- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday ordered a new terrorism task force to crack down on illegal immigration, warning that members and associates of 46 international terrorists groups including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network will be barred from entering the United States.
Mr. Ashcroft also said that persons already in this country with suspected ties to terrorist organizations will be detained, prosecuted and deported.
"America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us," Mr. Ashcroft said.
"Aggressive detention of lawbreakers and material witnesses is vital to preventing, disrupting or delaying new attacks. It is difficult for a person in jail or under detention to murder innocent people or to aid or abet in terrorism," he said.
Detained suspects who are not linked to terrorist groups will be released.
Mr. Ashcroft said the new Terrorist Tracking Task Force will be headed by Steven C. McCraw, deputy assistant director of the FBI's intelligence branch of the investigative services division at FBI Headquarters. His duty will be to ensure that federal agencies coordinate efforts to prevent representatives, members or supporters of terrorist organizations from entering the country.
In addition, Mr. McCraw will oversee the government's efforts to coordinate information among the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service that allows the Justice Department to track, detain, prosecute and deport any undesirable aliens who have entered the country.
Mr. Ashcroft noted that in order to prevent terrorists and their supporters from entering the United States, the Justice Department, the State Department and the CIA have agreed to impose new security measures on the issuance of non-immigrant visas.
He said the visa process will now include additional biographical information from applicants, as well as security advisory opinions and background investigations of some non-immigrant visa applicants.
He said no visa will be issued "unless and until a favorable security advisory opinion or the additional time allowed for background investigation has been completed or expired."
At least nine of the 19 hijackers involved in the September terrorist attacks were in the United States legally at the time of the attacks. All had obtained visas to visit this country. Six others had overstayed their visas and were not legally in the United States.
Fifteen of the air pirates who commandeered four aircraft had obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Ashcroft also said the Justice Department was moving ahead aggressively to implement new anti-terrorism laws passed last week by Congress. He said INS officials have been instructed on new detention, arrest and removal sections of the law, which broadens the grounds of inadmissibility.
Under the new law, persons can be denied access to the United States if identified as members or associates of organizations that have publicly endorsed terrorist activity in this country; or if they have provided material support to a designated terrorist organization, even if they don't specifically intend to support the terrorist activity. In most cases, under the law, aliens will be deemed inadmissible if they provided support to terrorist organizations in the past.
The groups identified by Mr. Ashcroft as terrorist organizations are those the State Department has named as having been engaged in terrorist activity. The formal designation of the 46 groups brings their members and supporters under the provisions of the new anti-terrorism law.
Designating the organizations as terrorists also enables the Justice Department to prevent aliens who are affiliated with them from entering the United States. Mr. Ashcroft said aliens who have used their positions of prominence to endorse terrorist activity also would be barred.
INS Commissioner James Ziglar, who attended the news conference, said his agency "welcomes" the task force, adding that it would give INS "real-time access to information that we can share in order to do our job better."
He said field agents were being briefed on the new anti-terrorism laws and the agency would "exercise this new and very powerful authority in a very careful manner in order to protect our cherished liberties."
Mr. McCraw said he welcomed the challenge of the task force and said its members would do "everything they can to prevent another foreign terrorist act."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide