Terrorists, American Citizenship, and Sham Marriages
She notes that many of us were confused that Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber with apparent ties to the Pakistani Taliban, was a naturalized American citizen. Why, after all, would someone bother to get citizenship in a country they despised?
Apparently, Shahzad is merely the tip of the iceberg:
— El Sayyid A. Nosair wed Karen Ann Mills Sweeney to avoid deportation for overstaying his visa. He acquired U.S. citizenship, allowing him to remain in the country, and was later convicted for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that claimed six lives.
— Ali Mohamed became an American citizen after marrying a woman he met on a plane trip from Egypt to New York. Recently divorced, Linda Lee Sanchez wed Mohamed in Reno, Nev., after a six-week “courtship.” Mohamed became a top aide to Osama bin Laden and was later convicted for his role in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa that killed 12 Americans and more than 200 others.
— Embassy bombing plotter Khalid Abu al Dahab obtained citizenship after marrying three different American women.
— Embassy bombing plotter Wadih el Hage, Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary, married April Ray in 1985 and became a naturalized citizen in 1989. Ray knew of her husband’s employment with bin Laden, but like many of these women in bogus marriages, she pleaded ignorance about the nature of her husband’s work. El Hage, she says, was a sweet man, and bin Laden “was a great boss.”
— Lebanon-born Chawki Youssef Hammoud, convicted in a Hezbollah cigarette-smuggling operation based out of Charlotte, N.C., married American citizen Jessica Fortune for a green card to remain in the country.
— Hammoud’s brother, Mohammed Hammoud, married three different American women. After arriving in the United States on a counterfeit visa, being ordered deported and filing an appeal, he wed Sabina Edwards to gain a green card. Federal immigration officials refused to award him legal status after this first marriage was deemed bogus in 1994. Undaunted, he married Jessica Wedel in May 1997 and, while still wed to her, paid Angela Tsioumas (already married to someone else, too) to marry him in Detroit. The Tsioumas union netted Mohammed Hammoud temporary legal residence to operate the terror cash scam. He was later convicted on 16 counts that included providing material support to Hezbollah.
— A total of eight Middle Eastern men who plotted to bomb New York landmarks in 1993 — Fadil Abdelgani, Amir Abdelgani, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, Tarig Elhassan, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Fares Khallafalla, Mohammed Saleh, and Matarawy Mohammed Said Saleh — all obtained legal permanent residence by marrying American citizens.
A year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homeland security officials cracked a massive illegal alien Middle Eastern marriage fraud ring in a sting dubbed “Operation Broken Vows.” Authorities were stunned by the scope of the operations, which stretched from Boston to South Carolina to California.
Now, obviously, this is a bad thing. American citizenship should, after all, carry with it some presumption of innocence and additional legal protection. (John McCain, Peter King, and Joe Lieberman would beg to differ.)
At the same time, I’m not sure what it is we’re supposed to do about it.
It’s reasonable to put the spouses of American citizens on the fast track to citizenship. (Full disclosure: My mother, a German national, benefited from this practice upon marrying my father back in 1964, obtaining her citizenship in 1965.) And, Sandra Bullock romantic comedies notwithstanding, the number of people getting married solely to obtain citizenship is vanishingly small.
Should we screen foreign nationals applying to marry a citizen to make sure they’re not on a terrorism watch list or otherwise of dubious criminality? Sure. But, as noted repeatedly in this space, the incompetence of our terror screening bureaucracy is legendary.