[Marxism] Wall Street Journal front page report: "New Dragnet"
walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 31 06:24:13 MST 2005
Cuba isn't the only target of these draconian new "security" rules
which Washington has imposed on the United States of America since
9-11. 73-year-old Ibrahim Ferrer and scientists who are to receive
awards in the United States aren't the ONLY people affected by the
array of new rules imposed in recent years. What has happened also
is a broad and general deepening of the already very deep isolation
from which the people of the United States suffer. People living in
the United States are among the least-informed peoples in the world
today, and measures such as those described here can only add to the
general level of ignorance by the people of the United States. That
is one of the reasons why alternative media such as the Internet in
this period become of greater and greater importance. As this report
shows, there's nothing here which is connected with finding or else
stopping terrorists from operating in the US. But keeping immigrant
communities, mostly non-white in a state of perpetual insecurity is
an important goal being accomplished through such measures.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
October 31, 2005
How Tools of War
On Terror Ensnare
Border, Immigration Agencies
Tap Into FBI Database;
Questions About Privacy
Mr. Samori's Speeding Ticket
By BARRY NEWMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
October 31, 2005; Page A1
Driving in from Mexico last March, Jaime Correa was stopped by
federal inspectors at a border post near San Diego. They fed the
21-year-old U.S. citizen's name into a computer with a fast link to
the federal government's huge database of criminal files. Readout:
Wanted in Los Angeles for attempted murder.
Another citizen, Issah Samori, walked into a federal office in
Chicago the previous year. He is 60, a cabbie, and was there to help
his wife get a green card. An immigration clerk fed his name into the
same computer. Readout: Wanted in Indiana for speeding.
The border guards handed Mr. Correa over to the San Diego police, who
locked him up. The Chicago police came to collect Mr. Samori. He
spent the night on a concrete slab in a precinct cell.
Detentions of American citizens by immigration authorities for
offenses large and small are becoming routine -- and have begun to
stir a debate over the appropriate use of the latest technologies in
the war on terror. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, immigration
computers have been hooked up to the expanding database of criminal
records and terrorist watch lists maintained by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. The computers are now in use at all airports, most
border crossings, and even in domestic immigration offices, where
clerks decide on applications for permanent residence and
The screenings are mainly meant to trap foreigners, and especially
foreign terrorists, but they have also proved to be a tool in the
hunt for American citizens wanted by the police. In 2003, U.S.
Customs and Border Protection says that it alone caught 4,555
Americans this way. In 2004, the number rose to 6,189.
Some law enforcers applaud that tally. Citizens with nothing to hide,
they argue, shouldn't care if their names are put through a criminal
search, and criminals should have no "expectation of privacy." The
arrests have brought in some serious offenders, like Mr. Correa, a
Los Angeles gang member, who was accused of a drive-by shooting. He
was convicted this month of assault with a firearm, and sentenced to
eight years in prison. There have been others like him: citizens
wanted for armed robbery, murder and sex crimes.
But some legal scholars and defenders of privacy worry that easy
access to criminal databases is giving rise to indiscriminate
detentions of citizens for minor offenses, and to a "mission creep"
that is blurring the line between immigration control and crime
control. Routine encounters like Mr. Samori's, some say, shouldn't
give civil servants a "free shot" to fish for records unrelated to
the administrative purpose at hand.
It isn't as if those the computer snags are being "pulled over for a
broken tail-light," says former Atlanta policeman Mark Harrold, who
teaches law at the University of Mississippi. Rather, as he sees it,
they are being caught as they engage in civil pursuits "like going in
for a marriage license."
Born in Ghana, Mr. Samori has lived for 35 years in a brick house on
Chicago's South Side. When he and his new Ghanaian wife, Hilda, sat
down in an immigration clerk's cubicle in mid-2004, Mr. Samori knew
that as a citizen he had a right to sponsor her for permanent
residence. The two came ready to show that their marriage was
genuine. But the clerk just stared at his computer.
"He said we can't do the interview," Mr. Samori recalls. "I asked
why. He said, because we have an arrest warrant on you. I told him,
whatever it is, I'm ready to face it."
The clerk reached for his phone. Two officers appeared. Hilda Samori
cried as her husband was led out. He spent three nights in jail on
his way to Indiana court, where his reckless-driving charge, a
misdemeanor, was eventually set aside. Mrs. Samori had to wait a year
and a half for her green-card application to be reopened.
Immigration service officials say reporting wanted citizens has
become standard procedure. "If you have unfinished business with the
police, it's best to take care of that before you come in asking for
a service or a benefit," says Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the border-protection
agency's domestic sister. Apart from confirming a citizen sponsor's
identity, he says, clerks search for warrants to make sure that no
one on federal property poses "a threat to public safety or national
On the borders, the same principles have long applied. Like the
immigration service, the border agency now belongs to the Department
of Homeland Security. Border inspectors, who wear uniforms and carry
guns, are the first line of defense against terrorists, drug
smugglers and illegal immigrants trying to enter the U.S. When they
face suspicious people -- mostly with dubious documents -- they used
to hold them for long security checks. Today, border inspectors need
only swipe passports through readers for warrants and watch lists to
pop up. Millions of citizens returning from abroad now have their
names scanned this way.
Behind the new dragnet is the FBI's National Crime Information
Center, a repository of 40 million records covering everything from
terrorists to stolen boats. On a single day in 2005 -- May 28 -- the
center handled a record 5.3 million queries. Its biggest user now,
with 1.5 million daily searches, is Customs and Border Protection.
"There was authority before 9/11 to stop people, but the software
makes it easier than ever," says Jeffrey Lustick, a lawyer in
Bellingham, Wash., a town near the Canadian border where these
arrests are commonplace. "What was theoretical has become real."
The same FBI database is also available now to clerks who carry out
the duties of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service. Each
year, the clerks, who wear street clothes and sit behind a desk,
evaluate over a million applications for citizenship and permanent
residence, most sponsored by green-card holders and citizens. While
clerks at other federal agencies rarely have reason to see FBI files,
the immigration-service's clerks do.
Because lawbreaking can disqualify applicants, all must submit to
fingerprinting and a full criminal-history check. The job used to be
done by hand with the FBI's help. Now fingerprints have gone digital,
and immigration clerks can hunt for applicants by name on the FBI
warrants list. Citizen sponsors aren't fingerprinted, but "in the
course of doing our business," says Mr. Bentley, their names are
checked against the warrants list as well.
"When an individual comes into our office," he adds, "if there's an
outstanding warrant, we will call local law enforcement and let them
know the person's here."
The policy hasn't been announced, but immigration lawyers around the
country say they have slowly been made aware of it over the past two
or three years -- often by surprise.
Paul Zoltan, a Dallas immigration lawyer, says his foreign client's
citizen wife was arrested in 2003 at her marriage interview and
charged with shoplifting. "My trust in your office has been deeply
shaken," the lawyer wrote the immigration service, complaining that
the arrest had nothing to do with the immigration service's job.
He got no reply, and the service has no comment. A citizen husband
at an interview in Chicago was held for hours on a Georgia
cocaine-possession warrant, says his wife's lawyer, Rebecca Reyes.
The warrant was "years old," she says. Georgia wasn't interested; the
husband was released.
Jim Austin watched as his client's citizen wife was arrested for
trespassing in Kansas City, Mo. Rebecca White took her foreign
client's two children into a bathroom in Seattle so they wouldn't see
their citizen father taken away; the charge was failure to return
household rental equipment. Also in Seattle, a citizen sponsoring his
wife's application was jailed overnight on a warrant for someone
"They apologized," says Diana Moller, a lawyer who represented the
wife, explaining why the man preferred not to give an interview. "He
wants to leave it at that."
Arrests of this kind have become common enough that many lawyers now
quiz citizens about warrants before sending them into immigration
interviews. The service doesn't count the citizens it arrests; if any
dangerous criminals have been among them, it can't say.
Customs and Border Protection can. When it nets citizens on their way
into the country who are wanted for serious crimes, it puts out press
releases. Two standouts from the Mexican border: a man from North
Carolina wanted for multiple sex crimes against children in Arizona
and Massachusetts; and a young couple on the run from Colorado, both
wanted for committing a double murder. And one from the Canadian
border: an escaped robber from Seattle driving a stolen car with a
shotgun in the trunk and an Uzi in his luggage.
"This technology is a fast, effective weapon in the war on terror,"
one announcement quotes the agency's chief, Robert C. Bonner, as
saying, "but also gives our agents a means to apprehend criminals and
fugitives of every kind."
At airports, the border agency's screening for fugitives has become
still more efficient with the passage of a new antiterror law
requiring flights from overseas to transmit passenger lists before
landing. Now, inspectors can organize welcoming parties in advance.
"They're surprised, let me tell you," says a former inspector at Los
Angeles Airport who asked not to be named. Often, his warrants were
for Las Vegas gambling debts. "Couples come back from Cancún and the
husband has to explain. The wife says, 'Why didn't you tell me?' I've
seen tears. I've seen breakdowns."
In 2003, the Transportation Security Administration, also part of
Homeland Security, floated the idea of screening all passengers for
warrants, citizens included, before they board domestic flights. The
TSA's goal was to "ensure that passengers do not sit next to known
terrorists and wanted murderers." After an outcry across the board --
from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Conservative
Union -- it backed off, and now is rolling out a system that limits
such searches to terrorist-watch lists.
At the immigration service, the authority to run checks on citizens
dates back to at least 2002, the service says in a statement. That's
when the FBI granted the old INS access to "certain" files "for the
purpose of adjudicating immigration-benefit applications." The new
service says it derives limited access to files on citizens from that
deal with the FBI.
The arrangement comes as news to legal experts and law-enforcement
officials, including Judson Barce, the prosecutor in Benton County,
Ind. "A civil authority ran a criminal check?" he says. "How do they
It was thanks to the search run by a Chicago immigration clerk that
Mr. Barce was able to bring Issah Samori to justice.
As soon as the clerk said the word "warrant," Mr. Samori guessed what
it was about. Six months earlier, on a Sunday drive to visit a
relative, he was heading south in his Camry on a state highway when a
Benton County police car pulled him over.
The patrolman said Mr. Samori had hit 86 miles per hour in a 55 mph
zone, fast enough to be reckless in Benton. Mr. Samori says he called
the county to get a court date, but no appointment letter ever
reached his house. That was the last he thought about the ticket
until he and his wife went in for their marriage interview.
After the immigration clerk found the warrant Benton County issued
because Mr. Samori had missed his court date, he spent two nights in
Chicago-area jails. Then Benton's sheriff arrived to drive him, in
handcuffs, 70 miles to Indiana, where Mr. Samori spent his third
night in a cell.
In court the next day, he didn't contest the charge. "I just wanted
to get it over," he says. In return for a $400 bond, he was set free.
He returned a month later with proof that he had taken a
defensive-driving course. The reckless-driving charge was dismissed.
Less the sheriff's expenses for driving down from Chicago, he got a
refund of $203.98.
At the end of July, after an 18-month pause, the Samoris sat down
once again at a clerk's desk in Chicago's federal building to
complete their green-card interview. They brought a pile of papers
and an album of wedding pictures to prove their marriage is real.
They are still waiting for the immigration service to make its
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