- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

A lawyer who led the team investigating border security for the September 11 commission yesterday said terrorists with Canadian citizenship can move in and out of the United States “virtually unconcerned” about detection and called the threat of a terrorist infiltration from north of the U.S. border “real and dangerous.”

Janice L. Kephart said that at least 350 known jihadists and more than 50 terrorist groups have a presence in Canada, and are engaged in “all types of terrorist activities,” including financing, weapon and equipment procurement, manipulating immigrant communities and facilitating travel to and from the United States and other countries.

“The presence of young, committed jihadists in Canada is a significant threat to national security for a number of reasons,” she said, adding that they are familiar with Canadian customs, have excellent English skills, have no difficulty fitting in with Western society and can pass as average Canadians, evading more rigid scrutiny by security officials.

Ms. Kephart, who helped develop key recommendations on border security for the September 11 commission’s final report, said that while organizations such as al Qaeda have sophisticated document-forgery capabilities, the possession of a valid Canadian passport facilitates international travel.

Her comments came in the wake of the weekend arrests in Canada of members of a suspected terrorist cell who are accused of conspiring to bomb government buildings and landmarks in Toronto and Ottawa. Canadian authorities charged 17 Muslim men, five younger than 18, in what has been called Canada’s largest counterterrorism operation.

Canadian authorities said more arrests are possible, and U.S. officials are investigating possible ties between those arrested in Canada and suspected terrorists in this country. The FBI said that while some of the Canadian suspects had been in “contact” with two Georgia men arrested in a terrorism investigation, there was “no current outstanding threat to any targets on U.S. soil emanating from this case.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the suspected terrorist cell had taken delivery of three tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be mixed with fuel oil to produce an explosive. One ton of the fertilizer was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 persons.

Ms. Kephart, former counsel to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and government information, said requiring passports of those who cross from Canada into the United States is critical to keeping out terrorists who can easily obtain phony driver’s licenses or other forms of identification. She criticized efforts under way on Capitol Hill to eliminate proposed passport requirements.

As part of the U.S. government’s response to the September 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department started the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which requires passports or one of four other secure documents at border crossings.

Beginning Dec. 31, travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada — via sea or air — would be required to have a passport or other accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. After Dec. 31, 2007, that requirement extends to all land border crossings.

But the Senate’s pending immigration bill extends the 2007 deadline by 17 months, expands the documents acceptable for travel to include driver’s licenses and birth certificates and mandates a pilot program to test new documents and technologies before the deadline can be implemented.

Ms. Kephart, now an independent consultant, said that under the original WHTI plan, “terrorists would be less likely to try to gain entry to the United States and, if they did, they would more likely be caught.”

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