TCTB - Michael Cutler on New Intel on Four 9/11 Attackers
August 10, 2005
Michael Cutler on New Intel on Four 9/11 Attackers
Michael Cutler asked me to post the following on this story:
I am astounded at the foolishness of how our government works, or more often, fails to work! This International Herald Tribune article on the Mohammed Atta cell (a reprint of the original NYT story) glossed over the fact that the information that was obtained by the military apparently was not sent to the State Department to add to the department's watch list! What the article failed to state is that one of the reasons for putting this sort of information on the State Department watch list is to provide guidance to State Department officials who ultimately make the decision whether or not to issue visas to aliens seeking entry into the United States.
As "Chris Mackay" and Greg Miller put it in"The Interrogators: Task Force 500 adn America's Secret War Against Al Qaeda," p. 225: "(T)hat there are no secret rooms where you open the door and step inside and find nothing but competence."
The military was hardly unique in its reluctance or failure to share information where it would be most useful, at the outermost lines of defense. Both the FBI and CIA are equally guilty, but on a vaster, industrial scale. Once the floodgates opened, post 9/11, however, the FBI alone added over 7 million names to the State Department's consular lookout system in the first two weeks of information-sharing.
This is, in effect, the first line of defense for our nation. Any strategist will agree that the best way to deal with a threat, or a potential threat, is to keep it as far away as possible. The visa process is supposed to do precisely that. When it works properly it enables our government to deny those who are a threat to our safety access to our country. This is why I am at a loss to understand why we still have a Visa Waiver Program that enables aliens from 28 countries to obtain a valid passport and then simply hop on an airplane and land at an international airport anywhere in the United States and seek admission into our country.
I address some of these issues in my commentary on an earlier article: "NYT - Our Ally, Our Problem."
Specifically, "It will indeed be a pity if the VWP has to be eliminated or scaled-back, it's a tremendous boon for economic and social unity within the West, facilitating untold business and personal contacts and transactions. Instituting visa requirements for any of the Visa Waiver countries would have an immediate and severe impact of our visa operations within those countries; they're simply not staffed or constructed to handle that sort of workflow anymore. For an example, look at what happened when Argentina lost its Visa Waiver status back in 2002."
These are some of the consequences. It may indeed be the case that Visa Waiver should be modified or even eliminated, but the consequences need to be addressed, anticipated, and planned-for.
In the case of these four 9/11 hijackers the visa process failed to do what it is supposed to do, prevent the "bad guys" from gaining access to our nation. I certainly do not want to be a "Monday morning quarterback." But the fact is that intelligence is useless unless it is promptly disseminated to the appropriate consumers. In the government, the dissemination of intelligence and other information is known as "Need to know." Simply stated, this means that sensitive information should only be provided to those officials who need this information in order to carry out their official duties. Clearly the officials of the State Department who make visa issuance decisions has a very definite "need to know" this sort of information.It is also important to understand how an alien can be deemed "deportable." Each year many aliens, including resident aliens (so-called "green card holders") are ordered deported because they have been found guilty of committing any of a number of felonies. Another principle is the fact that an alien who would have been excludable at the tune entry, if relevant information was known by the inspector admitting that alien, then that alien becomes deportable after entry.
This is often the premise behind visa fraud in which an alien conceals a material fact that would have rendered him/her excludable and would have caused the application for the visa to be denied. While it is true that the Privacy Act protects United States citizens and resident aliens, it was never intended to protect non-resident aliens. All four terrorists discussed in this article were, in fact, non-immigrants. I am at a loss to understand why an intelligence organization would not share intelligence with those officials both in the law enforcement community as well as in the State Department, to be able to appropriately act on the intelligence that they collected. The visa process can help to secure our borders if relevant information is provided to the visa issuing officials who are charged with this critical responsibility.
We certainly cannot change what has happened in the past, but why aren't we doing those things that are essential to better protect our nation now?
Posted by Andrew Cochran at 11:14 AM Permalink