Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the coveted position of "Republican liberals kind of like" with his drone-related filibuster earlier this year. Paul will surely disappoint them today with his demand that the Senate delay immigration reform until until we figure out how the Boston marathon bombers got into America, and how to prevent that from happening in the future. The thing is, we know how the Tsaraevs got into America. It's not because there were warning signs and they slipped through our fingers. They got into America because they were kids.
Paul writes in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
We should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system. Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism? Were there any safeguards? Could this have been prevented? Does the immigration reform before us address this?
The two individuals were allowed to immigrate because we don't expect children to become terrorists just because people of their ethnicity live in a violent place. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaraev were 15 and 8, respectively, when they came to America. They reportedly immigrated from Kyrgyzstan, not Chechnya. They came with their family on a tourist visa, and sought asylum. As The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump explains, asylum-seekers have to go through a process that includes biometric identification and background checks. Dzhokhar became a permanent resident in 2007, when he was 14.
For further evidence that we might need more restrictions on immigration because of national security threats, Paul writes:
Our refugee programs have proven to be a problem. On, January 29, 2013, two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, in my home state of Kentucky, were sentenced to long prison terms for participating in terrorism and providing material support to terrorists while living in the United States. How did this happen? Does the current immigration reform address how this might have happened? We may need more scrutiny when accepting refugees from high-risk nations.
Refugees, by definition, tend to be from high-risk areas. Not a lot of refugees coming from France these days. But note that the Iraqis Paul mentions did not successfully commit an act of terror. They were arrested before they committed any crime, and they went to prison. Is that not a success story for immigration and law enforcement?
The case Paul is referring to appears to be that of Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan, who were arrested last August. The two men told someone they thought was al Qaeda that they wanted to give weapons to the terror group. But they were really talking to an FBI informant. In 2010 and 2011, CNN reports, the Iraqis delivered "sniper rifles, C4 plastic explosives, and two Stinger missiles to a truck they believed would be shipped to al Qaeda in Iraq." They got the weapons from an informant working for the FBI. They delivered them to what was actually the FBI's truck. Fake weapons for fake terrorists.
Hammadi's lawyer argued that before the FBI's informant, he had no money and no weapons and no way to export them to Iraq. Alwan got 40 years in prison. Hammadi got life. This is not an unusual case. In 2005, Hemant Lakhani fake imported a fake missile to a fake terrorist. He got 47 years in prison. In 2011, Rezwan Ferdaus plotted with fake terrorists to fly a fake remote-controlled plane strapped with a fake bomb into the Pentagon. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. In 2012, Amine El Khalifi was arrested for plotting with fake al Qaeda terrorists to wear a fake suicide vest into the Capitol. He was sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison.
The FBI has proved quite successful at creating terrorists in order to destroy them. A man with such a keen focus on civil liberties might be unsettled by such facts. Not Rand Paul. The make-a-terrorist-so-you-can-jail-him program has apparently not been aggressive enough.
Paul won praise with his drone filibuster by arguing that while national security is important, the government can go too far, impose too many restrictions on ordinary people in an attempt to prevent all crime. Paul's question was, if an American citizen and terrorist suspect was sitting in a cafe in Houston, could he be droned? The American citizen the U.S. droned in Yemen in 2011 was Anwar al Awlaki, an Islamist cleric who used YouTube to recruit terrorists. Awlaki had inspired Nidal Hasan to kill 14 people and wound 30 more at Fort Hood in 2009. Hasan was radicalized over the Internet while living in America. Just like the Tsarnaev brothers, apparently.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.