By Michael Cutler
On June 8, 2017 the Department of Justice issued a press release, Two Men Arrested for Terrorist Activities on Behalf of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.
As you will see, terrorists understand that naturalization enables them to act as “Sleepers” and hide in plain sight in the United States and facilitate their movement around the world where they threaten our allies and other countries.
While it is reassuring that these two terror suspects have been taken into custody, charged with an extensive list of terror-related crimes, the criminal complaints, filed in conjunction with this case note the extremely disturbing fact that these defendants as well as others, both known and unknown, committed overt acts in support of Hezbollah that are enumerated in the complaints concerning Samer el Debek, a/k/a Samer Eldebek and Ali Mohamad Kourani, a/k/a Jacob Lewis, a/k/a Daniel
In other words, while these two are out of action, others are still “out there” and may not all be known to law enforcement. That chilling prospect is certainly not conducive to getting a good night’s sleep.
The press releasee, important to read in its entirety, also included this excerpt:
Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, aka, “Samer Eldebek,” were arrested on Thursday, June 1, on charges related to their alleged activities on behalf of Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Office, and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kim said: “Today, we announce serious terrorism charges against two men who allegedly trained with and supported the Islamic Jihad Organization, a component of the foreign terrorist organization Hizballah. Recruited as Hizballah operatives, Samer El Debek and Ali Kourani allegedly received military-style training, including in the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns for use in support of the group’s terrorist mission. At the direction of his Hizballah handlers, El Debek allegedly conducted missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal. Kourani allegedly conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City. Thanks to the outstanding work of the FBI and NYPD, the allegedly destructive designs of these two Hizballah operatives have been thwarted, and they will now face justice in a Manhattan federal court.”
It is important to note that, allegedly, they were both given military training overseas, tasked with conducting surveillance at military bases, law enforcement facilities and critical infrastructure in New York City and elsewhere and with establishing contacts who could provide them with weapons.
Recently I wrote about the ENLIST Act: When “Compassion” Endangers National Security. This ill-conceived legislation would reward illegal aliens with a pathway to lawful immigrant status and put them on the pathway to U.S. citizenship if they serve in the U.S. military.
Aliens who are involved with terrorism could exploit this program to gain access to military bases, military training and military weapons in the United States.
Both of the defendants are naturalized United States citizens and, in point of fact, the New York Times article about this investigation, Bronx Man Accused of Casing J.F.K. Airport for Potential Hezbollah Attack included this paragraph:
The man, Ali Kourani, a 32-year-old naturalized citizen from Lebanon, told the F.B.I. in a series of interviews that he believed he had been recruited to join Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization as part of an effort to develop “sleepers” who lived ostensibly normal lives but could be “activated and tasked” with conducting operations, the complaint said.
“Sleeper Cells” are an area of concern for our law enforcement agencies and I have addressed this vulnerability in some of my Congressional testimony and in some of my articles such as, Sleeper Cells: The Immigration Component of the Threat.
Often terrorist sleepers seek to acquire lawful immigration status by submitting fraud-laden applications for immigration benefits such as falsely claiming political asylum, by acquiring resident alien status and ultimately, attaining U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, concealing their connections with terrorist organization and their overt and covert actions.
The New York Times article went on to note:
Mr. Kourani said in the interviews that he had been allowed to attend a Hezbollah “boot camp” in Lebanon when he was 16 years old because of his family’s connections to a high-ranking Hezbollah official, according to the complaint.
“Kourani considers his family name to be akin to the ‘bin Ladens of Lebanon,’ and one of his brothers is the ‘face of Hezbollah’ in Yater, Lebanon,” the complaint said.
Mr. Kourani said he had been recruited to join the organization in 2008, in light of his education and because he lived in the United States, the authorities said in the complaint. They said that he had told the authorities that one of his first instructions from his “handler” in Lebanon, a man called Fadi, was to obtain American citizenship as soon as possible, which he did in 2009.
Given the above paragraph, apparently Terrorists Value U.S. Citizenshp More Than Our Politicians Do.
If, in fact, Kourani’s family’s relationship wth Hezbollah was so public, the obvious question is how he could have been naturalized or, going further back, how could he have been lawfully admitted into the United States in the first place?
All applicants for United States citizenship are supposed to undergo a “Good Moral Character Investigation.” This is supposed to be a far more stringent investigation than simply running fingerprints to search for any criminal history, but has been all but eliminated by a succession of administrations.
As United States citizens these alleged terrorists could use their U.S. passports to keep a lower profile, gain access to corporate and government office buildings and access to airliners. They use their may use their U.S. passports to get jobs that may have national security or critical infrastructure implications and to more easily gain entry into countries that might have required that they apply for and receive visas before seeking entry.
Furthermore, having multiple passports makes it easier for terrorists and transnational criminals to cover their tracks by using their passport alternately as they travel around the world.
The complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York concerning defendant El Derek includes this statement by FBI Special Agent Daniel M. Ganci:
“El Debek said he was first recruited by Hizballah in late 2007 or early 2008 and began to receive a salary from Hizballah shortly thereafter. Although El Debek said he did not know why he was recruited, he said he believed he was recruited because he held a U.S. passport.”
That complaint, in articulating in part, the justification for declaring Hizballah (Hezbollah) a terrorist organization, reported on four individuals who were Lebanese dual-nationals who acquired citizenship in Sweden, France and Canada and had carried out activities in support of Hezbollah’s acts of terrorism, murder and violence in the Middle East and elsewhere as members of IJO (Islamic Jihad Organization).
It is important to note that those three countries are all Visa Waiver countries.
For example, at the time of his arrest in Cyprus in 2015 Bassam Abdallah, a Lebanese-Canadian possessed a fraudulent passport when he was found in possession of 8.2 tons of ammonium nitrate.
There are those who claim that young people turn to terrorism because of a lack of opportunities and hence, poverty, however, the New York Times article also reported:
The complaint said that Mr. Kourani had also obtained a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering in 2009, and in 2013, a master of business administration. The complaint did not identify the colleges, but a LinkedIn page for a man with his name who obtained those degrees in those years identifies the schools as City College of New York and DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management.
Kourani’s engineering degree could be described as a case of Educating ‘Engineers of Jihad’ at US Universities and certainly equipped with him with the essential skills to carry out sophisticated terror attacks in the United States.
In point of fact, the ability of terrorists to acquire such high tech training at U.S. universities that would thereby enable them to construct weapons of mass destruction was a concern voiced by Senator Feinstein at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing conducted on February 24, 1998 on the topic, “Foreign terrorists in America : five years after the World Trade Center.”
Nevertheless, today there are college administrators at schools across the United States who have turned their campuses into Sanctuary Campuses that refuse to cooperate with DHS.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001 a veritable parade of politicians strutted up to podiums bristling with microphones to complain bitterly that “No one connected the dots.”
Today we have connected a number of those dots and it is time for our politicians irrespective of political affiliations to act and act swiftly, indeed. Time is not on our side.