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little to say.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. But if our desire is to foil illegal immigration, for example, doesn't that establish a management model? And I am asking that rhetorically because I want to go to Ms. Kephart and say, in your experience with the 9/11 Commission-is the Customs function, would that have helped us to foil what happened on 9/11? Putting Customs into the mix with immigration, would that have helped us?
Ms. KEPHART. Well, I have, perhaps, a slightly interesting answer to that question.
First of all, one of the reasons you see Customs only in one page of this staff report called 9/11 and Terrorist Travel is because there was so little information that I was able to uncover from the Customs agency about their contact with the hijackers that I had very
That being said, let me comment on that. All the hijackers came in. They needed to have Customs declarations, and let me make a comment about that. We only were able to get a handful of those Customs declarations because Customs only kept them for 6 months, and they are only on paper; otherwise they are destroyed. I believe that is still the case today. It is not an electronic information system the way the INS entry records are, however poor that system with the immigration service was.
Second of all, only a few of them filled out those Customs declarations, so once more we had very little information to go on because immigration inspectors weren't required to check the Customs records coming through because that is a Customs function. But remember, at airports of entry, prior to 9/11, you had passengers from airplanes being checked 100 percent by INS, and 5 percent were being checked by Customs Service. So nobody was really looking at those Customs declarations, so I couldn't really draw any conclusions from those.
The one thing I will say in thinking about the Customs function is that if you all will recall, Mohammed al-Qahtani from August 4, 2001, was the so-called 20th-one of the 20 terrorists that tried to get in in Orlando, Florida. The inspector who stopped him was featured at our hearing on the 9/11 Commission, et cetera. When I interviewed that inspector in depth, one of the things that I asked him about was, he did everything you could possibly do to determine that the behavior of this person was not right and that he should not be let in, but the one thing he did not do was check the man's luggage. Now we know that because that was a customs function, he really wasn't permitted to do that. But goodness knows, if on August 4, 2001, he had checked his luggage and we knew that Mohammad Atta was waiting upstairs for him, and there was contact information in that luggage--perhaps-perhaps that information would have been passed on. We don't know, but at that time, immigration service would not have passed that information to the FBI, but who knows what was in that luggage? And we will never know because he voluntarily removed himself that day at the great request of that inspector.
So I can say that Customs would not have stopped it, but their reporting was so poor. The one other comment I will make is there were 6 secondary inspections of the hijackers. Two of those were Customs. The reporting on those inspections was so poor that I was unable to really draw any conclusions. So that is about what I can say about Customs. I don't think it would have stopped it. In the end, they are passengers, they are people, they were not cargo, so that is the bottom line for 9/11.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you. The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from Texas for purposes of an opening statement and for questions.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I will yield to Mr. King and take my questions following him. Thank you, sir.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Iowa, Mr. King.
Mr. KING. I thank the gentleman, and the gentlelady from Texas as well. And I appreciate the testimony of the witnesses here today, those on short notice and those on longer notice.
Curiosity arises. First, Ms. Kephart, the situation that we have today with ICE on duty at airports, access now to the entry documents as well as the luggage, do you consider that resolved?
Ms. KEPHART. Ooh. I hope it's resolved. I haven't been out to an airport recently to see how things are working. When I was on the Commission, there was much resistance at the few airports I was able to go to for Customs agents to actually work and do immigration-related work.
To the extent that they are still doing their old Customs work, I think that they are. To the extent that they are actually checking luggage to a greater extent, I don't know that they are. I didn't check on that, so I can't relate.
Mr. KING. And Mr. Stana, you referenced in your testimony that the mission for ICE is national security and not immigration enforcement. And can you reference a policy statement that establishes that?
Mr. STANA. I wouldn't say it is either/or. What I would say would be immigration in the context of national security. I would just reference that to the DHS strategic plans and then the ICE-well, ICE doesn't have a strategic plan in final form yet, but in their interim plans and CBP plans, they mention the nexus to national security. It doesn't preclude immigration efforts.
Mr. KING. And is there any directive on the part of Congress that you know of that DHS would be reacting to in order to promote that kind of a policy, or do you believe that is an internal conclusion?
Mr. STANA. I think what they are doing is taking the mission that was given to them statutorily and interpreting it in that way. I would point out, though, that of all the agencies that are mentioned in the homeland security legislation in 2002, only one was abolished, and that was INS, for whatever reason. And I know some of us have been in hearings for years and years and years, it goes back past the Jordan Commission-talking about how to deal with INS, and apparently one solution was just to dissolve it.
Mr. KING. And certainly that is the case. But back to this point again. If I'm going to track this down to find out where the divergence in the philosophy that I have versus the one that's being implemented, I probably can't go to a statute and identify that.
Mr. STANA. Well, what you would find is the Department of Homeland Security has a mission, to protect the Nation from terrorism and so on. And as any agency would do, they would further define that in a mission statement and in a strategic plan. And in the mission statements and strategic plans, the national security and antiterror missions are emphasized throughout. It doesn't preclude them from working on immigration programs and immigration enforcement certainly, it's just that they try to do that in the context of national security and antiterrorism.
Mr. KING. One would draw from this that the mindset is more toward national security than toward immigration enforcement?
Mr. STANA. Well, where the two interests intersect, I don't know if there would be a competing priority, but I think the top priority of the agency is going to be homeland security, national security and antiterrorism.
Mr. KING. Thank you, Mr. Stana.
And, Mr. Cutler, in your background on these issues, could you talk a little bit about and you would have, I would think, relationships with a lot of active agents out today. Could you talk about the legacy agents, and let us know-have a lot of them-have they left enforcement and found other endeavors, and do you have any idea what is left from those legacy agents?
Mr. CUTLER. Well, the problem you're addressing is a critical one, it's institutional memory, and there is very little left in the way of institutional memory.
Forgive me, I wanted just to clear one point that—when I was listening to that prior question.
Mr. KING. Please do.
Mr. CUTLER. We can't look at immigration enforcement and say, well, we're just going to go after illegal aliens, or we're just going to go after terrorists. Sleepers, which, as you know, Robert Mueller, the head of the FBI, talked to the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing back in February, talked about his concerns about sleeper agents. Sleeper agents aren't people that just simply come into the country and dig a hole in the ground like a cicada and hide there for a year or two waiting for a phone call; they are people that hide in plain sight.
If it's employment that draws the bulk of the illegal aliens across the border; it's immigration fraud that enables them to stay here and hide in plain sight. And if we don't address that issue, and if we are told that there's still no real mission statement 342 years into what's been billed as a war on terror, it gives me cause for pause.
And if you go to the ICE website, the Homeland Security website, what is amazing to me—because I just checked it yesterday, because you would think that the home page of any organization would be where you set forth your number one, number two, number three priority. Well, there wasn't a single thing on that Website that related back to the enforcement of immigration law other than an 1-9 and the fact that they've gone to electronic 19s. Now, if this is supposed to be homeland security, I have yet another reason not to go to sleep this evening.
And I think you're trying to do the right thing, I think you all are, but so many of your colleagues—I have to tell you as a New Yorker, as someone who has been working closely with the 9/11 Families For a Secure America, it leaves me shaking my head. New York has 40,000 cops and enough jail space that if they find somebody breaking the law, they find a place to lodge them. We have 2,000 special agents to cover the entire United States of America; we sit here quibbling over 143 new agents or 500 new agents. We have no jail space. We have a catch and release program, but we want more technology on the border. The technology is great, but if the Border Patrol responds to the alert, and they have a warm body in custody they can't hold on to, why do we bother in the first place?
You know, as an agent I've had the occasion where I've chased somebody five or six blocks, dodged garbage cans that the guy was hurling at me as he was trying to get away from me, tackled him, rolled around on the ground, tore up my clothes, got bruised and the whole 9 yards, and the guy lied for a half hour about who he was, and then in the end my boss said, Mike, I'm sorry to tell you this, but there is no room at the inn. So that guy went home that day; not home to his home country, but home to his apartment in Queens.
Now, we sit here talking about mission statements, we sit here talking about fighting a war on terror. You know, if you go into neighborhoods that have large numbers of illegal aliens, there is an infrastructure that springs up to support those folks. It's mail drops, it's money wire services, it's document vendors. We've shortened the investigations of terrorists—I have arrested terrorists in my career, and they make use of these facilities. These are the facilities that people who are trying to hide in plain sight make use of. These are the facilities that are used by dish washers, drug traffickers and terrorists.
And if we look at this and say, well, we're going to ignore the enforcement of the immigration laws unless we have a bona fide terrorist, that we come back to the madness that we saw 3 weeks or 4 weeks, or whatever it was, after 9/11 when a van with 8 Pakistani nationals was pulled over by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority police officers in New York. These guys had fake ID, and yet immigration didn't want to respond because the FBI came out and said, well, their names don't show up on a watch list. What names? They had false identification.
If you don't go after illegal aliens, people who come here proffering false identity documents, and if we don't train the agents, as I alluded to in my testimony, so they can detect fraudulent identity documents, then, goodness gracious, how do we plan to protect America? Because the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, Congressman, didn't come here on 9/10, they were here for months, and they were hiding in plain sight. And if we allow a situation where we fail to address immigration enforcement in general terms—you know, the only analogy I can make, and I'll be brief because I know I'm past my time, but if you have a problem with mildew in your bathroom, it's okay to wipe the walls down, but the better thing to do is to get to that leaky pipe that's creating that environment that's conducive to the growth of mildew.
If you want to get to illegal aliens who are involved with crime and who are involved with terrorism, then you need to get to the ability that they have to hide in plain sight, and that means you need a vibrant, effective, robust interior enforcement mission, plus good Border Patrol people on the border helping us from all aspects. You can't stop a boat from sinking if you just go after two of the holes in the boat and allow the other five to keep leaking.
We've got to see this as a system, and we need mission statements. And we're 342 years into a war on terror, and I don't go to sleep feeling any safer from the immigration perspective whatsoever, to be perfectly honest with you.
I know I went off the question a bit, but I feel these are points that are really vital to make. And the people that still work there last thing, I have to say it before I forget this. I spoke to an inspector who said to me right now they are only getting about a quarter of the number of referrals to secondary for fraudulent documents, because the way they're evaluated, no one cares what they do with these folks. The only way you can get fired at the airport is to let somebody in who's on the watch list; then you're probably going to lose your job. So if someone comes in with an altered passport or a phony passport and succeeds in getting over, so to speak, they're in, and all they want is to be here. They want a 5-minute head start on the other side of the door so they can then blend into our society, and with no special agents backing up the inspectors at the airports, we've got a precarious situation.
So now with this multipurpose agent, multipurpose inspector out there, they're not going after the fraud the way they used to, they're not going after interior enforcement, how is that protecting the homeland?
Mr. KING. Mr. Cutler, I'm glad I asked you that question. And I would yield back
Mr. CUTLER. I'm sorry.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from Texas.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the Chairman very much.
Mr. Stana, I think you've been on this issue for some time now. And I would ask in my remarks—Mr. Chairman, first of all, I'm going to ask unanimous consent to submit my statement in its entirety into the record, and I will comment very briefly from my statement, and then pose some questions.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. But I did want to acknowledge that Mr. Stana has been on this issue.
It's interesting, when you think of yourself as a new Member of Congress, when you authored a report in 1997, and I was already here. So obviously it's in my own mind.
But 1997 was far ahead of 2001 in terms of the new focus on terrorism. And I think, Mr. Chairman, what I'm going to suggest, it might be unique if this Subcommittee and this Congress, chaired by the distinguished gentleman from Indiana and, more humbly, the lady from Texas, would be able to finally give some guidance, some legislative guidance, some collective guidance to this question of dealing with the management problems. In 1997, Mr. Stana, GAO, offered the light that INS itself was confused or management problems were severe, I don't want to mischaracterize the report, way before the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. So in essence, the Department of Homeland Security was burdened further by the lack of the fix for the INS at that time.