How many of Saddam Hussein's sleeper terrorists are waiting dormant in the United States to retaliate against us when the war on Iraq begins?
The Bush administration has begun to monitor Iraqis inside our country to identify potential domestic terrorist threats posed by sympathizers of the Baghdad regime, according to the New York Times. But while the new intelligence program is tracking thousands of Iraqi citizens and Iraqi-Americans with dual citizenship who are attending our universities or working at private corporations, there is no indication what federal authorities are doing to locate the untold numbers of illegal aliens from Iraq who have streamed across our open borders.
More than 115,000 people from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries are here illegally. Some 6,000 Middle Eastern men who have defied deportation orders remain on the loose. And an international crime ring, led by Iraqi native George Tajirian, demonstrates the scope of the alarming problem of potential terrorists pressing at our southern gate.
Tajirian's ring guided aliens from all over the world into the United States — usually across the Rio Grande or through El Paso, Texas, checkpoints — and arranged transportation and lodging for them once inside. According to federal prosecutors, Tajirian charged up to $15,000 a head — chump change for deep-pocketed terrorist enterprises. During Tajirian's trial, which resulted in a 13-year prison sentence, prosecutors introduced evidence that Tajirian was responsible for smuggling individuals with known ties to subversive or terrorist organizations as well as individuals with known criminal histories.
All told, law enforcement officials believe Tajirian and his Mexican collaborator, Angel Molina,may have smuggled more than 1,000 Middle Eastern aliens across the Southwest frontier. The whereabouts of many of the smugglees remains unknown.
So far, Saddam and his Iraqi henchmen have refrained from direct, conventional terrorist attacks on American soil. But as Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director John McLaughlin recently noted: "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions. Such terrorism might involve conventional means, as with Iraq's unsuccessful attempt at a terrorist offensive in 1991, or [conventional biological weapons]."
And yet, our borders remain wide open to infiltrators who may be toting more than suntan lotion and disposable cameras in their luggage. Among the few smugglers who have been caught in the past year:
In late May 2002, federal agents arrested two Egyptian nationals for allegedly trying to smuggle illegal Middle Eastern immigrants into New Jersey by way of Mexico. For a fee of $8,000, court documents say, the suspected smuggling ring flew customers on tourist visas to Brazil, then sent them to Guatemala, through Mexico, and finally across the Southwest border into America.
Just last month, a D.C. jury convicted Mohammed Hussein Assadi of smuggling Iraqis into the United States through Cali, Colombia, Ecuador, and other locations in South America. Assadi supplied illegal alien Iraqis with stolen and altered European passports and round-trip airline tickets to the U.S. in exchange for up to $8,000 per person.
These Iraqi smugglees purchased documents at a commercial vendor in Northern Iraq called the "Market of Passports," which they used to travel through Turkey and Ecuador into Colombia. According to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office, Assadi instructed the aliens to destroy the fraudulent passports and tickets while en route to America and to surrender to U.S. immigration authorities without disclosing their true place of origin. The scheme relied on smug knowledge of our government's "catch and release" policy for illegal aliens who are freed pending deportation proceedings — a policy that remains in place today.
"There is simply no way to know all those who illegally entered the United States through this defendant's efforts," Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Ingersoll stated in a memorandum to the court.
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is busy building light beacons and water stations for illegal aliens from around the world penetrating our country from the south, and the Bush White House is preparing to reward illegal border-crossers from Mexico with "earned legalization."
Our border insanity continues.
Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and the author of "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" (Regnery).