- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

Since the September 11 attack by air pirates on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Justice Department has sought to enhance its ability to protect the United States from future strikes by creating the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force.
The task force, headed by veteran FBI agent Steven C. McCraw, has been assigned the job of coordinating various federal programs aimed at keeping aliens identified as potential terrorist threats from entering the United States.
Now settling into its assignment, the task force has specifically targeted members and associates of 46 international terrorist groups including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Those targeted include representatives, members or supporters of terrorist organizations, aliens suspected of engaging in terrorist activity or aliens who provide material support to terrorist activities.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, in creating the task force, said people already in this country with suspected ties to terrorist organizations also will be detained, prosecuted and deported.
"America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us," he 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."
Justice Department officials believe the task force will serve what several prosecutors and investigators have described as a key element in the continuing war on terrorism the facilitation of communications and the coordination of programs among the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service, as well as the other agencies responsible for protecting the country against terrorist aliens.
The task force, they said, has been asked to encourage the agencies to share critical information about potential terrorists so future attacks can be disrupted before they occur.
Mr. McCraw, the task force chief, has been an FBI agent since 1983, starting his career in the Dallas field office. Most recently, he served as inspector-deputy assistant director of the FBI's intelligence branch, which is a part of the bureau's Investigative Services Division at FBI headquarters.
He holds a bachelor's and master's degree from West Texas State University. In addition to his long career with the FBI, he is a former Texas State Trooper.
Mr. Ashcroft noted that in order to prevent terrorists and their supporters from entering the United States, the Justice and State departments, along with the CIA, have agreed to work with the task force and impose new security measures on the issuance of nonimmigrant 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 nonimmigrant 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."
All 19 of the hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks had entered the United States legally. They had obtained visas to visit this country. Three had overstayed their visas. Fifteen of them had obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. McCraw said that he welcomed the challenge of the task force, and that its members would do "everything they can to prevent another foreign terrorist act."
He said the task force's priority will be to focus on keeping terrorists and those who support them out of the United States, as well as to find them if they have made their way into this country.
"The only way you do that is we have to share information. And what better way to do it than in a task force. There's always a value-added benefit, and certainly, it's been said, a force multiplier when you do it in a teamwork-type approach," he said.


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