Monday, March 12, 2007
'Homegrown' jihadists in Britain welcomed without question in U.S.
Posted: March 12, 2007
WASHINGTON – While the U.S. scrutinizes visa requests from countries known as terrorist havens, a British intelligence revelation suggests "homegrown" European jihadists could pose a far greater threat both on the continent and in America, according to a new report in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.
The basis for that threat is the "Visa Waiver Program" between the U.S. and Great Britain.
The program allows anyone subject to the VWP to sidestep in-place security procedures that screen for terrorists.
British security officials have revealed there are some 200 cells involving more than 1,600 people. Many under surveillance have links back to al-Qaida in Pakistan.
"Through those links, al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale," a British security official said.
Last year, British authorities broke up a transatlantic plot by some 24 British citizens of Pakistani origin to detonate explosives carried on board several airliners traveling from the UK to the U.S.
Great Britain, however, is but one of 27 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas to enter the U.S.
The other countries under the Visa Waiver Program are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Countries under the VWP have some of Europe's largest populations of Muslims, many of whom have expressed dissatisfaction with their economic, political and social condition.
Some of these disaffected Muslims are seen as potential recruits for terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S.
European security experts are concerned with what they describe as a complex web of terrorists that stretches from the Balkans to Scandinavia.
France and Germany, two countries under the VWP, have the largest number of Muslims in Europe. Because of Iran's affinity for all-things German, for example, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah are present in many cities throughout Germany.
Terrorists from organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas, and Chechens or al-Qaida of non-Pakistani origin who are not on any existing security watch list, could slip into the U.S. virtually undetected. They could bypass the screening process and enter the U.S. as "sleepers" until given orders to act, according to the report.
In these countries, the security problem is compounded by liberal naturalization laws. Belgium, Sweden and Denmark, for example, allow a third country national to obtain citizenship and a VWP passport after as little as three years of residence.
Once in the U.S., a foreign visitor who has entered under VWP can make a short trip to Mexico or Canada and be readmitted into the U.S. under the VWP for the original admission period. In addition, VWP nationals residing in Mexico and Canada are generally exempt from requirements to show onward travel to other foreign destinations.
This prospect allows sleeper cells to move freely and meet with terrorist cells in Mexico or Canada to coordinate any attacks.
There has been considerable attention to concerns that terrorists can enter into the U.S. from Latin America virtually undetected to commit terrorist attacks on soft targets.
For those countries not subject to the VWP, incoming visitors must fill out a visa application to enter into the U.S. They then are subject to some 40 questions that can provide potentially useful intelligence and investigative leads.
If a person lies on the visa application, the questions would help uncover the deception and prompt an immediate denial of a visa.
Such leads also could target potential criminal or terrorist acts. In addition, it could help uncover possible drug trafficking or terrorist plots which carry maximum jail sentences of 25 years.
The visa system is regarded as a major help in alleviating the heavy burden on customs inspectors who must assess the credibility of foreign visitors to the U.S.
Under the VWP, however, incoming visitors would not be subject to those questions or close scrutiny under an existing layered security structure that now exists. Security experts agree that such security layering is essential to cross-check a person's credibility.
Leaders in the tourist and travel industry are some of the greatest opponents of doing away with the VWP, pointing to the inconvenience required to obtain visas.
According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, more than 15 million people in one year entered the U.S. under the VWP.
"Stolen passports from visa waiver countries are prized travel documents among terrorists, criminals and immigration law violators, creating an additional risk," the GAO report said. "While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has intercepted many fraudulent documents at U.S. ports of entry, DHS officials acknowledged that an undetermined number of inadmissible aliens may have entered the U.S. using a stolen or lost passport from a visa waiver country."
In addition, there are no safeguards under the VWP by which passports can be readily identified as fraudulent or stolen. To security experts, this is the greatest security problem with the VWP and is considered to pose a major security risk.
The GAO also identified several weaknesses with the VWP. Most citizens from VWP countries may enter the U.S. visa-free for up to 90 days. They thereby avoid security screening.
Within that period of time, however, terrorists can perform their operation and disappear.
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