Thursday, July 14, 2005


U.S. should be wary
of visa-exempt jihadists


Authorities have identified the suicide bombers of London as British citizens of Pakistani descent.

THE Bush administration has postponed imposition of high-tech passport requirements several times for countries whose citizens can travel to the United States without visas. The delays have been beneficial to the tourism industry, but last week's bombings in London by British nationals raise the flag that threats might come from U.S.-allied countries. National security requires that the passport procrastination come to an end.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America, Congress passed a law that would require countries whose citizens can enter the U.S. without a visa to carry upgraded passports. Passports of citizens of the 27 countries included in the visa-waiver program -- most of them in Europe -- would have to be embedded with identification chips holding the traveler's fingerprint, iris scan or photograph.

The deadline for compliance with the requirement was extended from 2003 to 2004, then to this October, and now to October 2006, and requires that the chip contain only a digital photo, not a fingerprint or iris scan.

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, published prior to the London bombings, Robert S. Leiken of the Nixon Center and Brookings Institution warned of the spread of radical Islam in Western Europe. Many Muslim immigrants have not melted into their new, homogenous countries, as they have in the multicultural United States, and have become alienated and bitter -- Algerians in France, Moroccans in Spain, Turks in Germany and Pakistanis in Britain.

The 2001 attack on America was largely planned by a cell of South Asian student visitors to Hamburg, Germany. Admitted terrorist and alleged 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui is a Frenchman of Moroccan descent. Shoe bomber Richard Reid is a British converter to Islam. Last year's Madrid bombings were committed by Moroccan immigrants to Spain. The confessed murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was born in the Netherlands of Moroccan descent and drawing unemployment pay.

Leikens wrote that many of the alienated Muslims live in the suburban slums of France or "former mill towns such as Bradford and Leicester" in England. The four men accused of the London bombings were British citizens of Pakistani descent living in Leeds, a neighbor of Bradford.

As in the U.S. and in Europe, second-generation immigrants born in the United Kingdom qualify for British citizenship and thus visa waivers. The greater challenge in the war against terrorism might be detecting and defending against jihadists in liberal, freedom-loving countries of the West rather than directing attacks on their native lands.

Ending the visa-waiver program would disrupt tourism to the United States and anger European allies. Instead, the London bombings call for prompt compliance with the digital standards planned for passports three years ago. As suggested by Leikens, U.S.-bound travelers also should be required by airlines to submit passport information upon purchasing airline tickets, providing time for security checks on planned visitors.

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