- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2010


President Obama was right when he declared after convening the post mortem on the Detroit debacle that “we have to do better.” The simple fact is that $42 billion later, Americans do not feel much safer getting on an airplane than they did eight years ago. Despite the post- Sept. 11 upgrades in security, despite the long lines, the inconveniences of removing shoes and belts and coming soon to an airport near you - full body scans - we are not reassured that the next disaster is not lurking just around the corner. People are concerned we aren’t doing enough to fight the enemy and we’re still not sure we’ve fully identified the enemy.

The administration and its Republican critics are still arguing whether Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s Ft. Hood massacre constitutes an act of terrorism. That dispute is reflected in a larger debate of whether we are still in a “war against terror” and whether individuals like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be treated as enemy combatants or read their Miranda Rights as common criminals.

But however that debate shakes out, there is an important move, that would cost little but could strike a blow against extremism and make our skies a little safer: The president admitted that the current watch list is inadequate. But America needs to immediately expand its terrorist watch list. Consider this fact: While the United States has a database of 500,000 individuals implicated in criminal activity, only 1,700 of those names are on the terrorist watch list banning entry into the United States. Compare that to the watch list developed by the U.S. Justice Department of suspected Nazi war criminals. Developed in the 1980s, 40,000 individuals were initially listed, but later the list expanded beyond 70,000 when the Office of Special Investigations on Nazi War Crimes (OSI) included the entire roster of the Nazi SS - and all others who belonged to groups that abetted genocide.

Most of those aging genociders are in their 80s or 90s today and the hunt for Nazi war criminals will soon reach its biological solution. But not so Islamist terrorism - only in its genesis - which is the scourge of all humanity at the dawn of the new decade. It is inconceivable that in fighting the existential threat of terrorism, that we can be operating with a list of only 1,700 people to bar from entering the United States. To better protect the flying public and to strike a blow against extremists who today regularly indescriminantly slaughter fellow Muslims, the Department of Homeland Security should take a page from the Nazi watch list and immediately add those who openly support and abet terrorism. In practical terms, it means immediately listing the many thousands of names of all known members and enablers of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Indonesia’s Jemmah Islamiyah and other terror groups listed by the State Department and the European Union.

And there are others who never fired a bullet, or strapped themselves to a ticking bomb, who nevertheless deserve to be publicly placed on America’s terror watch list. They include Al Jazeera’s Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, whose online fatwa insists that Palestinian women have the right to attain martyrdom by blowing themselves up amidst Israelis. There is Omar Bakri Muhammad, who once claimed to be a recruiter for al Qaeda and organized the “Magnificent 19” (Sept. 11 bombers) in London. Jordan’s Dr. Ibrahim Zayd Al-Kilani, who said this: “killing a transgressing American soldier” is an obligation and a kind of jihad. There are the followers of Indonesia’s notorious Abu Bakar Bashir, Jamaica’s Abdullah el-Faisel, and Libyan-born Abu Yaha al- Libi, who defends the “legitimacy” of violent jihad as a “religious obligation.” And of course, Yemen’s favorite American Anwar al-Awlaki who served as spiritual mentor and validator to Ft. Hood’s Maj. Hasan and the Northwest Airlines terrorist.

We have no doubts that a simple e-mail to all U.S. embassies by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would flush out many more terror enablers. To be sure, errors will be made and anyone who stands accused of such activity must be given recourse to clear their names. It may also be true that not everyone who belongs to a terrorist group will become a suicide bomber, but let them suffer the consequences - why should Americans have to take that risk?

By compiling a true terror watch list, the United States and allies will reassure the shaken flying public that no one committed to terrorism against innocent civilians is aboard their flight. Such a policy will also help strengthen the hand of moderates across the Arab and Muslim world struggling against these extremists. And by providing the guardians of our borders with accurate and timely information about all those who promote and deploy terrorism against our nation, we can help co-opt the need to turn to blanket racial and ethnic profiling.

The time to act is now.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Center.



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