According to several Immigration and Naturalization Service sources, the assistant district director for INS investigations in New York City, Dan Molerio, and two FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officials were placed on administrative leave late last week in the wake of yet another post-9/11 INS scandal.
My sources close to the investigation say that Molerio and two JTTF officials, Rich Coraggio and Robin McWilliams, were suspended last Thursday when it was discovered that INS had recently granted American citizenship to a known terrorist under investigation by the JTTF.
Sources say the unidentified Middle Eastern male — now a fellow American — appears on terrorist watch lists and is a member of the Hezbollah terrorist organization
Despite numerous calls from adjudicators in Newark, N.J., handling the alleged terrorist's naturalization case, the FBI and Molerio's office reportedly did not respond to requests to turn over the individual's "alien file." The A-file includes biographical and status information about the alien, such as name, date of birth, alien number, country of birth, dates of INS actions, and other investigative data. It is unclear why Molerio and the JTTF did not turn over the file, or why Molerio neglected to order the adjudications branch in Newark to put the naturalization process for the purported Hezbollah member on hold while the FBI investigated him. (Calls to the INS district investigations office in New York City seeking comment were not returned.)
Why did INS adjudicators in Newark proceed with the naturalization process without viewing the alleged terrorist's file? According to INS sources in both Newark and New York City, it's standard operating procedure. Adjudicators remain under intense pressure to meet naturalization "quotas." Job-performance ratings and cash bonuses are based on the number of naturalization approvals processed by INS employees.
Rather than wait for the alleged terrorist's A-file to be turned over by the NYC office, INS adjudicators in Newark created a new, incomplete file (referred to as a temporary or "t" file) for the alien and granted him citizenship.
THE CONTINUING CORRUPTION OF CITIZENSHIP
INS officials will no doubt spin this debacle as an isolated "snafu." But the INS's lax attitude toward granting citizenship to undeserving candidates and foreign menaces is nothing new. A handful of convicted terrorist plotters over the past decade gained citizenship through fraudulent marriages, including African-embassy-bombing conspirator Khalid Abu al Dahab, who obtained U.S. citizenship after marrying three different American women and 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator El Sayyid A. Nosair, who wed Karen Ann Mills Sweeney to avoid deportation for overstaying his visa.
In addition, tens of thousands of naturalized Americans work and live among us who never submitted to criminal background checks. Tens of thousands more obtained citizenship despite having criminal records that should have disqualified them. Countless others obtained citizenship by cheating on their citizenship tests or by bribing corrupt INS officials. Still others may have obtained citizenship because of the agency's sloppy handling of office supplies. Earlier this year, for example, a used-car salesman scouting through a garbage dump discovered a discarded INS file cabinet filled with several hundred blank certificates of United States citizenship.
The most-egregious example of laxity: the $95 million, taxpayer-funded Citizenship USA program under the Clinton-Gore administration. In that infamous episode, Vice President Al Gore pushed the INS to reduce the wait time between application and naturalization from two years down to six months in key states before the 1996 elections, presumably because he thought most of the aliens granted citizenship would vote for Democrats. The only way the INS could meet the expedited schedule was by forgoing criminal background checks.
The Clinton-Gore administration's wholesale giveaway of our precious birthright of citizenship resulted in the naturalization of thousands of criminal aliens. Of the 1.3 million immigrants who benefited from Clinton-Gore's Citizenship USA push, an estimated 180,000 did not undergo any fingerprint checks for criminal records. In addition, Justice Department investigators found that more than 80,000 aliens had fingerprint checks that generated criminal records, but were naturalized anyway.
Thanks to the sheer ineptitude or gross negligence of INS officials in New York City and Newark, a man known to federal officials as a Hezbollah terrorist has now joined the ranks of undeserving Americans.
Is it too much to ask our government to protect our birthright from those who want to destroy it? So much for homeland security in the post-September 11 world.