DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY COMPROMISES US NATIONAL SECURITY
June 23, 2008
press release that has been issued by the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) is yet another example of how our leaders
are willing to compromise national security for trade and diplomatic
It is remarkable that in announcing plans to include Bulgaria in the exclusive Visa Waiver Club, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff made the following statement:
"We have the ambition to do our common work until hopefully the end of the year, in order to come to the next stage, will be a memoranda. And I must say that we have all of the preconditions. Of course, I can mention that the number of rejections for visa for Bulgarian citizens has been dramatically reduced in the recent years.
When Ambassador Beyrle started his mandate in Sofia, it was about 20 percent. Now it is a little below 14, as I'm aware, which is great progress. And we have to continue these efforts to be successfully accomplished. The Bulgarian government is working also on the new biometrical passports which are an important precondition for the visa waiver program to be implemented for Bulgaria, and we are aware of this."
Now here is the question we should all be asking, "Has the rejection rate for visas applications filed by citizens of Bulgaria declined because somehow the citizens of Bulgaria are doing something right or is it because the State Department has mandated that their consular officials who decide on whether or not to issue visas have been given different "marching orders" and are being told to be less careful in scrutinizing applications for visas?
It is, I think, worth noting that another factor that was to have been taken into account in deciding which countries should be included in the Visa Waiver Program was the percentage of visitors from those countries that wanted to participate in the Visa Waiver Program that failed to depart the United States within their authorized period of admission into the United States. Interestingly, US-VISIT was the program for which our government has paid the Accenture hundreds of millions of dollars to monitor the entry and departure of aliens in the United States has never been able to fully track the departure of such aliens. Therefore that requirement has been dropped! (Talk about "don't ask: don't tell!")
From everything I have read, Bulgaria has, indeed, been assisting our nation in a number of important ways, however, the idea of expanding the Visa Waiver Program to include Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries is something I believe is absolutely wrong! To make it as clear as I can, I believe that the entire Visa Waiver Program should be scrapped altogether!
The countries that currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program are:
Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Belgium, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Monaco, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom
I have written a number of commentaries about my objections to the Visa Waiver Program and I have also made my concerns known when I have testified before Congressional hearings.
On May 11, 2006 I testified at a Congressional hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International on the topic, "VISA OVERSTAYS: CAN WE BAR THE TERRORIST DOOR?"
You can read the transcript of that hearing.
One of the issues I raised at that hearing was my concern about how the Visa Waiver Program adversely impacts the ability of our officials to prevent the entry of terrorists and criminals into the United States.
In my judgement there are five distinct benefits to requiring aliens who seek to enter our country for a temporary period. These benefits are:
1. The visa process is a screening process that would help to keep terrorists off of airliners headed for the United States. (Richard Reid, the so-called "Shoe Bomber" concealed explosives in his shoes and that is the reason that whenever we board airliners we are now required to take our shoes off. While this may help to make us safer, it is important to note that Reid is a citizen of Great Britain and was therefore able to board the airliner he was intent on destroying without first applying for and obtaining a visa. It is entirely possible that had he needed to secure a visa before boarding the airliner, he may have not been granted that visa and therefore might not have had access to that airliner.)
2. The inspectors who work for CBP at ports of entry throughout the United States have only about one minute to make a decision about the admissibility of aliens seeking entry into the United States. The visa application process would help them to make better decisions and help screen out aliens who should not be granted admission into the United States even before they would board an airliner. The job of an inspector is daunting. I speak from experience having begun my career with the former INS as an immigration inspector at JFK International Airport in New York.
The application for a visa contains approximately 40 questions that
can provide extremely useful information should the alien who applies
for a visa ultimately come under investigation for criminal or terrorist
activities. The application is extremely helpful in developing leads
4. An alien who lies on a visa application commits a felony. According to the State Department Website, these are the penalties for visa and passport fraud:
Penalties for Passport and Visa Fraud
Passport and visa fraud are federal felonies. Penalties are:
(for a first offense if not tied to terrorism or drug trafficking)
* 15 years for fraud with other criminal links
* 20 years for fraud related to drug trafficking
* 25 years for fraud related to international terrorism
There are times when it is in the best interest of pursuing an ongoing
investigation to arrest a suspected terrorist, drug dealer or other
criminal on a charge that does not alert him and his cohorts to the
fact that he (and they) are being investigated for terrorism or other
criminal-related reasons. In many cases it is far easier to prove that
an alien committed visa fraud than to prove he is involved in terrorism.
Consequently the charge of visa fraud is often the prosecutorial tool
Yet, under the Visa Waiver Program, none of these afore-noted critical benefits to national security apply.
In my judgement the elimination of the Visa Waiver Program may impose a bit of an inconvenience to foreign travelers who wish to enter the United States, however, I want you to consider the madness of the current "War on Terror."
Anyone who boards an airliner in the United States has come to expect an ever more intrusive inspection of our baggage and our persons when we enter an airport in preparation for taking an airline flight. We cannot take large bottles of liquids on board airliners such as shampoo or even mother's milk, because a number of terrorists who were arrested in Great Britain were preparing to board airliners with seemingly innocuous liquids that, when mixed together, created a highly volatile explosive. There have been news reports of nursing mothers who had expressed their milk into bottles for their babies who traveled with them, had to either sip some of their own milk or have it confiscated- in the name of national security!
We have to take our shoes off and have them x-rayed before we board airliners because Richard Reid, the so-called "Shoe Bomber" had concealed explosives in his shoes and attempted to detonate them en route to the United States in midair. Clearly our TSA officials have learned the tactics for concealing explosives in liquids and in shoes. The one lesson our government will not learn, however, is that all of the terrorists involved in the two plots that have had a profound impact on how we are searched and what we may bring on board airliners in this perilous age, is the fact that they were all citizens of Great Britain- this means that they did not need to apply for and receive visas before boarding those airliners.
A French national by the name of Zacarias Moussaoui has been often referred to as the "20th hijacker." Citizens of France are also exempt the requirement of securing visas before seeking to enter the United States.
Ramzi Binalshibh has been identified as being another terrorist who intended to enter the United States to participate in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The reason he did not enter the United States was a simple one; he made a number of attempts to secure a visa to enter the United States but was never able to obtain one.
A number of years ago, I was invited to attend a breakfast at the Manhattan Institute to listen to a panel discussion about immigration and border security. While enjoying my breakfast and a discussion with some analysts and journalists, we got into a discussion about the Visa Waiver Program. A well dressed gentleman sat down at our table and within minutes interjected himself into the discussion. He had a distinct British accent and looked me in the eye and told me that the visa requirement would impose a major inconvenience on travelers. I invited him to join the discussion although the invitation essentially unnecessary inasmuch as he had already invited himself into the conversation He told us that he had been appointed the Consul General at the British Consulate and that I was flat out wrong for proposing an end to the Visa Waiver Program. He asked me, "Do you know what a bloody inconvenience the visa requirement is for travelers?"
My response, while to the point, illustrates why, perhaps I should never dabble in international politics! I told him that I could think of a bigger inconvenience, when terrorists hijack airliners and fly them at high speed into tall office buildings! Everyone at the table laughed except for the British gentleman who stood up and promptly exited the room!
I have made the point that the visa requirement is inconvenient, however so is getting a driver's license renewed. Yet just about everyone has a driver's license and just about everyone understands that sooner or later we will have to spend the better part of a day at the dreaded Dept. of Motor Vehicles getting our licenses renewed.
Nonimmigrant visas can be issued for up to ten years. This means that a foreign visitor would have to renew his (her) visa once every ten years. They can travle as often as they like during those ten years, just as we can drive our cars as often as we like between the times we renew our licenses. What is needed is a public relations campaign to explain how the visa process enhances our safety.
Many years ago, I believe it was in the 1960's or perhaps in the late 1950's, the Volvo Motorcar Company advertised how safe their cars were. They explained the advantages of seat belts. As I recall, they put a raw egg in a model car and crashed it into a wall. The egg that was confined by a harness emerged unscathed while the egg that was not similarly secured did a first rate impersonation of Humpty Dumpty! The other car company executives were appalled!
Of course everyone knew that there were car accidents and that in some of them people were terribly injured and even killed, but "conventional wisdom" postulated that it would be foolhardy to remind the average motorist that driving might be dangerous. Today, of course, we know that safety is a huge factor in selling cars. Just about every car manufacturer touts crash ratings today and they boast about electronic traction control, side curtain airbags, crumple zones and other such devices designed to enhance the safety of the driver and his passengers. Commercials for some of the most prestigious car companies even show slow motion crash tests!
I would not doubt that some of the people who refuse to travel do so out of a fear of safety-related issues!
Perhaps it would make more sense to stress safety rather than eliminate a program that enhances everyone's safety!
When I have raised the issue of the Visa Waiver Program to many of my friends on Capitol Hill from both sides of the political aisle, most agree with my concerns but they tell me that the executives of the travel, hospitality and tourism industries have invested incredible sums of money to hire major lobbying organizations to make certain that the Visa Waiver Program not be tampered with! These executives' greed clearly takes priority over decency and even commonsense. When the attacks of 9/11 occurred travel nose-dived around the world. If these greedy fools would think things out, they should be the greatest proponents for terminating the Visa Waiver Program because their industry depends on a safe airline system. Incredibly, while it is clear that the Visa Waiver Program constitutes a threat to national security, the politicians have permitted these greedy corporate executives to make national security decisions for our nation and all they appear concerned about is their profit margin! As one of my friends told me, these executives want illegal aliens to change the sheets in the hotel rooms and then want wealthy tourists to come to the United States to sleep on those sheets!
The executives of the tourism, travel and hospitality industries and our politicians remind me of the phrase that these people know the price of everything and the value of nothing! Apparently to them money is far more important than human lives!
Furthermore, those executives are all in dire need of glasses! They are so myopic that I am not sure if they can see there hands held at arm's length! If, God forbid, their is another terrorist attack, I believe you will be able to turn airport runways into parking lots or athletic fields because no one will be traveling anywhere! Consider what happened to airline travel and tourism in the days, weeks and months after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Isn't it time that our politicians represented We the People instead of the corporations? Isn't it time that national security decisions were made by our government and not by corporate executives who pull the strings that get our "leaders" to jump without questioning?
Certainly corporations have the right to have their concerns addressed, but issues relating to national security should not be open to debate by those whose only concern is profit motive.
In order to gear up America to successfully prosecute the Second World War, General Eisenhower essentially created the "Military / Industrial Complex." In 1960 as President Eisenhower prepared to leave office he warned the people of the United States to beware the same Military Industrial Complex!
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To watch as our freedoms are whittled away and our expectations of privacy are reduced in the name of "National security" while the dangerous Visa Waiver Program is being expanded boils my blood!
We the People must make those who purport to represent us in Washington, truly represent us! This is the work all Americans must do! We must make our voices heard to our members of both houses of the Congress!
© 2008 - Michael Cutler - All Rights Reserved