About 600,000 foreigners are admitted to America each year on student visas. The federals have concluded that Hani Hanjour, one of the men suspected of hijacking the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, entered the United States last December on a student visa, after promising to enroll at Holy Names College in Okland, California, where he never bothered to show up.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Atta, suspected of being at the controls of one of the two jets that crashed into the World Trade Center, was allowed to enter the country, after immigration officials determined he had a pending application for a student visa.
The President said Monday his administration will "tighten up the visa policy" and keep an eye on students after they arrive.
Mr. Bush thus takes modest steps which still leave America one of the most open and accessible of nations. That's appropriate. No one--except perhaps our enemies--wants to see America haul up its drawbridges and convert itself into a medieval castle under siege.
The more troubling question is what to do with the tiny minority of those who abuse our visa system, coming to this country with the express intent of terror and murder, even when they are caught.
Our constitutional guarantee of due process--our fine traditions of the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, our bans on torture; incarceration without trial; on cruel and unusual punishment--are part of what make us free and great. These cannot be sacrificed. In fact, officials who violate these constitutional guarantees should, themselves, be indicted and put on trial.
But this system of peacetime, civil jurisprudence is ill-suited to dealing with foreign agents intent on mayhem--as we see now, with civil libertarians rightly protesting the detention of so many suspicious foreign nationals after the events of September 11, in some cases subjected to "diesel therapy" as they're shifted from place to place to keep their attorneys from locating them and filing appropriate paperwork for their release.
That has to end. But at the same time, are we obliged to send likely terrorists home when we catch them, like illegal farmworkers being loaded on a bus back to Tijuana for a brief vacation? Doesn't that simply encourage our enemies to infiltrate us again and again, playing the odds that even those caught will merely be returned for "another try"?
There is an answer. There is a proper constitutional provision to suspend these rughts for foreign nationals. It is contained in the [Article I] Section 8 power of Congress to "declare war, [and] grant letters of Marque and Reprisal ...."
If the President means to go to to war--most would define what's happening in Afghanistan as war, already--and if he needs the leeway to extend that war at his didcretion from Al-Qa'ida to include Hammas, Hezbollah, the PLO, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, any other nation whose royal family can be shown to have funded or aided bin Laden, in order to totally destroy those responsible for these attacks against America and those who aid them--then let him request from Congress a declaration of war and letters of marque against all those responsible for the attacks against this nation. Let the enemies be named in open debate; let the vote be taken; let the world be advised they have awakened the sleeping giant and filled him with a righteous wrath.
The President could take his lead here from Franklin Roosevelt, who in 1941 asked not just for a declaration of war, but for a declaration that a state of war had existed from December 7, 1941.
In today's case, if a state of war has existed on and since September 11, 2001, then the treatment of Nazi spies on these shores in 1942 tells us how foreign agents who entered this country under false pretences and remained here on or after September 11 with plans of terror should be treated.
The German spies who landed by submarine in Florida and on Long Island in 1942 were rounded up, quickly tried by military tribunal on charges of being enemy soldiers out of uniform, shot without fanfare, and burried in unmarked graves.
Was Abdul Haq, one of their own countrymen, treated with any more deference before his Taliban bretheren shot him last week? Were the 16 worshipers murdered at a Christian church in Pakistan Sunday provided with "due process"?
The Taliban clearly believe they are at war--a war in which none of the old, decadent western rules apply. President Bush must simply tell us now whether we, too, are in a ruthless and unlimited war to the death--and, if not, what the heck our boys are doing in Afghanistan.
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The Threat of Radical Islam
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
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