January 19, 2022
By Brian Lonergan
In present-day America, it is becoming commonplace to gauge highly publicized threats to the public with a healthy amount of skepticism. Is the threat real, or a red herring manufactured by media and political forces to frighten the public and demonize enemies? Many people lack the curiosity, the free time or political savvy to conduct a proper evaluation.
Amid this maelstrom of confusing information, we sometimes get an event that is beyond such manipulation. It reminds us that, yes, some threats are truly dangerous, transcend political squabbles and should be treated as such. It represents a wakeup call from our collective stupor and demands action.
Such an event occurred recently when a British national took hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and was killed by FBI agents before any of his four captives were harmed in the 11-hour standoff. In the aftermath of such an event, the public expects an investigation to answer a flood of questions about the how and the why.
What we do know is that the perpetrator was Malik Faisal Akram, 44, who flew from the United Kingdom to New York City just before New Year’s Day. After taking the hostages, he demanded the release of Aaifa Siddiqui, who authorities said is a Pakistani neuroscientist with suspected ties to al Qaeda who is serving time at a federal prison in Texas.
Akram had also been banned from a local British court after threatening staff and ranting about the September 11 attacks in America.
In Akram it appears we are dealing with a man who has sympathies, if not participation with, radical Islamic terror groups. Akram’s brother Gulbar has since claimed that his brother suffered from mental health issues.
“He’s known to police,” Gulbar said. “Got a criminal record. How was he allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun?”
It’s a good question, particularly the part about the visa. We are now more than 21 years down the road from the 9/11 attacks. How is it that a foreign national with a criminal record, mental illness and possible terrorist connections can board a flight to America without raising giant red flags for our immigration and national security agencies?
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not after the country suffered through the deadliest act of terrorism in its history. As the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon smoldered, the American public demanded answers and a commitment from our leaders that this would never happen again.
After 9/11, we learned how our immigration and intelligence bureaucracies allowed the attacks to occur. Despite their participation in overseas terror cells, four teams of hijackers entered the country legally with myriad visas. Three of the men’s visas had expired, meaning they were in the country illegally. A 1995 memoranda by the Clinton Justice Department established a “wall” that impeded the efforts of intelligence and law enforcement to share information that might have connected the dots of the 9/11 plot before it was executed.
As a final insult, we learned that exactly six months after the 9/11 attacks, the Immigration and Naturalization Service had notified a Florida flight school that the two pilots of the planes that struck the towers, Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, had been approved in their request for student visas. Our system was backed-up, inefficient and slow to react.
As the case of Akram showed, we are scarcely better off now after more than two decades since 9/11. The situation today is actually far worse, considering how our current leadership has left our southern border wide open for entry.
A recent investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute found that a number of U.S. states are using their sanctuary policies to shield illegal aliens who hail from nations identified by the federal government as state sponsors of terror.
Last month a Saudi national was apprehended in the Yuma sector dressed in an emergency medical service uniform from upstate New York. In February 2021, Border Patrol agents apprehended 11 Iranian nationals found illegally entering the U.S. from Mexico. Iran is designated by Customs and Border Protection as a “special interest country,” meaning it is known by the U.S. to have terrorists and terror organizations.
Might those Iranian nationals have been seeking entry for non-threatening purposes? Possibly. Should be we giving the benefit of the doubt in these situations, when we have seen how much death and destruction a small number of determined individuals can cause? Absolutely not.
The world is a dangerous place, maybe more today than ever. Loose borders and a lack of proper vetting do a lot more than just weaken U.S. sovereignty and create an unsustainable financial burden. They open the door to those who intend great harm against us. The lessons of 9/11 should only have to be learned once. A nation without borders is not a nation, and a government that cannot protect its own people does not deserve the authority we render unto it.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Texas Terrorist Shows Us the Wolf Is Still at the Door, American Greatness, January 13, 2022.
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