Amid the impeachment soap opera revolving around allegations of foreign interference in our politics, everyone is ignoring the ultimate foreign influence in our nation through unvetted visas.
Immediately following the terrorist attack on the Pensacola naval base by a Saudi foreign student, I asked the following question: If we can’t even vet the most closely scrutinized military trainees coming onto our secured naval bases, do you really have confidence that there aren’t thousands of other green card recipients and general foreign students from these countries who harbor the same views Mohammed Alshamrani allegedly expressed on social media? Let me introduce you to Hassan Alqahtani.
Alqahtani is one of the 40,000 or so Saudi students who are brought in every year to study in American universities. He was studying engineering at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and was slated to graduate over the weekend, but instead he was arrested by the FBI for weapons charges. The FBI is also investigating a tip from someone who knows Alqahtani that he was putting together “a list of people who he wants to kill before he leaves the US.”
The FBI searched Alqahtani’s home on Thursday and discovered a Cobra handgun and ammunition, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in New Mexico. As a visitor on a non-immigrant visa. Alqahtani is prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. At present, he is only being charged on a weapons violation as the investigation into any potential plot continues.
We are bringing in hundreds of thousands of people from volatile countries every year on long-term visas without a clue to who they are. Trump’s entire campaign on immigration was built on the premise that there should be a moratorium of visas from these countries until we have better vetting. Yet we have not found a better way of vetting them since Trump made that promise. And despite the Pensacola shooting, there is no evidence that the administration is going to take a more aggressive posture on visas.
Quite the contrary. When Congressman Matt Gaetz, the representative from Pensacola, questioned Secretary of Defense Mark Esper about the program at a hearing last Tuesday, he declined even to say that the military training program for Saudis would he shut off, much less civilian visas. “I would hope that very soon, perhaps within the day, you would be able to make a public statement as to whether or not we are taking in new students while you are undergoing that vetting process,” said the Florida congressman at the House Armed Services Committee hearing. Esper responded that there is a “stand-down” on Saudi training, limiting Saudi students just to classroom activities, “until we can do expedited vetting of all Saudi students in the United States.” However, when Gaetz pressed him on whether we are still accepting “new students,” Esper retorted, “I can’t answer that affirmatively, I’d have to get back to you on that.”
WATCH: Gaetz Questions Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Military Response to NAS Pensacola Shooting
“I would hope that by today you would be able to make a public statement as to whether or not we’re taking new Saudi students while you are undergoing a review of this program.” pic.twitter.com/WWtlrBeGno
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) December 11, 2019
If Esper sounded diffident and ambiguous at the hearing, though, he was crystal clear in a statement on Friday, and not in a good way. Esper announced his desire to expand the program by 50 percent over five years, according to the Military Times!
“Programs like these help us develop closer relationships with valued partners around the world while also introducing them to America,” said Esper during a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations. “I have asked the department to find ways to increase PME [professional military education] participation.”
Folks, this is Trump’s secretary of defense making the case not only to continue programs like this even after the Pensacola shooting. This is what happens when impeachment is allowed to overshadow other news. These statements from Esper could easily be made in a Biden administration. Just who is the commander in chief?
Since the Pensacola shooting, it came to light that Mohammed Alshamrani had a paper trail of pro-jihadist social media activity that was never vetted by the Pentagon, State Department, or Department of Homeland Security. A Twitter account believed to be that of Alshamrani retweeted calls for jihad against America within a few years of his admittance to the country.
How many of the roughly 150,000 Islamic immigrants and 150,000 other foreign students we bring in from those same countries every single year share those views? We don’t have anywhere near enough case workers at DHS and State to vet those people, even if there was some way to vet jihadist proclivities.
In addition to the threats from millions of criminal aliens and millions of unvetted Middle Easterners, there is the espionage threat from hundreds of thousands of Chinese brought here every year. Just this Sunday, the New York Times revealed that two Chinese diplomats were expelled after they managed to breach a special operations military base in Norfolk, Virginia, three months ago. One is suspected of being an intelligence officer. These are diplomats who turned out to be spies.
Can you imagine how many of the 340,000 foreign students admitted every year poses a security risk, after we’ve already caught several spies among them? The director of national intelligence warned in the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment, “China’s intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community, using a variety of means.” The same applies to the endless student visas we grant to Iranian nationals. We’ve learned absolutely nothing from 9/11, and evidently, Pensacola will not serve as a wake-up call 18 years later.
At the same time we bring in millions of unvetted immigrants and visitors from hostile or volatile countries, we must ask what happened to the president’s promise to arm our own soldiers on military bases. The president has been silent on this issue in the aftermath of Pensacola, even though he promised to end the gun-free zone on bases on “day one” of his presidency.
Although the Pensacola shooter got his gun legally, this new Saudi suspect in New Mexico possessed a gun illegally. Most immigrants cannot purchase a firearm. But the same enduring lesson about gun control for domestic criminals applies to foreign criminals and terrorists. Bad guys will always get hold of guns. The job of our government is to keep domestic bad guys locked up, foreign bad guys out of the country, and guns in the hands of good guys. Sadly, thus far, under this president, we’ve had a jailbreak bill to release criminals and the continuation of importing endless Middle Easterners and illegal immigrants, and our soldiers still can’t carry weapons on bases.
Once again, amid the endless soap opera of politics, conservatives must ask, do issues and actual policy results still matter?
Author: Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.