Response to ‘Terrorism Scholars: Blown Case Sped Up Arrests’

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I have attached an article below that appears in today’s edition of the Washington Times that deals with the ongoing case of the three terrorism suspects who have been arrested by the FBI in Colorado and New York.

I do not know if the headline of this article is accurate but in reading the news report I noticed a statement made by a source that discussed tactical issues in this case and decided to focus on that analysis.

The source that was identified in the article is Jeffrey F. Addicott, a professor and director of the center for terrorism law at St. Mary’s University’s law school in San Antonio, Texas. I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on the use of the immigration laws and other statutes that do not necessarily relate to terrorism, per se as a means of taking terrorists into custody.

The use of immigration law violations as an investigative tool does not mean that somehow law enforcement officials have failed but may mean that the law enforcement agencies involved in a case involving terrorism, large scale narcotics trafficking or other crimes that do not have a clear nexus with immigration law violations provides law enforcement agencies with a highly effective tool to take individuals into custody who are involved with terrorism or other crimes not directly associated with immigration law violations as a means of not alerting the other members of a terror cell or narcotics trafficking organization that they are being targeted for investigation because of their involvement with those other crimes.

There are times when it becomes apparent that a member of a terrorist or criminal organization is about to leave the United States and the determination is made to take him (her) into custody to make certain that they will not be able to evade law enforcement. I have come to use the term “transnational criminal” to describe an alien who is present in the United States and participating in criminal activities. Such alien criminals have an advantage that criminals who were born in the United States do not have.

These transnational criminals can easily flee from the United States to evade their competitors and also American law enforcement authorities. They know that the likelihood is quite slim that they will be extradited and made to stand trial if they can leave the United States for the relative safety of their home countries or so other country that generally does not cooperate with American law enforcement officials.

The ability of transnational criminals to leave the United States provides them with a sort of “trap door” that they can escape through. When such a criminal is apparently poised to evade the “long arm of the law” in the United States it may be determined to be advantageous to take that criminal into custody on any criminal charge to thwart his flight from the United States. Often immigration criminal law violations expose such alien criminals to years behind bars inside the United States. This often provides law enforcement officers ample time to perfect criminal prosecutions for other crimes while the target of the investigation sits in a jail cell.

Additionally, as the professor notes, it is often easier to charge a criminal with an immigration law violation rather than a charge involving terrorism. Crimes such as visa fraud. Unlawful reentry after deportation or illegal alien in possession of a firearm to name but three such felonies carry relatively hefty penalties and can thus also be used to thwart an imminent crime or terrorist attack.

Taking a criminal off the street on an immigration-related criminal offense may also provide law enforcement with the opportunity to “flip” the criminal alien, that is to say, convince him to become a confidential informant in the primary investigation of his organization involved with terrorism or other criminal offenses without making it obvious to the other members of the criminal organization that they are being investigated.

The point is that the creative use of immigration criminal and administrative statutes can be vital to effective law enforcement efforts to combat terrorism and serious criminal activities being carried out or planned inside the United States.

In order for this to happen, however, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) needs an adequate number of special agents. The number of such special agents is, however, woefully inadequate. ICE has an estimated 5,500 special agents for the entire United States of America. Many of those agents spend most, if not all of their time conducting investigations and enforcing laws that relate to customs and not immigration. As several of my former colleagues at ICE have told me on a number of occasions, “All too often ICE management is more concerned about counterfeit consumer goods than counterfeit passports!”

There is no official number as to how many ICE agents are assigned to enforcing the immigration laws but if there are, for argument sake 4,000 such agents, the this would represent slightly more than 10 % of the number of police officers that the NYPD has to enforce the laws for the city of New York!

Time and again we have heard about the need for a “troop surge” in Afghanistan. We have heard about the impact of the “troop surge” in Iraq and the attendant reduction in violence. The point is that the solution to these problems can be summed up by the simple phrase, “Boots on the ground.”

Our nation’s leaders have been gearing up for what they call, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” The only thing that would be “comprehensive about this ill-conceived program is that it would ultimately enable virtually every illegal alien in our country to be placed on the pathway to United States citizenship even though our officials would have no way of knowing anything significant about these illegal aliens. There would be no way of knowing their identities, their backgrounds or even how long they have been here!

I would like to make a counter proposal, especially in light of how essential effective immigration law enforcement is to national security and the safety of our citizens.

Rather than Comprehensive Immigration Reform or “CIR” I would propose a program I have come to refer to as “COMPILE” This is an acronym for “Comprehensive Immigration Law Enforcement!”

With hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens operating in our country and an unknown number of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers also hiding in plain sight in our country, the time has come for our nation to effectively deal with this menace to the well being of our nation and our citizens.

Several weeks ago I included a “Top Seven List” of the reasons that immigration law enforcement must be made a routine component of law enforcement efforts where criminal aliens are concerned.

Here is that list, once again:

Here are 7 important reasons why our government must hire many more special agents for ICE and incorporate an adequate number of those ICE special agents in the investigations of international criminal and terrorist organizations if those investigations are to be successful:

1. Access to immigration files to provide investigative leads when a criminal alien is being sought as a fugitive or suspect of a crime.

2. Access to an immigration file can also provide vital information to a judge when a criminal alien is arrested and the judge is attempting to set bail. The immigration file can provide evidence of risk of flight based on numerous identities, occasions when the defendant jumped bail in an immigration matter and failed to appear for a hearing. The file can also provide evidence of prior deportations. This could help to prevent those tragedies in which a criminal is arrested and then released on bail, only to commit another heinous crime.

3. If a plea bargain is being arranged, local and state prosecutors should work in close cooperation with federal immigration counsels to make certain that in the process of working out a plea-bargain arrangement that they don’t inadvertently eliminate a conviction that have would rendered the alien deportable.

4. Working cooperatively with ICE, it would be far easier for law enforcement agencies to cultivate informants. Informants are often essential to the successful investigation and prosecution of criminals and criminal organizations as well as terrorists and their associates. The immigration laws provide a huge “carrot and stick” to this end.

5. There are a number of laws that can be used to hammer criminal aliens under the federal code. For example, the penalty for an illegal alien in possession of a firearm carries a 10 year penalty. There are other such laws in the federal code that deal with the possession and use of false identity documents and for the crime of reentry after deportation. A criminal alien who is deported from the United States and then unlawfully reenters the United States is facing a maximum of 20 years in jail. Without the federal government being made aware of these violations of law, none of these penalties come into play.

6. When an alien is convicted of a crime, when state and local law enforcement authorities work in close coordination with federal immigration authorities, a detainer can be lodged to make certain that upon release from jail when his (her) sentence is completed, the criminal alien will be deported from the United States.

7. There are instances when it is advantageous to the investigation to arrest a key individual(s) without alerting other members of the criminal or terrorist organization he is part of, that they are being investigated as an organization. In such instances, it is often easy to find a violation of the immigration laws to enable those individuals to be arrested for administrative or criminal violations of the immigration law, thus not alerting their cohorts to the larger, on-going investigation.

Ignoring the effective enforcement of the immigration laws, especially when dealing with international criminal or terrorist organizations is tantamount to bringing a knife to a gun fight!

In less than two years each and every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection. In less than two years more than one third of the members of the United States Senate will have to face their constituents. They need to be reminded that they work for us, We the People!

However, 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! 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! You need to politely but pointedly, demand to know what they are doing to protect our nation. You need to ask them how they are protecting you and your families. You can also forward this commentary to them. 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!

Terrorism scholars: Blown case sped up arrests

by Ben Conery and Valerie Richardson

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Michael Cutler, a former Senior INS Investigator, an expert witness in more than a dozen Congressional Hearings is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an advisor to the ‘911 Families for a Secure America.’ He writes about the nexus between immigration and national security.