I have written before about the naturalization "hall of shame", filled by a surprising cast of characters to whom our country has accorded citizenship, only to discover later that they have been human rights abusers, war criminals, spies, traitors, and terrorists.
It bespeaks a vetting process and a numbers-oriented endgame that is every bit as flawed as those involving asylees and refugees, the corrupt EB-5 investor program, and "schools" authorized to admit foreign students that are in fact nothing but visa mills. Unlike those programs, though, it has garnered little public attention and concern, despite the fact that it is the one benefit that trumps all others, hands down, because in according citizenship our government removes the capacity to deport an individual for heinous crimes since the individual is, by definition, no longer an alien.
What's more, our government affords these newly naturalized individuals a path into the country's most closely guarded defense and national security secrets because they become eligible for military and civil service jobs with security clearances giving them access to highly classified materials.
I don't suggest that the native-born aren't sometimes susceptible to the temptations and motives that lead to spying; history and common sense show that isn't so. But our government has no control over the citizenship of the native-born; that's a constitutional prerogative. It does have the ability to control naturalization, and there are many signs that it does so with the same kinds of assurances that have papered over the flaws in the programs I mentioned earlier, flaws that have worked their way to the forefront in those programs, but which haven't gained much traction in the citizenship arena.
The most recent evidence comes to us courtesy of U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Edward Lin, whose arrest for espionage a while ago has only recently come to light. News accounts tell us that:
- He served in one of our navy's most sensitive and secretive intelligence collections programs;
- His work was so sensitive that the proceedings against him will themselves have to be classified; and
- Prostitution was involved in the espionage, perhaps as the result of a "honeypot" situation in which he was lured and then blackmailed.
The media also note that the government either doesn't know — or isn't revealing — whether Lin was spying for the People's Republic of China (PRC) or for our ally Taiwan (where he was born). They note his past derogatory comments about the PRC, but this is hardly indicative since a spy hoping to deflect attention might be prone to do such a thing.
Who Lin was working for is interesting in a theoretical kind of way, but even if he was spying on behalf of Taiwan, a so-called "friendly" nation, the damage would be considerable because Taiwan's military and government have been successfully penetrated by PRC spies for years (see here and here). U.S. naval officials will thus have to operate on the reasonable presumption that anything Lin gave Taiwan (if indeed it was Taiwan) went immediately back to the mainland into the welcoming hands of the People's Liberation Army-Navy.
Astoundingly his path from newly minted naturalized citizen to naval officer in possession of hyper-sensitive defense secrets to detained spy all played out over the relatively short span of nine years.
The sordid revelations about Lin are all a far cry from a man once held up by the Naval as a poster boy for his "journey" to U.S. citizenship and military service, profiling him in a 2008 article, which quotes him as saying, "I always dreamt about coming to America, the 'promised land.' I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland."
That last sentence sums it all up nicely: Perhaps in his mind, we were never more than a make-believe kind of place — a caricature of a nation not to be taken too seriously.