Some members of this network are recent immigrants; others have been American citizens for years. Some are laundering money from abroad through seemingly innocuous charities and mosques. Some have even infiltrated our military as Arabic translators and Muslim chaplains.
Finding and stopping these conspiracies will require drastic changes in the way Americans think about terrorism. Kushner's proposals will spark a lively but essential debate about homeland security, civil liberties, immigration, law enforcement, and our nation's most basic values and ideals.
The Fifth Column
Near the end of the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola's army was advancing on Madrid when someone asked him which of his four columns would capture the city. "The Fifth Column," he replied, meaning the rebel's militant supporters inside the capital whose efforts had already undermined it from within.
On April 28, 1999, a Lebanese man, "KM," entered the United States legally on a nonimmigrant visa that was valid for two years. He found work in New York City on the loading dock of a clothing manufacturer's warehouse, earning about $400 a week in cash. Twenty months later, in December of 2000, KM was stopped by U.S. Customs officials at JFK Airport trying to board a flight back to Lebanon with more than $75,000 in cash, checks, and money orders concealed in his luggage. He was arrested and charged with failing to file a Currency Transaction Report.
KM told the investigating officers that the money had been given to him by a group of friends to bring to their families back home. Soon after, a dozen "friends" living in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Long Island signed sworn affidavits that the money was theirs, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to almost $15,000.
Affidavits notwithstanding, an Equifax credit report done by investigators revealed that KM actually had over a dozen active credit lines totaling more than $20,000, and had opened under a different spelling of his name an additional sixteen credit lines together worth almost $40,000. Investigators also found that KM had been working here since 1992, long before the date of entry on his current visa, but had never filed a U.S. tax return. Further, a subsequent search of his apartment uncovered two Lebanese passports with different passport numbers, which KM had used to enter the United States, and bank checks belonging to "AC," a Middle Eastern man who had also used Lebanese passports with different numbers to enter the country on two occasions.
Investigators at AC's residence found KM's name on the mailbox of one of the apartments at that address - the same address listed in documents with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS) as home to KM's relative "AM," who confidential sources identified as a member of Amal, the radical Lebanese Shiite militia whose splinter group Hezbollah carried out the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.
AM had been arrested and convicted for grand larceny in 1994, charged with making $10,000 in fraudulent purchases from retail stores. He was sentenced in 1995 to just five years' probation, from which he received an early discharge in 1998. Why wasn't AM deported? Incredibly, he obtained U.S. citizenship while his case was pending. A 2002 confidential memo from the U.S. Probation Department (see appendix 1) notes: "It is unknown if AM reported this pending arrest to INS."
Profiling KM and AM: both had opened numerous lines of credit and kept several checking accounts with zero balances and minimal deposits. Both report meager earnings. Both had been "identified by U.S. Intelligence sources as linked to extremist groups." In addition, a relative of KM and AM who lived in their building was observed going over documents and checks with a woman in a parked car and later meeting her for less than five minutes at a Middle Eastern restaurant "where an exchange of documents was suspected." The confidential memo concluded the lifestyle of both AM and KM "is consistent with extremist groups."
So what happened to them?
AM is on probation after serving time for conspiracy to launder the proceeds of narcotics trafficking, which he said he did to get money for tickets to Lebanon to visit his family. A federal judge sentenced him to twenty-one months in prison and a $100 fine.
He now lives on Long Island.
For KM's failure to file a currency report, he was put on probation. He then filed for permanent residence based on marriage to his wife, from whom he is separated. One month after 9/11, the INS issued him an Employment Authorization Card.
He now lives and works in New York City.
Both are examples of Militant Islam's secret terror network in the United States.
If you thought 9/11 changed things, think again.
For all the time and money we've spent in the past three years on "security," Americans are no safer. Government agencies are still sloppy, negligent, or worse. For years, federal judges have been probating illegal aliens who are "known or suspected terrorists" back onto our streets. But federal probation officers can't report suspicions of terrorist activity from the felons they supervise because there's no one to report it to. At the same time, a drug worth billions of dollars a year is being smuggled into this country by a Middle Eastern-African-British network, but no one is investigating it - or its links to terrorism. The USCIS Asylum Offices get applications from Middle Easterners who testify to involvement with terrorism, but they can't reject them because the FBI won't return their phone calls.
Don't believe it? Sorry, the following quotes from a decade of documents (see appendix) say it's true:
From the Chief Deputy U.S. Probation Officer of the Eastern District of New York:
"Additionally, our officers occasionally supervise both known or suspected terrorists who are on parole or probation."
From an official of a USCIS Asylum Office:
"Many of our applicants testify to having committed terrorist acts. Sometimes we have reason to believe they committed such acts even when they do not so testify."
From a 2002 Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence brief:
Individuals of East African and Middle Eastern descent are most often responsible for the import, distribution, and use of this drug. Customs seizures have risen to over seventy tons in 2002, with 2003 total sales of over $1.5 billion.
From a document from the Security Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia:
"I have found that there is a lack of up to date information in the Marine Corps regarding terrorism, which has forced me to go to outside sources to perform my duties."
I have been a terrorism analyst for more than thirty years and have advised numerous government and law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Customs Service. I have also been a special consultant to the U.S. Probation Department on matters related to criminal investigations, intelligence, and terrorism.
During most of my career I was frustrated by the lack of political will to expose what was happening in America. The government ignored terrorism during the 1990s, giving our enemies time to grow capable of planning and executing the suicide bombings of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Long before 9/11, I warned of Militant Islam and the secret Islamic network operating in America. I told them to go after terrorism at a time when stamping it out would have easy. I reiterated the threat as an expert witness in the terrorist action on the U.S. embassy bombing trial. I wrote about it in the expert's report for litigation stemming from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial. I warned them right up to the morning of 9/11 when America changed forever.
It's important to remember that the people who died in the World Trade Center weren't at war, they were at work. That's where terrorism hits - at our jobs and in our homes. We have a right to know what has to be done to protect us where we raise our families. We have a right to know what's going on right in our own backyards. We don't want to cringe when the electricity goes out, or be afraid every minute we're in the air. We need a fresh voice and a new look at the Holy War being waged against us. We need our elected officials to spell out what they're going to do and to be held accountable for doing it.
The following is from a 1994 article I wrote for the Journal of the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts:
It is now time for law-enforcement intelligence personnel to rethink their understanding of the Middle Eastern terrorist. It is the duty of every Muslim to practice what is good and to forbid what is evil. All Muslims take this dictate of the Holy Koran as an immutable source of Islamic doctrine. But the new terrorists will use this Koranic dictate to further their own agenda. Count on them to take action; understand that they will.
Ten years after that article appeared, Brian Jenkins, a senior adviser at the RAND Corporation and an authority on political violence, reported to the 9/11 Commission on March 31, 2003:
In sum, the United States will remain the principal target of al Qaeda. We will confront individual jihadists, small local conspiracies with or without foreign assistance, and potentially large-scale plots involving foreign-based teams.
Despite a decade of warnings, Militant Islam still took us by surprise on 9/11. Three years later, our federal agencies still aren't making the connections and doing what's necessary. Law-enforcement agencies don't understand the nature of Militant Islam. The threat of a terrorist nuclear event inside America is undiminished. The FBI and the CIA joining forces isn't going to happen anytime soon, and getting the Department of Homeland Security up to speed is going to take a lot longer than anyone expected.
How do I know? It is my job to talk about the state of America with those who know it best. In March 2004, I gave a lecture in Washington, D.C., to officers of the Joint Special Operations University, located at Hurlburt Field in Florida. According to an August 30, 2000, Air Force public affairs release, these officers are "at points in their careers where they will assume staff and command roles in the joint arena and will inevitably deal directly with decision makers." I had a late dinner with a group of senior military officers, and one of the highest-ranking Army officers attached to DHS told me point-blank: "It won't be until 2006 at best that we'll have a Homeland Security Department even somewhat functional."
I spend a lot of time talking to people - not just government and military officials, but street cops and probation officers, too. My sources must feel free to talk to me, so my allegations are sometimes supported by unnamed sources. My guidelines for anonymity are: I will not reveal the identity of sources dealing with national security who would face serious consequences if exposed, or sources who would face legal jeopardy or loss of livelihood for speaking to me. I will not reveal the identity of military or government officials who, as a matter of policy, do not speak for attribution. My sources must have direct knowledge of the information they tell me. I will specify how I received confidential documents, unless doing so would jeopardize law-enforcement officers or ongoing investigations.
It seems so simple to most of us - catch the bad guys, punish the guilty - but elected officials keep coming up with such complicated solutions that even they don't seem convinced. Maybe it's a good idea to have another high-profile commission trying to figure out who dropped the ball and let 9/11 happen. God knows the families of the victims have a right to know. But those who claim we have to study history to avoid its mistakes weren't students of General George S. Patton, who said, "Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more." President Bush has done well in that area, carrying the fight to Afghanistan and Iraq and thereby eliminating two terrorist states. Yet, for all the time and money and American lives spent since 9/11, is America really safer? The answer is no. We are all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
There is still time to fix things. America is better at crash programs than any nation in the world. It's as simple as this. If we wake up to the menace of Militant Islam we can defeat it. If we fail to recognize the battle for America is in America, we could lose it all.
I chair a department at a university, but I quickly learned when dealing with terrorists that death is not academic. Terrorists kill people. They pull triggers, plant bombs, and blast holes in the New York City skyline.
In my thirty years in counterterrorism, I have never been more worried about my country.