In an effort to fast track more foreign interpreters, Senate staffers have confirmed the Defense Department has been lobbying the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform Bill S744 (skip to p. 845 for actual Bill).
Despite numerous cases of interpreters turning against coalition troops and contractors, including the high profile incident last year where a translator working for the British military attempted to crash Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s plane during its landing in Afghanistan, officials in the Senate say the Pentagon would like to double the number of Special Interest Visas (SIVs) America approves each year.
A US embassy official in Afghanistan told Stars and Stripes, “Visa applications are processed in the order they are received. The staff has been working every day to chisel away at the backlog, sometimes cramming as many as 70 interviews into a day.” The sheer number of visas being processed in a third world nation has many Americans concerned about homeland security.
The petition process for Special Immigrant Visas is relatively simple. An Iraqi or Afghan national who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority, as an interpreter, must meet the following requirements: must be an Iraqi or Afghan national; must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under COM (Chief of Mission) authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months; and must obtain a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer that supported the translator or interpreter, and/or a recommendation from the COM from the embassy where the interpreter worked.
“The total number of SIVs issued has risen dramatically this year, to 1,393 cases representing 3,302 individuals so far—perhaps a result of heightened media scrutiny brought on in large part by The List, a documentary about Iraqi interpreters. But the Afghan nationals who have served with U.S. and coalition forces have received less attention, possibly owing to blue on green attacks, with Afghans representing just 3 percent of this year’s figures: 109 Afghans have arrived under the program in 2012—50 translators, along with 59 of their family members,” The Daily Beast reported. “In 2010 one interpreter killed two soldiers on a base and wounded another. And a recent series of insider attacks have undermined trust in the Afghan army and policemen who we once trusted as allies.”
Enter Lebanese Hezbollah Commander, Wissam Allouche
Wissam Allouche arrived in America sometime in 2002. He married an American citizen and settled in Texas where he successfully navigated the Department of Homeland Security background check and eventually became a U.S. citizen.
However, his story falls apart once the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force looked into his life when he applied for a DoD job requiring security clearances. A number of red flags prompted the FBI to perform a more in-depth investigation.
In 2011 the FBI raided his home and found documents that suggest he fabricated security clearances, a membership in U.S. Special Forces as well as Defense Department intelligence units. Once this was discovered, Allouche was charged with non-disclosure of his prior Hezbollah membership when he sought a security clearance with the Defense Department.
During the three-year investigation, that included recorded undercover personal conversations, “he (Allouche) admitted on tape that he was a member of Amal and that he was a commander of Hezbollah,” Texas prosecutor Mark Roomberg told the court.
Army Criminal Investigations, Special Agent, Jeff Cram testified that his investigation revealed Allouche’s ties. He further attested to Allouche being seen by multiple people at San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston dressed in a U.S. military uniform displaying Special Forces insignias. Many of those witnesses included women.
“So being flirtatious would give him access to sensitive information? Roomberg asked Mr. Cram. “Yes, sir.” Cram also testified that he discovered eight Hezbollah photos of Allouche.
“He was given at least three aliases,” Cram testified. One meant “god of death,” Cram said, adding that Allouche was also known for “acting crazy or acting dangerously.”
Allouche entered a not guilty plea to all the charges according to the indictment, and his attorney, Cynthia Orr, challenged the government’s portrayal of her client. “The evidence comes from his disgruntled ex-wife and his disgruntled ex-father-in-law.”
If convicted, Allouche faces 10 years in prison, and his citizenship would be revoked. He also faces an additional five years for lying on security-clearance forms. The judge agreed to keep Allouche behind bars pending trial.
How could this happen?
How exactly did an alleged terrorist successfully gain US citizenship by entering America’s front door? Former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez said the U.S. has been sacrificing national security for political expediency for decades and that the so-called background checks provide minimal details for those seeking to call the U.S. home. “You could subject everybody to a thorough background check but the cost and time would be overwhelming. It would not be acceptable for the political class.”
He continues to explain that; “Millions apply for visas each year and they must rely on host nations for information which is nearly impossible to verify.”
Thirty-year INS agent Mike Cutler concurs and suggests that it is vitally important to fully vet foreign nationals that work for the U.S. government where they may have access to classified information. “You need to talk to family members, friends and neighbors in the home countries. You have to see where they are traveling and whom they are associating with. It’s critically important.”
This sensitive information can also put undercover agents, informants and special operation plans at risk, not to mention the trust involved when using an interpreter, Cutler explains. “You have an allegation that a terrorist was working as a translator for the U.S. Army and if that isn’t scary enough, how many more are here to do us harm?”
Most national security experts agree that full background investigations would swamp the Department of Homeland Security, but Cutler points out the obvious; “What did 9/11 cost us?”
The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers say “recent events in the United States provide clear and convincing proof that the failure of the Government to effectively enforce ourimmigration laws as written has already created a level of pervasive lawlessness within the U.S. that has dramatically reduced national security and public safety and facilitated more tragic events and outcomes, such as the 2001 Trade Center and 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings,” said Zack Taylor, Chairman of National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. “In the light of the current situation within the United States the latest proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform S744 would serve to create unrest and invite further attacks on America. The plan benefits the illegal alien, transnational criminals within our midst and those elements that intend to do us further harm. There is no practical way to ascertain the true identity, date of border crossing or purpose of entry of the more than 11 million aliens who are within our country in violation of immigration laws.”
Taylor provides another example of the porous southern border. On June 4, 2013, a DHS Predator drone tracked a group of illegal aliens 15 miles north of the Mexican border near Patagonia, AZ.
Taylor said just before sunrise, the Predator operator could be heard on audio saying:
“…Uh…. be advised…. uh … replay the tape shows…. uh…. about sun-up, there was some kneeling going on…” After that, no further transmissions from Omaha 25 or any other transmissions concerning this incident were discerned. Taylor confirms another fact that more Muslims are crossing illegally into America from Mexico. (Link to the Secure Border Intel audio is found here: