February 16, 2005 | National Review Online

Say What? The Wall Street Journal’s Latest: An Asylum Tutorial

With today's offering following hard on Monday's skewed Eason Jordan rant, it has become necessary to ask: What is going on at the Wall Street Journal's editorial page this week?

Here is the Journal's attack on the much needed political-asylum restrictions in the much needed immigration legislation (known as the “Real ID” act) that passed in the House of Representatives last week:

“[House Judiciary Chairman James] Sensenbrenner's claims that tougher asylum provisions will make us safer are also dubious. The last thing a terrorist would want to do is apply for asylum. Not only would he be bringing himself to the attention of the U.S. government — the first step is being fingerprinted — but the screening process for applicants is more rigorous than for just about anyone else trying to enter the country. In the past decade, perhaps a half-dozen individuals with some kind of terrorists ties have applied for asylum. All were rejected. [Italics mine.]”

Hel-lo. The important issue is not whether the petitions get accepted. It is the mayhem the asylum petitions allow their alien makers to engage in once they file them and are turned loose in the United States. That's why sometimes the first thing a terrorist would want to do is apply for asylum. And the screening process? Who are they kidding?

After settling in Houston, Texas, upon first arriving in the United States on September 9, 1991, Ahmed Ajaj filed a petition for political asylum, claiming that the Israeli government had imprisoned and tortured him in retaliation for his peaceful opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He happily went through the screening process and was permitted to remain at liberty, but predictably failed to show up for the immigration hearing on his asylum claim. Instead, he made some necessary militant contacts and then left the country in April 1992 having arranged to attend a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

On September 1, 1992, he returned to the United States in the company of one of his camp-mates, Ramsey Yousef, aboard a flight from Pakistan. Ajaj was detained upon being found in possession of a terror kit, which included bomb making manuals and instructions on the creation of false identity documents. An INS inspector found Ajaj's fabricated Swedish passport suspicious, directed that he be subjected to an additional search, during which the terror kit was found and Ajaj was detained.

Naturally, Ajaj then produced his Jordanian passport and claimed political asylum — or, rather, reinstated his already filed asylum petition from 1991. He later pled guilty to passport fraud, was sentenced to a whopping six months in prison. During the course of those criminal proceedings, the court ordered Ajaj's kit to be returned to him (the thought being that he had a First Amendment right to possess these materials!), and some of them (but not all) were actually turned over to his attorneys. From prison, through intermediaries, Ajaj tried frantically to get those materials into Yousef's hands.

That's because Yousef was free and clear inside the U.S. Though he too had been challenged when he stepped off the plane on September 1, Yousef had immediately and shrewdly claimed…political asylum — based on a bogus Iraqi passport, which was the predicate for a frivolous contention that he feared being tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime. Due to the easy availability of this asylum claim under U.S. law, Yousef was fingerprinted, photographed, and released into the United States in exchange for his promise to show up for an immigration hearing to consider his petition.

Yousef, of course, did not show up for his asylum hearing. He had told those oh-so-rigorous screeners that he'd be living in Texas. But they never checked, and he, instead, hunkered down in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he spent the ensuing months plotting a massive terrorist attack. His cell included other aliens, including one whose authority to be in the United States (working in the well-known farming belt of Brooklyn, New York) was based on participation in the Immigration Service's Agricultural Worker Program.

On February 26, 1993, the cell led by Yousef detonated a bomb in the basement parking lot of the World Trade Center, killing six people (including a pregnant woman), injuring over 1,000, causing nearly a billion dollars in damage, and declaring militant Islam's war against the United States.

What is the Journal thinking about?

— Andrew C. McCarthy, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.