"Al Qaeda still world’s top threat, Interpol chief says"

Hi Gang:
If you are reading this commentary hoping to find words of encouragement, unless you are a terrorist, you won’t find anything to encourage you in this commentary.  As I once told then Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. a number of years ago when we had a quick meeting and I took that opportunity to convince him that the implementation of a guest worker amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens whose true identities were unknown and unknowable, “If I cannot sleep at night, the sure as hell, I don’t want you to be able to sleep at night, either!”
However, as I often note at the end of my commentaries, you cannot solve problems and vulnerabilities if you are unable to first identify those vulnerabilities.
My commentary is predicated on a brief cautionary report that appeared on the website of a respected Washington based publication, Government Executive.Com.  This publication is aimed at decision makers in Washington in various branches of the government and the military as well as within the private sector.
The title of the article, “Al Qaeda still world’s top threat, Interpol chief says” echoes an important message, the fact that the “All Clear” has not yet sounded where the “War on Terrorism” is concerned.
We are certainly reminded that there is an ongoing “War on Terror” every time we turn on a news program on our televisions or radios or open up a newspaper or news magazine and read the top stories.  Inevitably we become aware of efforts by our gallant soldiers in the Middle East in a variety of countries in that beleaguered part of the world.  We may read about the latest casualty figures, we may read about an air strike or a strike that was carried out by a drone.
Additionally we may become aware of a terrorist who has been found somewhere in the world or an attack that was carried out that killed innocent civilians or, perhaps soldiers of police officers.
Other news reports may focus on aspects of the Patriot Act or some problem with airport security in which a terminal at an airport may have been shut down because a passenger inadvertently opened up a door he was not supposed to open.
We may also experience the lack of privacy that goes along, these days, with embarking on a trip that involves an airline flight as TSA officials conduct ever more intrusive searches of our belongings or even our persons.
Yet even as all of these bits and pieces of the mosaic that we see, hear and experience “up close and in person” that paint a worrying picture of a “War on Terror” that continually reminds us that we live in a perilous era, there are corporations and their executives who are working tirelessly to make certain that, in the name of commerce (profit) our nation does whatever is necessary to encourage more international travelers to come to the United States, rent hotel rooms and cars, eat at posh restaurants or fast food establishments, attend ball games or concerts and buy lots of “stuff!”
These various enterprises that comprise the hotel, travel and hospitality industries and the omnipresent Chambers of Commerce, joined recently by the retailers associations have banded together to push a program known as “Discover America.”  Their goal is to persuade our government to expand the Visa Waiver Program.  Today 36 countries are now on that list of countries whose citizens need not apply for a visa before seeking to enter the United States provided that they plan to remain for no more than 90 days in the United States.
An effectively managed visa program can provide significant benefits to national security but the concern of the Discover America program is that any hurdle that international travelers must jump is an impediment to their sole focus- PROFIT!
I want you to take a moment and read this passage from the report I have provided to you.  It is a quote from the Director of Interpol:
                                                                                                                       ****************************** 
Computer files and documents seized by U.S. special forces during their raid last month on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan revealed the terrorist leader had encouraged his followers to develop attack plans on U.S. targets similar to the September 11 assaults in style and scope.

The Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also been linked to the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of an airliner as it prepared to land in Detroit, as well as the 2010 attempt to hide explosives in printer cartridges loaded onto cargo aircraft.

Of significant concern is the use of pilfered or misplaced passports and the failure by many nations to cross-check passengers’ identifying documents with a database of passports that have been reported lost, Noble said.

“One out of every two international air arrivals is not being screened. That’s almost half a billion each year not being screened,” Noble said.

“We know if terrorists can move from country to country without being detected, that’s a risk to all countries, and from Interpol’s perspective that is a number one risk affecting all countries throughout the world,” he added.
                                                                                                                       ****************************** 
When you realize that this is the concern of Interpol and is a concern that was addressed by the 911 Commission and members of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies who have provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission as well as to innumerable Congressional hearings you have to ask yourself a basic question, “Why is there a Visa Waiver Program at all?”
If you want to know, then I suggest you will find the answer in the push mounted, very successfully, by the Discover America Partnership.
Check out the link I have provided to you below and excerpts from the material to be found on the webpage posted by the organization that posted the material.  According to this website, NRF (National Retail Federation) has joined the Discover America Partnership!  These industries have absolutely no expertise in national security or in issues where border security are concerned.  Yet they have staked out a position because they are motivated by nothing more than greed!  The more people who will travel to the United States, the more people who are likely to stay in hotels, eat in the restaurants, attend Broadway shoes and buy the souvenirs and other trinkets peddled in cities around the United States.  
NRF Joins New Travel Coalition to Reform Visa Process
Increase in Tourism to Generate Demand for U.S. Goods and Create 1.3 million U.S. Job

The National Retail Federation is calling for comprehensive reform to the antiquated visa process that has cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars. To help advance these measures, NRF has joined the Discover America Partnership, a broad coalition to advance visa and reentry reforms for international travel.


“The visa process is broken and is in desperate need of reform”


“The visa process is broken and is in desperate need of reform,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We need a visa policy that will bring visitors from the fastest growing countries to the U.S. to help generate jobs and bolster economic growth.”

A new report issued by the U.S. Travel Association outlines how common-sense reforms that are relatively easy to implement could create 1.3 million more U.S. jobs and add $859 billion to the U.S. economy by 2020 – all with little or no cost to taxpayers.

The report’s comprehensive, four-step plan will help the United States achieve its goal of becoming more competitive in the global travel market, which in turn will expand U.S. exports, create new jobs and drive economic growth. The report recommends:


  • America must align U.S. State Department resources with market demands;

  • America must reduce visa interview wait times to 10 days or fewer;

  • The U.S. State Department must improve planning, measurement and transparency; and

  • America must expand the Visa Waiver Program.


The Discover America Partnership, under the leadership of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Travel Association, is a lobbying and grassroots campaign to advance visa and entry reforms that will enable the United States to regain the 17 percent market share of overseas travelers it had in 2000 by 2015.

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. In the United States, NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2010 sales of $2.4 trillion. www.nrf.com 

Date Posted: 2011-05-16

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It is understandable that the business executives want to have more customers but while they have signed on to a program referred to as “Discover America” it is apparent that they have forgotten that al-Qaeda has already discovered America! 
They are also very short sighted- in the days, weeks and even months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 airliners flew with many empty seats.  Hotels, restaurants and tourist-related businesses were nearly devoid of patrons.  It was seen as an act of patriotism and, in fact, heroic, for people to board airliners and fly anywhere in the United States but especially to major cities.  
If, God forbid there is another terrorist attack it is entirely possible that many hotels will go bankrupt along with restaurants and other businesses that depend on tourism.
I am not, however, surprised that these corporate executives do not seem to dive a damn about the safety of our nation- not when it may cause them to lose revenue.  What is  infuriating is that our “leaders” in Washington are actually doing what these idiots tell them to do when they call for an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program!  
Of course, even if these aliens who enter the United States under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program plan to remain in the United States for years and even work illegally, they only have to tell the overworked CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Inspector at the port of entry where they arrive in the United States that they plan to only do sightseeing and other tourist-like activities and will go home in 90 days or less.  If they fail to depart it is entirely possible the dysfunctional US-VISIT program may not discover that they failed to depart when they were supposed to and, even if it is discovered, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has dedicated fewer than 300 special agents to the task of seeking to locate and apprehend such illegal aliens!
Meanwhile, the federal government now estimates that there are anywhere from 4.5 million to 5.5 million foreign visitors who are present in our country who have not left our country when they were supposed to or otherwise violated the terms of their admission into the United States.  I have been told that there may actually be twice as many visa violators as the government claims that there are!
While many of these illegally present aliens entered the United States with a variety of visas such as tourist visas, student visas and different categories of “temporary” work visas, a significant number of these illegal aliens were admitted under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program.  Our government has no real idea as to how many visa violators there are in the United States and, I am fairly convinced, does not want to know.
The 9/11 Commission made it clear that it was no less than a matter of national security to know if aliens who enter the United States leave the United States.  A program known as US-VISIT was supposed to track the entry and departure of aliens and yet, after spending well over one billion dollars and working on this program for many years, the departure side of the program has never been fully implemented.  I suspect that this is not because of incompetence but design.  The Visa Waiver Program imposes a number of requirements on nations that enroll in this program.  One of the requirements is that their citizens must, generally, not violate the terms of their admission in our country.  Only a small percentage of their citizens may overstay or these countries were supposed to be removed from the list of Visa Waiver Countries.  By not accurately tracking the departure of aliens there is no way of determining if aliens from these countries depart the United States when they are supposed to.  This creates, I believe, a new example of “Don’t ask, don’t tell!”
While corporations are eager to have the number of countries that are enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program expanded, you should know that this wrong-headed program creates a number of serious problems for the United States.
On May 11, 2006 I testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International Relations on the topic:
VISA OVERSTAYS:

CAN WE BAR THE TERRORIST DOOR?”

You can read the transcript of that hearing at:

Here is a link to a CNN report that was titled, “Tracking Down Visa Violators:”
Casey Wian and his producer, Sara Weisfeldt interviewed me for this report and I appear briefly on screen.
On May 10, 2010 I was interviewed by Daniel Gonzalez, a reporter with the Arizona Republic for an news report titled, “U.S. not cracking down on immigrants with expired visas.” Here is the link to the news report in which I was quoted:
The point to understand is that once an alien is admitted into our country there is virtually nothing done to make certain that the alien does not violate the terms of his admission into the United States.  A number of the 9/11 terrorists violated the terms of their admission into our country but to this very day, nearly nothing is done to impart even the slightest levels of integrity into this process.  The estimates as to how many such aliens are currently in our country who have overstayed or otherwise violated the terms of their admission but the estimates range from 5 million to perhaps as many as 10 million and yet there are fewer than 300 special agents of ICE who are tasked with attempting to locate and apprehend these aliens.  I would not be surprised if even if such aliens are apprehended that there is a lack of detention space to take them into custody pending their removal (deportation) from the United States!  (While “Catch & Release” was a hot topic for the Border Patrol, Catch & Release has been a fact of life for the efforts of agents at the former INS and now at ICE to seek the removal of illegal aliens who are apprehended within the interior of the United States!)
Another important issue you should consider is the insane Visa Waiver Program which enables aliens from some 36 countries to enter the United States without first applying for and obtaining a visa for the United States.  Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber attempted to destroy a U.S. bound airliner that was packed with passengers and crew members by detonating explosives he had hidden in his shoes.  Richard Reid is a citizen of Great Britain and therefore he was not required to obtain a visa before flying to the United States to apply for admission into our country.  Had he been required to obtain a visa, if there had been no Visa Waiver Program, it is likely he would never have secured the visa and would have not been permitted to board the airliner he intended to destroy.  Our government officials now require citizens of the United States and all others who seek to board airliners to remove their shoes for inspection because of Mr. Reid- however, the vulnerability created by the Visa Waiver Program has not only been utterly ignored, but more countries have since been added to list of those countries whose citizens do not need to seek visas before traveling to the United States to apply for admission into our country even though other terrorists have also entered our country under the Visa Waiver Program!
You can review the State Department’s website for information about this wrong headed and, indeed, treacherous Visa Waiver Program at: 

Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:

Andorra Hungary New Zealand
Australia Iceland Norway
Austria Ireland Portugal
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Czech Republic Latvia Slovakia
Denmark Liechtenstein Slovenia
Estonia Lithuania South Korea
Finland Luxembourg Spain
France Malta Sweden
Germany Monaco Switzerland
Greece the Netherlands United Kingdom
Some time ago I compiled a list of the ways in which the visa process can be helpful to law enforcement and bolster our nation’s efforts to prevent the entry of aliens whose presence on our country may prove harmful to our nation and our citizens. 

Here is the list of the 6 benefits that the visa requirement provides to national security and that the Visa Waiver Program denies our nation:

 

1.  By requiring visas of aliens who seek to enter the United States, this process helps to screen potential passengers on airliners that are destined to the United States.  Richard Reid, the so-called “Shoe Bomber” was able to board an airliner to come to the United States although he had no intentions of entering the United States, his apparent goal was to blow up the airliner and its many passengers somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic Ocean by detonating explosives he had concealed in his shoes.  Because he is a subject of Great Britain, a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, Reid did not obtain a visa before he boarded that airliner. 

2.  The CBP inspectors are supposed to make a decision in one minute or less as to the admissibility of an alien seeking to enter the United States.  The visa requirement helps them to do a more effective job.  Their’s is a tough job I can certainly relate to, I began my career at the former INS as an immigration inspector at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and worked there for 4 years before I became a special agent.

3.  The application for a nonimmigrant visa contains roughly 40 questions that could provide invaluable information to law enforcement officials should that alien become the target of a criminal or terrorist investigation.  The information could provide intelligence as well as investigative leads.  You can check out the application for a nonimmigrant (tourist) visa by clicking on this link:

https://evisaforms.state.gov/ds156.asp

 
4.  If an alien applicant lies on the application for a visa that lie is called “visa fraud.”  The maximum penalty for visa fraud starts out at 10 years in jail for those who commit this crime simply in order to come to the United States, ostensibly to seek unlawful employment or other such purpose.  The penalty increases to 15 years in jail for those aliens who obtain a visa to commit a felony.  For aliens who engage in visa fraud to traffic in narcotics or commit another narcotics-related crime, the maximum jail sentence that can be imposes rises to 20 years.  Finally, when an alien can be proven to have engaged in visa fraud in furtherance of terrorism, the maximum penalty climbs to 25 years in prison.  It is important to note that while it may be difficult to prove that an individual is a terrorist, it is usually relatively simple to prove that the alien has committed visa fraud when there is fraud involved in the visa application.  Indeed, terror suspects are often charged with visa fraud. 

5.  The charge of visa fraud can also be extremely helpful to law enforcement authorities who want to take a bad guy off the street without tipping their hand to the other members of a criminal conspiracy or terrorism conspiracy that the individual arrested was being arrested for his involvement in terrorism or a criminal organization.  You can arrest the alien who commits visa fraud for that violation of law and not for other charges that might make it clear that the investigation underway is targeting a criminal or terrorist organization.

6.  Even when an alien applies for a visa and his application is denied, the application he filed remains available for law enforcement and intelligence personnel to review to seek to glean intelligence from that application.

Under the wrong-headed Visa Waiver Program, not one of the important six benefits noted above apply!  This creates serious vulnerabilities yet this program is continually being expanded at the behest of corporate executives who know nothing about national security or the visa process.  Their only expertise is to separate their customers from the contents of their wallets!
Thank God, at least as far as I know, our government is not taking advice from the association that represents undertakers who depend on death for profit!
Something for you to think about- when an airplane crashes, when the NTSB conducts its investigation and establishes changes that must be made to guarantee the airworthiness of the type of airplane that was involved in the mishap, airline companies and airplane manufacturers must accede to the demands of the NTSB.  This must be the way that all facets of national security must be dealt with as well.
Now that it is clear that the Visa Waiver Program creates a national security nightmare for our country, there are other problems within the immigration system that has to put smiles on the faces of the terrorists who want to kill us and kill innocent people throughout the world, especially those who live in the countries that are our allies.
As I have noted on previous occasions, when an alien becomes a naturalized citizen, on the day of being sworn in as a new citizen, that newly minted citizen may opt to legally change his (her) name, and at no extra cost!  When that naturalized citizen applies for a United States passport, that passport will only reflect the name he took when he naturalized!  Stop and give that a moment to let this sink in.
A naturalized citizen can, in effect, place himself into his own unofficial “Witness Protection Program” by changing his name when he becomes a citizen and then obtaining a passport that conceals his previous identity!
Most of the terror watch lists and “No Fly” lists utilized by the United States and other countries around the world, consist of names without any biometrics to further identify the person who is identified on those lists.  Think how this would make it a simply matter for a terrorist to acquire a brand new identity that would enable him to easily travel to and enter other countries that may well be looking for him under his original name!  Al Qaeda should give us the MVP award for this stupidity!
Finally I want to revisit the last sentence in that news article:

“We know if terrorists can move from country to country without being detected, that’s a risk to all countries, and from Interpol’s perspective that is a number one risk affecting all countries throughout the world,” he added.

   
Now I want you to consider how an alien would enter the United States without being detected.  Running our nation’s borders would certainly serve that purpose!
If our nation was to then provide unknown millions of illegal aliens with a “pathway to United States citizenship” under the aegis of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” realize that such aliens would easily be able to morph into legitimate appearing citizens of the United States who could easily penetrate the borders of every country in the world by using a U.S. passport in a brand new identity!
Brad Stone, the Special Projects Producer at WSB-TV, the Atlanta based ABC affiliated news station has produced a series of hard hitting reports on how bad the situation is along the Mexican border.  I was pleased to have been interviewed by Brad on a number of occasions.  Here is a link to his broadcast on this important issue that aired several months ago:

Last month, PJM (Pajamas Media) reported on what must be considered clear evidence that terrorists have entered the United States by evading the inspections process along our nation’s southern border.  I have provided you with a copy of a posting by PJM on March 23, 2011 that included a link to a DOJ Pre-sentencing Memorandum prepared by the United States attorneys who prosecuted Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane in San Antonio, Texas (Western District of Texas) for making false statements in conjunction with an application he filed for political asylum.

Here is a link that was furnished in the article I have provided you below that will provide you with the pre-sentencing report:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/51237749/Ahmed-Dhakane-DOJ-Sentencing-Memorandum

This report is about 20 pages in length and contains significant information that is of extreme importance to illustrate many of the vulnerabilities I have often noted in various venues and especially when I have provided testimony at Congressional hearings into immigration related issues.
The effective enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws are, arguably, among the most important of all missions that are supposed to be carried out by our federal government.  
Nothing less than the security of our nation and safety of our citizens hang in the balance!
Indeed, our nation’s continuing failures to secure its borders and create an immigration system that poses real integrity also threatens the safety and security of our allies as well!
A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!

I

our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.  
My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.
The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.
If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same.  We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”

The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!


The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians.  I implore you to get involved!
I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world.  However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!

If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation! 

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler- 


Please check out my website:

http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=47954&dcn=e_hsw

Al Qaeda still world’s top threat, Interpol chief says




Interpol chief Ronald Noble on Tuesday said al Qaeda and associated organizations continue to pose the greatest threat to global security even after the death of longtime leader Osama bin Laden, Reuters reported.

“Even before bin Laden was captured and killed, the biggest threat was not only al Qaeda but al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups around the world,” the secretary general for the International Criminal Police Organization said to journalists at an aviation conference in Singapore. “I think that remains the biggest threat now as it was before his death.”

Passenger airlines and other modes of mass transportation face the greatest terrorist threat, Noble said.

“The airline and air industry continues to be a prime target for terrorists, but we’ve seen from recovered intelligence, etc., that they are also focusing a lot on mass transit,” he said. “But airlines continue to be a special target.”

Computer files and documents seized by U.S. special forces during their raid last month on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan revealed the terrorist leader had encouraged his followers to develop attack plans on U.S. targets similar to the September 11 assaults in style and scope.

The Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also been linked to the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of an airliner as it prepared to land in Detroit, as well as the 2010 attempt to hide explosives in printer cartridges loaded onto cargo aircraft.

Of significant concern is the use of pilfered or misplaced passports and the failure by many nations to cross-check passengers’ identifying documents with a database of passports that have been reported lost, Noble said.

“One out of every two international air arrivals is not being screened. That’s almost half a billion each year not being screened,” Noble said.

“We know if terrorists can move from country to country without being detected, that’s a risk to all countries, and from Interpol’s perspective that is a number one risk affecting all countries throughout the world,” he added.

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