Detention and the 1993 WTC Attack

By Jon Feere, March 1, 2013

It is significant that President Obama released an unknown number of illegal aliens from detention on the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Despite claims that those released pose no threat, case studies of two of the WTC bombers indicate that the federal government does not have the capacity to safely determine whether illegal aliens are threats to public safety. For some aliens the public safety analysis is likely based on their U.S. records — which may look clean on account of their having been in the country for a very short period of time.

Take, for example, Ramzi Yousef. He arrived without a valid visa in September 1992 and was released into the United States instead of being detained. Though the government determined that he had a clean record and posed no threat, Yousef would mastermind the 1993 WTC attack less than six months later. Had he been held in detention, it might have prevented the attack.

There is also the case of Ahmad Ajaj who tried to enter the United States using a false Swedish passport in 1992. His fraud landed him in jail, but Ajaj was still able to help plan the 1993 attack while imprisoned. Since law enforcement was unaware of the fact that his phone calls to Yousef were related to terrorism, he was released from jail a few days after the WTC bombing. Instead of being immediately detained by immigration, he was simply allowed to walk free. While the INS was not aware of his involvement in the attack at the time of release, the agency was aware that the he committed fraud, that he had no legal right to be in the United States, and that he had bomb-making manuals in his possession when first detained. If an alien with the same agenda as Ajaj were to enter the United States today, one wonders whether the Obama administration's prioritization scheme would result in even the passport fraud being prosecuted. The problem is that a similarly-situated alien not carrying bomb-making manuals in their luggage would likely look like a "low-risk" alien not needing detention in the eyes of the Obama administration.

Fortunately, these terrorists and most of their co-conspirators were caught and prosecuted. While it remains unknown whether any of the recently released illegal aliens are plotting terrorist attacks, in the least it is likely that many of them have committed crimes. The New York Times recently wrote about one such alien recently released by the White House, a Jamaican named Anthony Orlando Williams. The White House determined that he is not a criminal or threat to public safety despite the fact that he overstayed a visa in 1991 and violated his probation for a conviction in 2005 of simple assault, simple battery, and child abuse. If this is the standard the Obama administration is going by, the American public should be concerned.

Considering our nation's track record of releasing dangerous aliens from detention the administration is really rolling the dice with public safety.