The U.S. prides itself on being a shining beacon of light to those seeking freedom around the world. Islamist terrorists want to turn that beacon of light into a pillar of flame and smoke. To them, America’s generous refugee program is not to be appreciated, but a weakness to be exploited.
The ABC News investigation into the case of two Al-Qaeda terrorists in Kentucky is bringing attention to this vulnerability. FBI footage from 2010 shows the terrorists preparing weapons provided to them in a government sting operation. The two Al-Qaeda terrorists had been accepted into the U.S. as refugees from Iraq escaping persecution.
If that wasn’t shocking enough, it turns out that there was solid proof about their evil intentions before they even applied to come to the U.S. In 2006, the two were arrested by Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk because of their involvement in Al-Qaeda. Their fingerprints were on improvised explosive devices and it is now known that one of them killed American soldiers in 2005.
One of the operatives, Waad Ramadan Alwan, had his fingerprints entered into a U.S. military biometric database in 2007 when he moved to Syria. None of this intelligence made it into the right hands when the two applied for refugee status. Thankfully, an FBI informant reported their activities and the two were arrested in a sting operation in 2011 before they could carry out a terrorist attack.
American Islamist organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) regularly depict the FBI’s use of informants and sting operations as a government conspiracy to manufacture terrorist plots. This incident should serve as a reminder of what will follow if their demands are met.
The thwarted plot led to a revamping of the refugee program two years ago, but ABC News was told by one FBI agent that there are dozens of investigations now into possible terrorists posing as refugees. A December 2012 Congressional hearing revealed that immigration authorities gave the FBI the names of 300 Iraqi refugees for further investigation.
This case of Al-Qaeda “refugees” in Kentucky isn’t a rarity. In January 2012, another “refugee” from Uzbekistan was a refugee in Chicago. He was trying to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union terrorist group in Pakistan. The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees from the Caucasus. And the recruiting of Somali “refugees” and immigrants by Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, is an ongoing concern.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the U.S. accepts about three times as many refugees as all of the other developed countries put together—about 80,000 in 2011 alone. Over 71,000 Iraqi refugees have arrived since 2007, with 12,000 coming last year. In 2012, about 1,700 Iranian and 500 Afghan refugees resettled.
The CIS study identifies numerous problems with the U.S. refugee program. One of the main issues is reliance on the United Nations — a body with enough tales of corruption and inefficiency to fill volumes — and other non-governmental organizations.
Don Barnett writes that up to 95% of refugees were referred to the U.S. government by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or are alleged relatives of those who were. It is often impossible to obtain background data on the refugees fleeing areas in a state of conflict or persecution. Many of the “relatives” of resettled persons are fraudulent applicants.
The CIS report states that the U.S. refugee program “is increasingly bringing in groups that have stated openly they do not intend to assimilate into American culture.” The rejection of Westernization is an important factor in radicalization. When former CIA case officer Marc Sageman studied a database of Al-Qaeda members, he found that 80% “totally excluded from the society they lived in.”
A Canadian intelligence report from 2010 makes the same observation. It states, “Isolationism can lead to conditions where extreme messages can incubate and eventually become the catalyst for violence. At a minimum, isolation undermines a multicultural and democratic society.”
The older generation of Muslim immigrants and refugees came to the U.S. out of a desire to join the West. A 2007 Pew poll finds a much higher level of hostility towards mosque involvement in politics among the older, foreign-born Muslim-American population.
“[A] large majority of foreign-born Muslims—many of whom are from countries where religion and politics are often closely intertwined—say that mosques should be kept out of political matters,” the report said.
The anti-Western narratives of Islamists threaten this positive trend. Groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Muslims of the Americas are explicitly pro-seclusion, with the latter even creating 22 “villages” around the U.S. to isolate its members. Other groups like the Muslim Brotherhood who are represented by CAIR and ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), among others, are more subtle, but their ideology inevitably leads to the same result.
Europe, with its much larger Muslim immigrant and refugee population, shows where America may be headed. The Islamist ideology breeds as the communities grow and insulate themselves, leading to the gradual appearance of Islamist enclaves. France is the strongest example, where hundreds of “Sensitive Urban Zones” are known and have rioted against local law enforcement.
In July 2012, a video from the Dearborn Arab Festival went viral. It showed hordes of Arabs, including young children, physically attacking Christians that provocatively criticized Islam and proselytized their faith. The Christians’ language may have been detestable, but the response was eerily reminiscent of what is being seen in Europe.
A similar trend is happening in Tennessee. Somali immigrants and refugees are being radicalized by Islamist mosques and preachers. The town of Shelbyville is being transformed by Somali immigrants refusing to assimilate. Journalist Brian Mosely wrote a series about the town and said:
“Firefighters have told me that the Somalis refused to evacuate their apartment complex during a blaze and when they respond to alarm calls, [a frequent occurrence] the firemen are told to leave and that they are not welcome there. Law enforcement reports a similar ‘lack of respect’ for their authority and I have been told off the record that many officers are hesitant to even patrol after dark the apartment complex where the Somalis live.”
The exploitation of the U.S. refugee program by terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda needs to be stopped, but the problem does not end there. The long-term problem to tackle is the environment that breeds radicalism.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.