According to its recent press release, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explain its 2004 operation conducted prior to that year's national elections. In doing so, it dismisses the legitimate pursuit of intelligence leads and seems to beg immigration agents to look the other way when they stumble into someone who turns out to be in the country illegally.
Reporting about the recent release of documents related to the 2004 operation, an October 30 New York Times story states that the DHS action focused on some 2,500 foreign nationals, most from Muslim countries of origin. They were questioned by federal agents about their background and potential involvement in security threat activities, and any knowledge they might have had related to such activities. About 500 of the interviewees were arrested for immigration law violations, but none were arrested for any national security charges.
CAIR asserts that the 2004 operation amounted to religious or ethnic "profiling" since the majority of the aliens interviewed were Muslim.
The Times article cites government sources who say that the operation was based on "priority leads" generated by intelligence information garnered from a variety of U.S. agencies, indicating that those selected for interviews may have had links to, or knowledge of, security threat activities, particularly those that may have related to the 2004 elections. The process of generating those leads, per the government sources, included analyzing intelligence provided by the CIA.
This effort, dubbed Operation Front Line, was described by the Times as being similar to a government operation that had been conducted immediately after the 9/11 attacks, where 700 illegal aliens from mostly Muslim countries were arrested and detained for immigration violations. A subsequent Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ/OIG) report found some incidents of detainee abuse in detention centers and jails stemming from the earlier post-9/11 operation. That abuse came primarily from detention and correction officers once the aliens were in custody. CAIR claims that the 2001 operation amounted to "profiling," as did similar efforts in 2002 and 2003, where several thousand mostly Muslim foreign nationals were questioned, and a number arrested for immigration violations.
It is true these federal operations focused primarily on Muslim aliens within the United States. Over a seven-year period, several thousand such foreign nationals were interviewed, and a percentage of those were arrested for immigration law violations (approximately 20% from the 2004 operation). However, the U.S. government steadfastly maintains there was no random "roundup" of anyone. Instead, all these efforts have been generated by leads. That means there was some specific underlying information raising suspicion about one or more subjects who were located and interviewed before anyone was actually "targeted." The "targeting" was based on that underlying lead information, not someone's religion or ethnicity.
The Times article states that significant government resources were devoted to the 2004 operation, yet the "results" were essentially insignificant. CAIR and the groups who sought this government information (the National Litigation Project at Yale Law School and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee), take issue with the arrests on immigration violations, as though arresting, detaining and trying to deport aliens who are in the US in violation of immigration law is something unimportant. CAIR does not even mention the immigration arrests in its press release. While CAIR claims it supports law enforcement efforts related to national security, efforts conducted within the scope of Constitutional protections, it appears that CAIR does not believe enforcing U.S. Immigration and Nationality laws in conjunction with such efforts is either important or appropriate. It is likely many Americans do not share that view.
Arguably, apart from the government arresting and deporting over 1,000 illegal aliens (counting those during the immediate post-9/11 period), there was a notable result of the 2004 DHS operation: While no official government sources have made any such direct claim, there were no terrorist attacks or even publicly known attempts connected to the 2004 elections.
Is it possible that the interviews conducted by federal agents and the several hundred arrests might have disrupted a planned attack? For a direct and personal perspective on these issues that links to the immediate post-9/11 interview and immigration arrest operations, my December 2003 article in FrontPage Magazine is notably instructive and can be viewed here.
Viewed objectively, it would be a dereliction of duty for DHS to ignore leads developed by law enforcement and intelligence agencies identifying foreign nationals within the US who potentially are security threats, or who are believed to have knowledge of such threats. Are the immigration agents supposed to look the other way when, in the course of investigating those leads, they find suspects who are in the US illegally?
Of course not.
There is no evidence that anything beyond the enforcement of immigration laws occurred during these "questioned" federal operations. The fact that the majority of the subjects of these leads were from countries of Muslim origin should be entirely expected. Like it or not, the most significant and largest number of current terrorist threats to the US come from Muslim-origin countries and terrorists who themselves are Muslim. CAIR and other apologist organizations should stop complaining about the Feds doing their job when there is no meaningful evidence that anything inappropriate occurred. Those complaints only serve to cast doubt on the validity of future counter-terrorism and national security efforts by the U.S. government. Of course, perhaps that is the real goal of such complaints.