On Jan. 25, 2000, terrorist expert Steven Emerson testified at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on "International Terrorism and Immigration Policy."
Re-reading Emerson's testimony is chilling. But it also is infuriating because Emerson laid out chapter and verse how terrorists enter the U.S.
Emerson virtually predicted the attacks.
In a 35-page document, Emerson listed the various reasons for the emergence of terrorist groups in the U.S.:
- An ability to operate under our political radar screen.
- An ability to hide under mainstream religious identification.
- Loopholes in immigration procedures.
- Ease of penetration of borders.
- Limitations on FBI and other agencies performing law enforcement functions including Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs Service.
- More sophisticated compartmentalization of terrorist cells around loosely structured terrorist movements.
- Exploitation of freedoms of religion and speech.
- Exploitation of nonprofit fund-raising and lack of government scrutiny.
- Increasing cross-fertilization and mutual support provided by members of different Islamic terrorist groups.
- Ease of ability of student visas from countries harboring or supporting terrorism.
- Failures by universities to keep track of foreign students and their spouses.
- Protection afforded by specially created educational programs.
- Ease of visa fraud and the intervention of false credentials, from passports, driver's licenses, credit cards and Social Security numbers.
- Blowback from the anti-Soviet majhadeen that the U.S. supported in Afghanistan.
By now, these reasons are painfully familiar to us.
But one other item appeared on Emerson's list that hasn't gotten as much play: The absence of a diligent media.
Where were the journalists during seven years between the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the attacks of Sept. 11? Using hindsight, plenty of clues were out there for the dedicated reporter.
Instead of seeing the big story unfolding right before their eyes, reporters were busily turning out boilerplate features about the importance of driver's licenses for illegal aliens, the cruelty of denying in-state college tuition rates to illegal aliens and the multiple benefits of amnesty and/or guest worker programs.
Generously sprinkled in among the cookie-cutter stories were the anecdotal tales about the individual successes of someone who entered the U.S. illegally.
Rarely, if ever, did you read a balanced immigration story. And you never, ever read an anecdotal story about an illegal alien whose life of crime put him behind bars.
Unprofessional stories appeared in major newspapers throughout the country. How could we expect an intelligent, in-depth story about visa fraud?
Visa and asylum fraud is rampant. The INS cannot keep track of anyone who enters the country. But reporters were much more likely to criticize the INS for supposed "bureaucratic unfairness" in an individual case than they were to expose a system that presented a major threat to Americans.
An expose of visa fraud or document falsification for subversive purposes is too politically incorrect for the major media to touch with a 10-foot pole.
The media pushed forward the politically correct agenda to the end. In the Sept. 10 issue of Newsweek magazine, three strongly pro-open borders pieces appeared.
The first was a three-page story by Alan Zarembo about "Ana," an illegal immigrant living in New York who has a successful laundry business. The second, by Jonathan Alter, "Crossing the Next Frontier," sang the praises of open borders. And the third, "Torture based on Sex Alone: Do Women Have Special Asylum Claims?" (The answer, according to writer Anna Quindlen, is yes - as if you had any doubt.)
When newspapers and magazines are convinced that immigration is good and good alone, and that the only thing better would be more immigration, how can anyone expect a tough piece about some of the realities of our flawed policies?
In the meantime, the Bush administration continues its "danse macabre."
No mention has been made of closing the borders - or at least tightening them up. And we are just being to hear the first whispers about "maybe" having to do something about how visas are granted.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to her enormous credit, has suggested that student visas be more closely scrutinized.
Congress must be responsive to the will of the people. The canned speeches written by paid political hacks and delivered with long, pregnant pauses aren't enough. We're looking for real leadership on the tough issues.
Does the newly created Office of Homeland Security comfort you? Are you sleeping better knowing the curbside check-in is no longer permitted? Or would you feel better if you knew that no new student, business and work visas would be issued until the war on terrorism is won?
If you were a terrorist and knew that airport security had been tightened but that the borders were wide open, where would you head?
No need to wonder about the answer to that question. An Associated Press story on Sept. 22 reported that other-than-Mexican detentions at the border were up 42 percent from last year. Many of those were Central and South Americans, but earlier in the week, 10 Egyptians were apprehended at Douglas, Ariz.
The U.S. can bomb Afghanistan to dust, but terrorism will remain. In some bizarre thought process understood only in Washington, D.C., the possibility of tightening up immigration laws paralyzes most politicians.
No matter how you slice it, the Sept. 11 attacks occurred because the U.S. welcomed terrorists with open arms. And with 11 million "out-of-status" aliens (as the journalists love to call them) still running loose, maybe locating them should be a priority.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.