Valentine: Profiling can help save America

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are we ever going to learn? The recent rash of terrorist arrests around the country is a jolting reminder of just how lax our borders are and how we're still too eager not to offend when it comes to allowing visitors into this country.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi is an illegal immigrant from Jordon. He was arrested in a plot to blow up a 60-story building in Dallas. What he didn't know was that his cohorts in the plot were FBI agents. Had the FBI not uncovered Smadi's intentions it would have been a very sad day in Dallas. Smadi told one of the undercover agents that he had come to the United States to commit "Jihad for the sake of God."

The question is how does someone like this get into the United States in the first place? It's unclear whether Smadi came to this country legally or illegally. Federal officials are mum on that point citing confidentiality in visa records. What we do know is that Smadi had an Alien Registration Number issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That means that Smadi should have been subjected to a background check either before or after he got here. Had one been conducted they would have found that Smadi did time in a Jordanian jail in 2004 for theft.

One would presume that a convicted thief from a Middle Eastern country would be prohibited from entering this country. If he were found to have entered the country illegally then that, in and of itself, should be grounds for deportation but certainly a criminal record would trigger an expulsion. What if the FBI had not gotten to him before some terrorists did? What if Smadi had actually been successful? That attack would surely have killed thousands? We dodged the bullet but how many more bullets are on the way?

In just one week U.S. officials broke up five terrorist plots in five different states. They say they're all unrelated and, materially, that may be so. However, they are certainly all related in the fact that they all involved radical Muslims. A national security analyst for CNN cautioned not to read too much into the plots. The link, says CNN analyst Peter Bergen, is "a feeling of exclusion from the American dream." Excuse me while I weep. Exclusion from the American dream? Most of these terrorists came to this country specifically to kill us. Don't go blaming us. It's nothing we've done. It's radical Muslim fundamentalism.

It is mind-boggling that after 9/11 we still are this lax about immigration -- legal and illegal. Common sense would tell you that you screen Middle Eastern men even more stringently than you do anyone else yet Smadi and some of the other would-be terrorists were on the radar of federal officials and were allowed to remain in this country. It's almost as if we're bending over backwards not to screen Middle Eastern men for fear we'll be accused of profiling. Profiling is exactly how you save lives.

Muslims held a big gathering in Washington recently as a day of unity and to prove to the rest of America that Islam is a religion of peace. One of the principle organizers was part of the legal team that represented one of the men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. A Muslim imam was one of those arrested in the recent terrorist plots.

Islam may be a religion of peace but too many of its followers end up being terrorists. If we ignore that simple fact we're asking for another 9/11 all over again.