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Do U.S. Policies On Travel Make ISIS Infiltration A Major Threat?

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Unread 09.03.14, 03:52 AM
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Do U.S. Policies On Travel Make ISIS Infiltration A Major Threat?

09.02.14 09:01 PM

In a disturbing continuance of some federal officials’ refusal to believe that the Islamic State terrorists are bent on establishing a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused Tuesday to say whether the passports of Americans confirmed to be fighting alongside the terrorists had been revoked.

Last week, reports emerged that government officials are aware of as many as 300 people with U.S. passports who could be fighting under the ISIS flag in Iraq and Syria.

“We know that there are several hundred American passport holders running around with ISIS in Syria or Iraq,” an unidentified senior U.S. official told the Washington Times. “It’s hard to tell whether or not they’re in Syria or moved to Iraq.”

Concerns about American citizens being radicalized by ISIS were inflamed on the heels of reports that American citizens have been identified among ISIS fighters killed in the Middle East.

Even as the threat of radicalized Americans traveling freely appears very real, the State Department officials can’t seem to decide one way or another (or at least they won’t say if they have) if ISIS is a threat to the U.S. homeland.

On Tuesday, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to tell reporters whether the passports of Americans known to be fighting with ISIS terrorists had been revoked.

Last week, Psaki claimed that her agency has made a top priority of dealing with ISIS-affiliated individuals “who have Western passports, who are able to gain access whether it’s the United States or other allies in western Europe.”

This week, however, Psaki informed reporters that keeping U.S. passport holders with known ties to ISIS out of the country is not simple as it sounds because of legal requirements mandating that the passports be revoked on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s not as black and white as that,” Psaki said when asked if passports of ISIS cohorts had been revoked. “We [State Department] can revoke passports for a number of reasons.”

If Psaki is correct about one thing, it’s that current U.S. policies involving passports and visas make understanding the full-scale threat of ISIS infiltration of the U.S. very difficult.

Visa waiver programs that make it easy for people with passports from 38 different Western nations to travel to the U.S. could make it much easier for ISIS to operate in the country undetected. During a recent interview on CNN, House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said that as many as 3,000 ISIS members could currently hold qualifying passports.

“The numbers vary,” Thornberry continued. “I don’t know the exact number, 2,000 to 3,000, say, have Western passports. It only takes a handful, as we saw on 9/11, to do enormous damage.”

Last week, Representative Mike Rodgers (R-Mich.) similarly warned that ISIS militants are “one plane ticket away from U.S. shores.”

“One of the problems is it’s going unabated for nearly two years, and that draws people from Britain, across Europe, even the United States to go and join the fight,” Rogers said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Unfortunately, even if the State Department were able to say definitively whether it had revoked potential terrorists’ passports and closed visa loopholes, the U.S. would likely remain vulnerable due to complacency at other levels of government.

ABC reported Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security has lost track of more than 6,000 foreign nationals who entered the nation on student visas.

From the report:
ABC News found that immigration officials have struggled to keep track of the rapidly increasing numbers of foreign students coming to the U.S. — now in excess of one million each year. The immigration agency’s own figures show that 58,000 students overstayed their visas in the past year. Of those, 6,000 were referred to agents for follow-up because they were determined to be of heightened concern.

“They just disappear,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. “They get the visas and they disappear.”

Coburn said since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, 26 student visa holders have been arrested in the U.S. on terror-related charges.

Tightening up the student visa program was one of the major recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, after it was determined that the hijacker who flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hani Hanjour, had entered the U.S. on a student visa but never showed up for school.

That, coupled with lax immigration policies along the U.S.’s southern border has led some observers to conclude that a terror attack on scale with the 9/11 tragedy is imminent.

The post Do U.S. Policies On Travel Make ISIS Infiltration A Major Threat? appeared first on Personal Liberty.

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