- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

After Pearl Harbor, a Japanese admiral reportedly commented that "we have awakened a sleeping giant." That phrase has been used to describe America after September 11. But the parallel is false. The fact is that the sleeping giant is still slumbering.
"Be on the alert," the Homeland Security director recently told us.
The value of such a warning to civilians is debatable. Instead, the federal government needs to become alert itself.
The military action in Afghanistan is extraordinary. But in other areas, America has been woefully negligent in not protecting the people's security. Much of that failure is the fault of the State Department, which insists on inviting hundreds of Middle Easterners, including potential terrorists, into America each day on legal visas.
Without terrorists within America, there can be no terror, an equation we refuse to recognize. Some 300,000 visitors came here last year from that region, which begins at Morocco on the North African coast, through Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, then on to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, then to Jordan and Syria, ending at Iraq and Iran.
Saudi Arabia alone sent us 60,000 visitors, many of them educated in the fundamentalist schools where hatred of America is preached as part of the "Three R's." Little wonder 15 of the 19 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, as did Osama bin Laden himself.
It is too many potential terrorists for anyone to check and handle. We are being overwhelmed by possibly dangerous visitors. Has the State Department done anything to lighten the load? A little, but not nearly enough. On Nov. 9, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the department had begun a new program in which young Middle Eastern males would be checked for upward of 20 days before granting them visitor visas to the United States.
Has it accomplished much? Not really. America is still being held hostage by our guests. During the two-month period from Oct. l, 2000, through Nov. 30, 2000, a total of 49,255 Middle Easteners were admitted on visitor visas, equal to some 300,000 for the full year. This year, for the same period, we admitted 26,826, for an annual figure of 160,000 still a frightening statistic. If only 1 in 100 are terrorists, we have taken in 1,600 killers. If only 1 in 10,000, we have invited 16 terrorists, about the same number that destroyed the Twin Towers.
We should not forget Pakistan, which like Saudi Arabia, is ostensibly our friend. However, their mullahs preach "death to America" in their religious schools, and a good proportion of men detained by the Justice Department are from Pakistan. At the present rate, some 21,000 Pakistanis will receive visas to visit America this year much more than we can handle.
Critics have been carping that singling out Middle Eastern men means we are practicing "racial profiling." Apparently, they do not fear biological warfare far more severe than still another anthrax attack, nor even a radiological bomb detonated by conventional explosives which would kill millions in New York and Washington and leave both cities uninhabitable.
"Racial profiling" is a ludicrous charge. All visas are "profiled," with each country having specific visitation rights and number of days permitted in this nation. All countries "profile" their visas. In fact, 29 nations are "profiled" not to require any visas to visit America for 90 days. The charge has been borrowed from criminal work and does not apply to visas, either here or abroad. Nations decide on visa rights based on reciprocity and security matters, all within their power. Those who claim "racial profiling" are either ignorant or badly intentioned.
Who is at fault in this dilemma?
Obviously, the State Department, which should not be in charge of the visa program. First, they are not equipped in manpower. There are only 900 consular officials worldwide who have to sign off on every visa. Since we give out 7 million visas a year, each official has to handle 8,000 visas a year an impossible task. Little wonder they can only interview a handful of them, part of the present failed policy.
What should be done?
We need to suspend all B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) visas, plus almost all student visas for Middle Eastern nations, allowing in only a handful of known trustworthy individuals for short periods. All here now should be deported back to their nations, rendering them impotent to kill Americans. Almost no further visas should be issued to Middle Easterners regardless of age or gender.
The responsibility for visas should be taken out of the hands of the State Department, which has a built-in conflict of interest. As diplomats, they do not want to alienate those nations by curbing their visitation rights. But the rest of us are fighting a life-and-death struggle and have little interest in such diplomatic niceties.
The entire visa program should be transferred to the Justice Department, with the collaboration of Tom Ridge of Homeland Security, who needs a specific hard challenge.
As a former college professor, I give Colin Powell an A for diplomatic success and an F for security. It is time for him to concentrate on what he does best which is coalition-building.
Meanwhile, others can take over the task of keeping the enemy overseas and protecting us from violent death at the hands of terrorists.

Martin Gross is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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