Tom Ridge`s “Little Door” For Flying Terrorists

Two questions have been left unanswered following
last week`s

by Homeland Security Department head
Tom Ridge that he has temporarily suspended

travel programs
allowing foreigners to fly into our
country without U.S. visas:

  1. Why did it take so

    bloody long?

  1. Why hasn`t all visa-free foreign air travel been
    ended permanently?

The visa is supposed to be our government`s best
method for keeping out

foreign menaces
. Law-enforcement agents consider it
the most important national security screening
mechanism. Yet, airline and tourism lobbyists, and their
water-carriers in Washington, have poked dangerous holes
in the system to benefit the $590 billion travel

Federal officials say last week`s suspension of two
visa-less travel programs was based on

“new,” “specific,” and

indicating that

al Qaeda terrorists
might exploit them. But there`s
nothing new about the widely-known lack of security
surrounding these terrorist-friendly airline security
loopholes. Eleven months ago, I

on the specific use of the Transit Without
a Visa (TWOV) program by suspected Middle Eastern

According to an internal Justice Department memo I
obtained last summer, federal anti-terrorism
investigators launched

"Operation LAX Lounge,"
an investigation based on
information that four individuals were using the TWOV
program to smuggle illegal aliens, many of whom are
Middle Eastern males, into the United States at

Los Angeles International Airport

Two of the four involved in the smuggling operation
were Jordanian nationals who


LAX contract security guards.
Another was a Social
Security Administration official married to one of the
guards. They were convicted of collaborating to smuggle
transiting passengers out of the airport and helping
approximately 1,000 individuals — mostly of

Middle Eastern descent
— obtain fraudulent Social
Security cards between 1998-2000.

Some of the

TWOV passengers
let free by the Jordanians at LAX
are on federal immigration and State Department watch
list of terrorist suspects. A few of these fugitive
passengers were traced to New York City and arrested
last July, but most remain at large.

I am posting the June 25, 2002 memo—along with a
19-page list of the nearly 1,000 individuals who
fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers through
the smuggling ring—on the Internet at

[Memo PDF,  List

Despite uncovering this plot a year ago, homeland
security officials did absolutely nothing to stop the
TWOV program until last week. In the meantime, more than
a million airline passengers (accounting for roughly
five percent of all foreign nationals entering the
country by plane) were routed to American airport hubs
under the TWOV program. Citizens from some

Middle East state sponsors of terror
, including
Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Sudan, were not eligible.
However, foreign nationals from several

countries, including

Saudi Arabia,


, and

, were free to participate.

The program waived visa requirements for passengers
who were ostensibly passing briefly through the U.S. on
their way to final destinations abroad. Airlines were
responsible for

guarding and escorting passengers
in transit, and
were supposedly liable for damages when they couldn`t
confirm that program participants have actually departed
the country. But the fines were negligible.

Moreover, since the Immigration and Naturalization
Service did not maintain arrival and departure records
on a majority of these transiting passengers prior to
the program`s suspension— and since the agency`s
interior-enforcement staff remains overwhelmed and
understaffed — the airlines were essentially off the
hook for passengers who left the airports and never came

Secretary Ridge, explaining the feds` year-long
inaction on NBC`s “Meet The Press” last week,
pooh-poohed the TWOV program as

“a little door.”
While patting himself on the
back for closing the small opening temporarily, Ridge`s
department is now quietly soliciting advice from the
airline and travel industries on how to restore the

And Ridge has assured travel industry money-grubbers
that it won`t touch an even larger door into the

Visa Waiver Program—
for foreign travelers from more
than two dozen nations.

How many of these visa-free travelers over the past
year violated program requirements,

their visits, and remain in the country
today doing God knows what?

The feds have no idea.

Homeland security: Still selling out…and flying

Michelle Malkin [email
her] is author of

Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists,
Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores

for Peter Brimelow`s review. Click

for Michelle Malkin`s website.