Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) has introduced legislation that will require states to make sure they’re providing driver’s licenses only to American citizens and legal residents. It’s an anti-terror measure: the laxity of license-issuing offices, says Sensenbrenner, is “a magnet for foreign terrorists, criminals, home grown identity thieves and illegal aliens.” His bill is supported by the Bush Administration and has already passed the House; but does it really solve the problem it is intended to solve?
Would it, for example, have stopped Roberto Aburto, his wife Azalia Gaona, Miriam Palestina and Rutilio Marquez of Port Isabel, Texas? They were arrested last week for selling fake Social Security cards and green cards to three Iranian men. If the Iranians had been terrorists and the scheme had not been uncovered, they would have been able to get around the new legislation with their forged cards.
Last week Lamont Ranson and Cedric Carpenter of New Orleans were also arrested. They told members of the Filipino jihadist group Abu Sayyaf, according to U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, that they “could obtain Mississippi drivers licenses, false documents that could be used by terrorists to enter the country, remain in the country, travel in the country.” AP reported that Ranson and Carpenter were “charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to defraud the United States and an attempt to provide material support to terrorists.”
Sensenbrenner’s new legislation is unlikely to have put either of these groups out of business. Industrious entrepreneurs will find a way to counterfeit any printed verification that may become necessary. Nor will Sensenbrenner’s bill stop jihad terrorists who are American citizens or legal residents of the United States. Maher Hawash, the Intel video technology wizard who pled guilty in August 2003 to conspiring to aid the Taliban, was a naturalized American citizen.
Another American citizen, former Council on American Islamic Relations communications specialist Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, is now serving twenty years in prison for his role in the “Virginia jihad network.” Royer, a St. Louis native and convert to Islam, stockpiled arms and, according to his indictment, planned “to prepare for and engage in violent jihad on behalf of Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, the Philippines and other countries and territories.”
Sahim Alwan is also an American citizen. A leader of the Yemeni community in Lackawanna, New York and onetime president of the mosque there, he was the first American to attend an Al Qaeda training camp. He was convinced to go by Kamal Derwish, an Al Qaeda recruiter, who taught him that the Qur’an “says you have to learn how to prepare. Like, you gotta be prepared just in case you do have to go to war.”
Besides American citizenship, Hawash, Royer, Alwan and other jihadists in America have another thing in common: their move toward violent jihad came as they became more religious and serious about Islam. Jihad recruiters like Derwish have moved unimpeded among American Muslims, using the Qur’an and Islamic tradition to recruit terrorists. What is needed to meet this problem is a realistic acknowledgement by law enforcement officials of the fact that what happened to Alwan could happen anywhere in America today. Because of Islam’s religious character, officials (as well as the media) have been profoundly reluctant to admit this — and their reluctance has left us all that much more vulnerable to attacks on American soil of the kind that Hawash, Royer, and Alwan wanted to carry out elsewhere.
It is now over five years since the Naqshbandi Sufi Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani testified at a State Department Open Forum that Muslims holding an “extremist ideology” had taken over “more than 80 percent of the mosques that have been established in the US.” What serious investigation has been mounted to determine whether or not he was correct? Corroborating evidence came just last month from Freedom House, which released a report revealing the extent to which American mosques are filled with jihadist material. One high school textbook — used by Muslims in America — declares: “To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah’s way??¢â???¬ ¦.Until the nations of the world have functionally Islamic governments, every individual who is careless or lazy in working for Islam is sinful.”
But why are such textbooks still used in American Muslim schools over five years after Kabbani’s testimony?
What we need to fight terrorism effectively, Congressman Sensenbrenner, are intelligence and law enforcement agencies that are aware of such teachings, and respond accordingly — not a better driver’s license.