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Commentary: See no evil

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- The load for Customs and Border Protection is staggering: 80 million passengers flying in to the United States per year on 823,757 commercial airliners and 139,650 private planes; 330 million people coming across the Canadian and Mexican borders by auto, train and truck; another 18 million by sea; and almost 200,000 cargo ships unloading some 10 million containers in U.S. ports -- all this per annum.

About 10 million illegals are embedded among almost 300 million Americans, and some 4 million each and every year are smuggled across the Mexican border -- about 14,000 each and every day. They include not a few Arabs these days who learned Spanish in Latin America before making the trek north into the United States as Latinos. Wonder what they could have in mind? Setting up secret al-Qaida cells? FBI Director Bob Mueller testified before a congressional committee there are no al-Qaida sleeper cells in the United States. That was the good news. The bad news is that such assurances stretch credulity into a credibility gap. We have also proved extraterrestrial life does not exist in the universe.

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ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, fields 2,300 agents to hunt down illegal aliens in the hope of finding 80,000 criminal aliens and 320,000 "absconders" -- those who fled after being ordered deported. That's 400,000 people on the lam. But now we are asked to believe that al-Qaida types did not avail themselves of these routes and opportunities. How the FBI can be sure there is no one that belongs to a secret sleeper cell among the almost half a million foreigners who have taken a powder borders on dupability.

Osama bin Laden's countless millions of radical Muslim admirers and thousands of would-be jihadis only make it as far as Europe, where new cells and arrests have become almost routine in the 25 European Union countries. But not the United States, where the ever vigilant ICE and FBI agents bar entry to those who wish us ill.

Not so, according to a confidential government report leaked this week. Serious problems remain at airports, along the Mexican border, and with the asylum system.

North Africans in France and Germany and South Asians in the U.K., now European citizens, were recruited to fight as insurgents in Iraq. A number have already come back from killing Americans in Iraq and are now part of an underground terrorist network, recruiting others, setting up sleeper cells. Mosques all over Western Europe have been used as secret meeting places where extremist imams preach the virtues of jihad and the evils of American imperialism. French authorities have no compunction deporting imams who preach hatred. In the U.K., radical Jordanian-born cleric Abu Qatada, suspected of al-Qaida ties, was banned from preaching at mosques or even leading prayers.

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Before 9/11 there were a dozen pro-al-Qaida Web sites on the Internet. Today, there are over 4,000. In France, 40 percent of the Muslim clerics interviewed by French counter-intelligence agents admitted they had no formal religious education before holding forth at Friday prayers. Their religious knowledge, they said, had been gleaned on the Net. When asked to show where, they were all sites pumping out offertory hymns to Osama bin Laden and like-minded sons of Belial.

In the United States, mosques still enjoy virtual immunity as the FBI does not have enough Arabic-speaking Muslim agents to find out what goes on after hours in some places of worship. The FBI's assurances were also marred by an unlucky coincidence: The Bureau confirmed news it had ditched, after spending $171 million, a computer upgrade for a paperless way of tracking suspected criminals, terrorists and spies. But our informants tell us the FBI's geomancers have taken up the slack.

We know fact certain that an Arab American, now in jail in Virginia for his part in a plot to assassinate Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, certified 75 Muslim chaplains to the U.S. armed forces. Abdulrahman Alamoudi was once a highly respected American Muslim who was on the Clinton White House's list of honored guests. Since then his fingerprints have been found in a number of less than charitable Muslim charities in the greater Washington area. After a five-week trial in New York City, Yemeni cleric Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad was convicted of funding terrorism (he admitted giving $20 million to Osama bin Laden).

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About 50 percent of some 70,000 asylum seekers admitted per year produce fraudulent documents. They stage phony sob stories and then disappear pending a hearing where they don't show up. How do we know what their plans were if we don't even know where they are? Successful applicants sell family "slots" (spouse, parent or child) to non-family members. What does the FBI know about this visa-override racket?

Once an alien is granted refugee status, the slots become priceless. They are sold to the highest bidder -- i.e., non-family members. The alien refugee automatically triggers "family reunification" for an entire clan, more often than not a bogus extended family. Anyone driving around Washington in a cab has heard stories about how quickly a Pakistani got a visa to join his family in the United States.

For the past year, the Department of Homeland Security's Operation Liberty Shield has been detaining asylum applicants from countries where al-Qaida and other terrorists originate. But to be effective, DHS would have to detain all those from over 50 Muslim countries where Osama bin Laden outpolls George W. Bush in the Pew Foundation's surveys of Global Attitudes Toward the U.S.

Ninety-four percent of aliens from terrorist-supporting countries who were released from immigration detention were never found again and were never deported.

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They are somewhere in the 50 states -- many of them with new IDs, including drivers licenses and Social Security credentials, all available for a price. In a feasibility test in 1992, this writer changed his ID in Tijuana -- for $500 -- and crossed the border five times in the next 48 hours without even being asked to show ID.

CIA Director Poster Goss is a little closer to the mark when he says, "It may only be a matter of time before al-Qaida and other groups attempt to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. We must focus on that." Until then, a safe assumption is the presence of terrorist sleeper cells.

Bin Laden has made clear time and again he is seeking to acquire and use nuclear weapons because he wants to do to the United States what the U.S. did to force Japan's surrender in World War II -- because it is Allah's will.

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