Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Well, There He Goes Again...

The president is at it again. Returning, with his usual breath-taking audacity, to erasing the nation's borders. Now he wants to increase the number of nations from which people may visit the US without first obtaining a VISA.

President Bush said Tuesday that he wants more countries in a program that allows foreigners to stay in the USA without visas, despite criticism that the move could open the door to terrorists.

“We want people to come to our country,” Bush said in Tallinn, Estonia, one of several European countries that have asked to be included in the visa-waiver program, in which 27 foreign countries now participate. “It's in our nation's interest that people be able to come and visit.”

Bush said his administration aims to add more countries to the program, created to facilitate tourism and business travel 15 years before the 9/11 attacks increased fears of terrorism. He pledged to ensure that “those that want to continue to kill Americans aren't able to exploit the system.”

Under the program, citizens from visa-waiver countries can travel to the USA for up to 90 days without a visa. To be eligible, countries must prove that only a small percentage of their citizens violate the terms of their visas and only a small percentage are rejected when they apply for them. Residents of waiver countries don't have to go through the time-consuming security interviews and checks required for those who must apply for visas.

This is enough to leave one sputtering in disbelief. This is the President who has repeatedly warned the American people for five long years that we live under the constant threat another Islamic terror attack on American soil. This is the President who, along with his acolytes, has told us that American blood and treasure must be spilled on the barren sands of Iraq because "it's better to fight the terrorists there than here" and that we can't leave Iraq because "the terrorists will follow us home." Does the President recall that the terrorists behind 9/11 were largely recruited to the al Qaeda cause while living in Europe? Does he recall that the attack was planned by those same men in places like Hamburg? Does he not notice the rising tide of Islamic radicalism and violence in Britain, France, Germany - America's closest allies?

Terrorism experts have reacted exactly the level of astonishment one might expect.

Critics blasted Bush's plan as an expansion of a dangerous loophole in the nation's effort to secure its borders. Several terrorists — including shoe-bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui — boarded planes to the USA with passports from visa-waiver countries.

“That's a step in the wrong direction,” said Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Homeland Security Department. “We ought to be ending the visa-waiver program, not expanding it. There's a reason why terrorists are keen to obtain passports from visa-waiver countries: They don't have to undergo extensive security checks.”

In September, the Government Accountability Office found that “stolen passports from visa-waiver countries are prized travel documents among terrorists, criminals and immigration-law violators.”

Reasonable people understand that the most basic way to prevent another terrorist attack inside the US is to keep the terrorists from entering the US in the first place. But President Bush doesn't seem to care in the least about doing this. He has stood by while literally millions of aliens pour across the southern border, deliberately frustrated any effort to stem the tide, and advocated for their legalization. His administration has presided over an upsurge of immigration to the US from the MIDDLE EAST (see posts below). And now he wants to make it ridiculously easy for more foreigners to gain entry to the US. The only rational possible answers to this are that: a) President Bush doesn't really believe that the US is facing a serious terrorist threat to the homeland - in which case his rhetoric simply masks a cynical power grab; b) the president does believe in the threat, but considers flooding the US with low wage, Hispanic workers to be a higher priority than preventing and attack; or c) the president is living in an ideological fantasy world, that coupled with his general intellectual shallowness and incoherence, leads him to think that inviting more foreigners into the US is actually a good thing - this would be the same ideological fantasy that lead him to think democracy would solve Islamic terrorism.

Meanwhile, the administration's acolytes scramble to reassure the American people that the president isn't as much of an idiot as his words suggest.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said any expansion of the program must include measures to make the USA safer. Among such measures would be a requirement that countries provide more information about airline passengers before takeoff so that U.S. officials would have more time to check their names against terrorist watch lists, he said. “I want a net increase in security,” Chertoff said.

The travel industry backs Bush's plan. Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association said, “The program is essential. It facilitates almost two-thirds of overseas travel. It's good for our economy and … our diplomatic efforts. The end of the program would mean tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue and a worsened U.S. image.”

Well, if the travel industry wants it, it must be good for America. Unfortunately, Messrs. Bush and Chertoff's reassurances about the high level of government scruitiny to which incoming foreigners will be subjected founder on little news items like this:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has lost track of 111,000 files in 14 of the agency's busiest district offices and processed as many as 30,000 citizenship applications last year without the necessary files, congressional investigators reported yesterday.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit arm, conducted the review at the request of Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) after U.S. authorities granted citizenship in 2002 to a man without checking his primary file. The file, which was lost, indicated ties to the militant Islamic group Hezbollah.

"It only takes one missing file of somebody with links to a terrorist organization to become an American citizen," said Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We can't afford to be handing out citizenship with blinders on."

Indeed, Senator Grassley. Indeed. If the federal government cannot even screen aliens currently in the US for CITIZENSHIP, how can the American people possibly expect homeland security to thoroughly vet foreigners sitting on a US bound airplane waiting on the tarmac of some foreign airport for takeoff clearance. The answer is not at all.

But, then, President Bush clearly doesn't care. Neither, apparently does anyone in the Republican party leadership.


At 7:05 PM , Blogger US Waivers Pardon said...

The US policy is totally strict, but I think there’s nothing wrong if we follow that policy. They have the right to do it to make sure that the people who visit their country have no criminal background.

US Visa Waiver Program


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