WASHINGTON – Pakistan warns that a new Justice Department rule to fingerprint and track visitors from that country will leave “a bad taste” among Pakistani citizens, a spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy here told WorldNetDaily.
“You are going to fingerprint and mugshot our people as if they are common criminals,” complained Pakistan Embassy press attache Asad Hayauddin. “It will certainly leave a bad taste among Pakistanis.”
The new policy, set to go into effect Oct. 1, is so sensitive that Justice officials refuse to talk about it – although WorldNetDaily has obtained a copy of the official four-page department memo (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) outlining the controversial policy.
The Bush administration shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks forged an alliance with Pakistan in the war on terrorism, even though it has long been a hotbed of terrorist activity and a base for al-Qaida operatives.
Now, in a stunning reversal, the administration – led by Attorney General John Ashcroft – fears Pakistan may be sending terrorists here, and has subjected it to the same immigration restrictions imposed on the five known Middle Eastern terrorist-sponsoring countries, which are Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria.
Beginning Oct. 1, immigration inspectors will be required to fingerprint, photograph and track Pakistani nationals who enter the U.S. on visas, according to the internal Justice memo. Young Pakistani males will be matched against federal terrorism and criminal databases.
In another shocker, visitors from Saudi Arabia, along with Yemen, will also be subject to special registration. The administration, despite evidence to the contrary, continues to maintain at least publicly that Saudi is an ally in the war on terrorism.
“The attorney general has determined warranting special registration of certain nonimmigrant aliens who are citizens or nationals, or who an inspecting officer has reason to believe are citizens or nationals, of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen who are males between 16 and 45 years of age,” said Johnny N. Williams, executive associate commissioner of field operations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is under Justice, in a Sept. 5 memo to INS regional directors titled, “Identification of Nonimmigrant Aliens Subject to Special Registration.”
The Saudi Arabia Embassy here referred questions to its public-relations firm, which is consulting with officials regarding how to respond to the news. An official at the embassy says the royal government was unaware of the development.
At least two Saudi-based charities, the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization, have been accused of funding al-Qaida operations run by Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden. And of course, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
According to the confidential memo, marked “LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY,” Ashcroft also gives INS inspectors authority to specially register any U.S. visitors who have:
- “Made unexplained trips to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Indonesia or Malaysia, or the alien’s explanation of such trips lacks credibility.”
- “Engaged in travel not well explained by the alien’s job or other legitimate circumstances.”
- “Previously overstayed in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa.”
- Acted strangely under questioning, or provided answers or information that reasonably “indicate that alien should be monitored in the interest of national security.”
The memo advises that inspectors must first get a supervisor to sign off on referring such aliens to special registration.
The first phase of the registration program, known as NSEERS, went into effect Sept. 11, although inspectors at major airports say they are still working out bugs in the new computer system. Phase one targets visitors from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria. Phase two goes into effect Oct. 1.
Hayauddin asserts that the U.S. has no reason to target Pakistanis, arguing that none of the terrorists tied to Sept. 11 are citizens of his country.
“So far not a single Pakistani has been charged with anything to do with 9-11,” he said in a phone interview. “The terrorists are not Pakistani.”
He admits, though, that many of the plotters and financiers of the attack on America trace back to Pakistan. What’s more, bin Laden himself is thought to be hiding there.
The Hamburg, Germany, roommate of hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta – Ramzi Binalshibh – would have been the 20th hijacker had he succeeded in obtaining a visa to enter the U.S. like the other 19. Binalshibh last week was arrested in Pakistan by U.S. and Pakistani authorities.
“They are not Pakistanis,” insisted Hayauddin. “They are people who have used Pakistani soil or phone facilities or other things, but they are not Pakistanis.”
He added: “Just because someone uses a country as a conduit or an area doesn’t mean that country is a terrorist country.”
Hayauddin pointed out that international criminals use American banks to facilitate their schemes.
“Most of the money laundered in the world happens in U.S. banks,” he said.
Hayauddin, who first came to America years ago on a student visa, also argues the INS special registration is overkill, because the State Department is supposed to pre-screen Pakistanis at its consular offices in Pakistan when they apply for their visas.
“You certainly don’t win hearts and minds like this,” he said.
There are more illegal aliens from Pakistan than any other Muslim or Middle
Eastern country. The INS last estimated that 41,000 Pakistani nationals were living in the U.S. illegally, according to a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies.