Thursday, February 11, 2010

Visa security is critical to preventing terrorist attacks

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day is another reminder that a visa is priceless to a terrorist. It is the golden key that allows easy passage to the United States. If the intelligence on Abdulmutallab had been properly analyzed, his visa would have been quickly revoked and he would have been denied access to Flight 253. We must go back to basics and strengthen the role of the Homeland Security Department in visa issuance, review and security.

Certainly, we must continue to improve methods and technologies for screening and detecting explosives carried by airline passengers, but our highest priority is to remember the lesson of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the attempted Christmas Day bombing: Our first line of defense against terrorism is intelligence and visa security. Yes, visa security. It's not an easy, 30-second sound bite and it takes a little more explaining, but it might be our best defense. Without a valid visa, America's enemies will not be able to lawfully enter the United States at all.

This does not mean we should in any way diminish America's role as a gateway to visitors from around the world. Common-sense security measures and an open and welcoming culture are not mutually exclusive. Revoking Abdulmutallab's visa would have done nothing to interfere with the travel plans of any other passenger boarding a flight to America. The DHS inspector general has found that the successful vetting of visas requires a hands-on presence at the embassy. On the ground, visa security agents can better connect local intelligence (such as that given by Abdulmutallab's father to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria). They also can re-interview applicants if necessary, applying trained law enforcement and security perspectives the State Department simply does not offer.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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