Why police and intel alone won’t work, part n

Immigration Law as Anti-Terror Tool

I know I shouldn’t keep getting worked up over Washington Post headlines, but I frequent the site to keep tabs on my beloved Redskins and sometimes I just can’t help myself.

The article opens with a breath-taking account of the SWAT-team arrest of Hasan Khalil.

Khalil’s arrest is part of a broad anti-terrorism effort being waged with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Some are ultimately found to have no terrorism ties, officials acknowledge.

Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have also used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups.

I’ve got two immediate observations about this passage. First, the story says that “more than 500” suspects have come under scrutiny, but that “some” of them have not been found to have ties to terrorism. Excuse me, but for this to mean anything to me, I need a ballpark idea of how many out of 500 “some” is. If it’s 495, then perhaps a review of procedures is in order. But “some” means 50, that’s good enough for me. I’m sure that some (no pun intended) will wring their hands over the wrongful investigation of 50 innocent Muslims, but HELLO, THAT MEANS 450 OTHERS WERE GOOD ARRESTS.

Secondly, another popular story these days is about the poor track record that prosecutors have against terrorism suspects. We know that it’s going to be tough to stop terrorists this way, despite calls for a legal solution rather than a military solution. So why shouldn’t we be getting them with something that will stick?

Reading more of the story, you will note that critics of the strategy don’t claim that the charges are false. They just don’t like that they’re being charged with things that others are getting away with. Well, if we can’t nab all the illegal immigrants, why don’t we at least try to nab the ones that, if you play the percentages, are more likely to blow shit up?

This is an anti-terrorism effort fought largely behind the scenes, in the murky world of intelligence and informers, often barely visible in the court files of those charged.

Isn’t this exactly what critics of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have been calling for? Increased law enforcement and intel operations to root out the bad guys? (I know the sorts calling for this type of policy wouldn’t actually call the bad guys ‘bad guys’, but you know what I mean…)

But whenever something is done through law enforcement or secret agent stuff, it’s reported as if it’s just more victimization of people by the big bad government.

The story goes into depth on the account of Waheeda Tehseen, a Pakistani woman eventually deported after she declined to become an informant for the FBI.

Muslim activists say cases such as Tehseen’s show that the government is scouring the immigration papers of Arabs and Muslims it considers suspicious.

“They see people they want to get, [and] they look in their records until they find something they can get them on,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Gee. Can you freaking believe that? The government is “scouring the immigration papers of Arabs and Muslims it considers suspicious”? No way.

Maybe that Department of Homeland Defense is actually worth some of that money we spend on it.

Another reason that immigration charges are sometimes used against suspects is that it means classified information contained in the terrorism investigation won’t appear in court, potentially alerting others under similar investigations. And other things may preclude a conviction on terrorism charges.

For example, ICE agents alleged in federal court in Alexandria that investor Soliman S. Biheiri had done business through the mid-1990s with a leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which is on the U.S. terrorism list. But the statute of limitations had expired.

Prosecutors instead charged Biheiri with putting false information on his citizenship application. Biheiri, an Egyptian immigrant, has denied any improper dealings with Hamas.

But you see, it doesn’t matter what you say about your dealings (or lack thereof) with Hamas. That’s not what you’re being charged with. Let’s take another look at that citizenship application, shall we?

Back to Hasan Khalil:

Khalil said he was visited over a year ago by FBI agents who asked whether he knew of any threats to the United States and whether he had ties to Hezbollah, or Party of God, the armed Shiite Muslim movement that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group.

I’m thinking that it’s more than just the U.S. Government that considers Hezbollah a terrorist group. Seriously.

I think this article was written from the perspective that this policy is a bad policy, but the facts, even as presented in the article itself, don’t back that assertion up. If one group or another feels its being unfairly targeted by terrorism investigators, maybe they should do something about the reason for that targeting.

Al Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion. Not what he deserved, to be sure. But good enough.


  1. When the Department of Homeland Security was first created, it was suggested that all immigration work be taken away from the Department of State and given to Homeland Security. State has done an awful job and has always been more concerned about not hurting people’s feeling than keeping out illegal immigration or even terrorists. Colin Powell fought this idea and won unfortunately. Maybe it’s time to reconsider. I doubt Rice would fight this idea nearly as hard.

  2. Here’s something to think about: who cares if they’ve got ties to terrorism? If they’re in violation of thie immigration laws, they should be deported anyway. If they actually are terrorists, they can be deported to Gitmo or handed over to their home country’s security forces (assuming that country is working with us.)