Lessons Still Unlearned from Worst Attack on U.S. since Pearl Harbor

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By Michael W. Cutler

Mike is a Senior Fellow with CAPS and retired INS Senior Special Agent. During his 30-year career with the INS he rotated through all of the squads within the Investigations Branch. He was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the DEA and for 10 years was assigned, as an INS Senior Special Agent, to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. He has testified at numerous hearings conducted by committees and subcommittees of the House and Senate and provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

He hosts "The Michael Cutler Hour" on USA Talk Radio Fridays at 7 p.m. (EST) and is frequently interviewed by broadcast media on various aspects of immigration issues, especially the nexus to national security.

The writer's views are his own.

September 9, 2016

September 11, 2016, will mark the 15th anniversary of the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. Since then, the threat of terrorism both in the U.S. and elsewhere has not diminished but has, in fact, increased.

Lessons that should have been learned by our political leaders, at all levels of government, have either not been learned or forgotten.

The 9/11 Commission identified multiple failures of the immigration system. This included the process by which aliens are issued visas and the lack of effective immigration law enforcement from within the U.S. interior, as well as the ability of terrorists to obtain identity documents. These were all contributing factors that enabled 19 hijackers to savagely attack our nation 15 years ago, after they had entered and embedded themselves here as they went about their deadly preparations.

These immigration failures were also noted by the 9/11 Commission with regard to other terrorists who entered the U.S. prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Today, in the heat of the Presidential election campaigns, journalists and politicians insist that we must be compassionate in dealing with unknown millions of illegal aliens who entered the U.S. without inspection.

That is to say, they came into the country surreptitiously, evading the inspections process that is supposed to prevent the entry of criminals and terrorists and is conducted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at America’s 325 ports of entry scattered along our nation’s land borders, coastline and international airports.

Open borders immigration anarchists use the term “undocumented” to describe aliens who enter without inspection. This is an obvious Orwellian effort to minimize the true nature of the threats posed by foreign nationals who enter the U.S. surreptitiously. However, our immigration laws are clear about mandatory requirements for those seeking U.S. entry and how they are to present themselves for inspection by CBP officials (see CBP website).

The 9/11 Commission further noted that terrorists needed passports and other identity documents in order to successfully enter various countries as they carried out their missions that ultimately resulted in deadly terror attacks. The documents may have been counterfeit or alterations of authentic documents. Or, they may have been documents acquired by committing fraud. Ultimately, they enabled terrorists to acquire lawful immigration status and official identity documents.

Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Commission Report contained this paragraph:

For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points. In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.

As well, that chapter of the 9/11 Commission Report contained the following statement:

All but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of U.S. identification document, some by fraud. Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities.

The notion of providing millions of illegal aliens with lawful status without the ability to conduct interviews or field investigations in an effort to demonstrate “compassion” ignores the fact that our borders and our immigration laws are America’s first line of defense and last line of defense.

Compromising elements of our national security in the name of “compassion” is irrational and extremely dangerous. Providing terrorists and criminals with lawful status and the identity documents that are then issued to them enables them to see in our kindness a weakness that imperils our national security and public safety. This also makes a mockery of our legal immigration system that, each year, provides approximately one million foreign nationals with lawful immigrant status, immediately placing them on the path to U.S. citizenship.

True compassion requires safeguarding America’s national security and the lives of our citizens and, indeed, all who are present in the U.S. On September 11, 2001, American citizens and foreign nationals alike were slaughtered in the U.S. by terrorists who gamed the immigration system.

As playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

We must demand of our political leaders that Shaw’s lament not become America’s epitaph.

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