- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

For the second time in recent weeks, The Washington Post has published a front-page story questioning the FBI's stepped-up efforts to prevent terrorist groups from infiltrating U.S. college campuses. On Christmas Day, The Post ran a story based largely on complaints by Sens. Edward Kennedy and Patrick Leahy that the FBI might be breaking the law by requesting that colleges and universities provide information on foreign students in this country to determine whether any are terrorist operatives. To buttress the senators' arguments, The Post cited a 1974 federal privacy law that said schools must obtain a student's consent before releasing personal information. It failed to mention that 22 years later President Clinton had signed into law legislation stipulating that the 1974 law does "not apply to aliens." Last Saturday, The Post did it again.
An A1 story by Dan Eggen about the FBI's cooperation with campus police highlighted objections from some student and faculty groups and "Muslim activists," who complained that "even the hint of surveillance by government taints that environment." The story, with headlines and subheads like "Student, Faculty Groups Fear a Return of Spying Abuses Against Activists, Foreign Nationals," went on to quote one University of Massachusetts professor demanding that universities "oppose these activities because they interfere with the free exchange of information and ideas."
Although The Post did quote law-enforcement officials defending cooperation with the FBI, it glossed over known cases in which terrorist organizations and their supporters have used American schools as a cover for their operations. For example, Hani Hanjour, the Saudi national who hijacked the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, came to this country on a student visa. Zacarias Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member and suspected would-be September 11th hijacker, roamed the United States on a student visa.
In fact, this was a problem even before September 11. Eyad Ismoil, a Kuwaiti-born citizen of Jordan, entered Wichita State University through the student-visa program. He dropped out after a few semesters. In February 1993, Ismoil drove a truck bomb into a garage below the World Trade Center, killing six persons and wounding nearly 1,000. In his book "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living among Us," Steven Emerson documents how Sami al-Arian, a tenured professor at the University of South Florida , founded two organizations that became fronts for terrorists to enter the United States and raise money for Islamic Jihad. Mr. al-Arian served as the U.S. visa sponsor for Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, and persuaded the University of South Florida to appoint him a professor of Middle East studies. Mr. Shallah disappeared in late 1995, resurfacing six months later in Damascus as the new head of one of the most deadly Palestinian terrorist groups: Islamic Jihad, which has killed scores of Americans in suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel.
We understand very well why any school would have legitimate concerns about any government investigation of its students or faculty. But those concerns are outweighed by the reality that America is at war and needs to be able to protect its citizens from terrorists. It makes no sense to stigmatize campus police for helping the FBI ensure that terrorists don't exploit the freedoms afforded by America's institutions of higher learning to kill more of our fellow citizens.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide