operations of alien smugglers, who can facilitate the entry of terrorists. Progress on this objective requires final Congressional action along the lines passed by the House of Representatives in December (H.R. 4437) and a White House committed to its implementation.

We are fighting the battle to keep out terrorists with one arm tied behind our back as long as we exempt foreign travelers from countries that host Islamic jihadists from the visa screening process. This crippling of our counter-terrorism effort could become even worse given current aggressive lobbying to expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to a number of additional countries, including Bulgaria that has a large Islamic population. The argument is that it is discriminatory to waive visas for some friendly countries and not others such as newly admitted members of NATO, like Bulgaria — including ones that have troops in Iraq. This will continue to be a problem until such time as the VWP is terminated.

Finally, full implementation the US-VISIT entry-exit database on foreign travelers is still lacking. Progress in adopting the legislative mandate to electronically collect data on all foreign travelers is inching slowly ahead, but furious lobbying by the travel industry and other business interests is aimed at heading off full implementation for land ports of entry. Unless the system is made comprehensive, it will leave a gaping loophole that can be used by terrorist. Similarly, new passport requirements for foreign and U.S. travelers and secure state-issued identity documents are mandated by law, but not yet implemented. They too are opposed by many special interests and can still be prevented if security considerations are overridden.

The full report is available in pdf format.