July 5, 2008

One percent of foreign jihadis with U.S. criminal records

More than six and a half years after 9/11, the U.S. bureaucracy is starting to get basic tasks done.

Fingerprints from one out of a hundred detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa are matching those in U.S. local police files:

From the Washington Post:

As they analyzed the results, they were surprised to learn that one out of every 100 detainees was already in the FBI's database for arrests. Many arrests were for drunken driving, passing bad checks and traffic violations, FBI officials said.

"Frankly I was surprised that we were getting those kind of hits at all," recalled Townsend, who left government in January. They identified "a potential vulnerability" to national security the government had not fully appreciated, she said.

The people being fingerprinted had come from the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. They were mostly in their 20s, Shannon recalled. "One of the things we learned is we were dealing with relatively young guys who were very committed and what they would openly tell you is that when they got out they were going back to jihad," he said. "They'd already made this commitment."

One of the first men fingerprinted by the FBI team was a fighter who claimed he was in Afghanistan to learn the ancient art of falconry. But a fingerprint check showed that in August 2001 he had been turned away from Orlando International Airport by an immigration official who thought he might overstay his visa. Mohamed al Kahtani would later be named by the Sept. 11 Commission as someone who allegedly had sought to participate in hijackings. He currently is in custody at Guantanamo Bay.

Similarly, in 2004, an FBI team choppered to a remote desert camp on the Iraq-Iran border, home to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), whose aim is to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK lead an austere lifestyle in which men are segregated from women and material goods are renounced. The U.S. State Department considers the organization to be a terrorist group.

The FBI team fingerprinted 3,800 fighters. More than 40, Shannon said, had previous criminal records in the agency's database.

While the FBI was busy collecting fingerprints, the military was setting up its own biometrics database, adding in iris and facial data as well. By October, the two organizations agreed to collaborate, running queries through both systems. The very first match was on the man who claimed to be a poor dirt farmer. Among his many charges were misdemeanors for theft and public drunkenness in Chicago and Utah, a criminal record that ran from 1993 to 2001, said Herb Richardson, who serves as operations manager for the military's Automated Biometric Identification System under a contract with Ideal Innovations of Arlington.

Many of those with U.S. arrest records had come to the United States to study ...

So, one percent is just the fraction of jihadis who got fingerprinted in America when they got caught by the police screwing up. What fraction managed to not get caught when they were in America? Of course, we don't seem to collect fingerprints on foreigners in the U.S., so nobody knows.

Not every young foreign man who attends college in America develops a lifelong love of America. John Updike's 1978 novel "The Coup" explains the psychological mechanics of this in a character very similar to Barack Obama Sr.

So, why did our President go out of his way to start up a new program with the King of Saudi Arabia to bring thousands of Saudi college students to America?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

10 comments:

testing99 said...

Because GWB is stupid Steve. But, he's stupid in the way Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, all of them going back to FDR were stupid.

The US since the 1930's has sought to promote the KSA as an ally and "stability" piece in a profoundly unstable region. As bad as the KSA is (and it's rotten to the core) from the outside, to naive and unquestioning observers, it appears better than Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and the other big nations in the area since it has not had a coup and has had fairly orderly transitions.

However, that stability comes at a price of absolute boggling corruption, ceding of most areas of life to the religious whackos, first the Ikwhan, later guys who backed and still back Osama.

As a practical matter, if we want to know what's going on plot-wise to topple a skyscraper (the 1993 WTC plotters hoped to topple one building into another to kill more than 50,000 people) or WORSE (bin Laden's group has tried to get nukes since 1988, they have a formal directorate for just that goal) we have to be in bed with guys like the MEK. That doesn't mean we should let them in the country, but we ought to exploit them for our own use. The terrorists divided against each other like the MEK-Iranians should be exploited.

Steve, you've been critical of US military efforts in the Horn, and elsewhere, but here's a pay-out. We find people who are associated with terror groups. And we create local allies who can feed us info. Getting information is not going happen with squeaky clean folks.

Ronduck said...

Actually testing99 we could just expel Muslims, that would end our terrorism problems.
****

In 2001 there may have only been 19 Muslims on the planet who wished to do us harm, yet somehow our government managed to find all 19 of them, give them visas, and turn a blind eye while they were here.

The above is why I feel good knowing that only 1% of Muslims actually wish to us harm. If you think that there are 1 billion Muslims in the world 1% only works out to 10 million, so we shouldn't be worried about the six million in the US....never mind.

Lucius Vorenus said...

testing99: Because GWB is stupid Steve. But, he's stupid in the way Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, all of them going back to FDR were stupid. The US since the 1930's has sought to promote the KSA as an ally and "stability" piece in a profoundly unstable region.

Somewhere in all of this, Peter O'Toole is clamoring for attention.

William said...

So, why did our President go out of his way to start up a new program with the King of Saudi Arabia to bring thousands of Saudi college students to America?

Yeah, stupidity, like Testing99 said. But remember, you can't have a "War on Terrorism" without the terrorism, right? So you answer the shortage like you do any other: import more supply.

It's anarchotyranny: bring in more bad guys, so you create more anarchy, so you can create more laws to oppress the innocent with.

It's what ehtnically European leaders like Bush have been doing since at least medieval times in order to increase their power.

Sideways said...

Well, we do get the fingerprints of anyone coming in on a student visa today.

Of course, that's "as evil as anything done by the Nazis"

rast said...

Testing99, you people managed to get the US into a two trillion dollar war with Saddam's crappy little country, despite the fact that it posed no threat to us, had never attacked us, and had essentially no links to anti-American terror (certainly less links than the US and Israel have).

Yet you weren't able to get basic restrictions on Muslim immigration to the US. Makes it clear where your priorities are.

(ps: cool call on the anarcho tyranny, william)

Anonymous said...

It's anarchotyranny: bring in more bad guys, so you create more anarchy, so you can create more laws to oppress the innocent with.

Best.

Post.

Ever.

Intervene in foreign conflicts. Import people from both sides of foreign conflicts. Justify oppressive government as necessary to mediate social strife caused by importing people from both sides of foreign conflicts. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This is actually the pattern of empire. It is historical fact that the outcome of imperial wars is an influx of colonial natives into the motherland. Does t99 really think anybody can successfully cook that stew?

-Senor Doug

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Senor Doug. I have never seen the phrase "it is historical fact..." followed by a true statement. There's a reason for that. Bad thinking. Don't just remove the phrase from your persuasive vocabulary; remove the idea from your tools. Notice how rast sounds ridiculous when he makes sweeping judgments like no danger, no links, etc? Same thing.

As to why Bush, et alia would do such a thing, it is not mere stupidity, but a type of stupidity common to politicians: it sounds like it should work - why seek any data or further opinion?

none of the above said...

Just a comment on the original article. That number (1%) is unbelieveable. We're dealing with a simmering civil war in which we've been shot at by all sides from time to time, in a large country full of people who overwhelmingly have never been to the US. And the folks we detain happen to include 1% people who not only went to the US, but got arrested there? This doesn't make any sense at all, without some huge additional bit of explanation. (Plausible assumptions from that would make the insurgency pretty much led/made up of people who'd been to the US.)

I suspect that there's some kind of biased sampling going on here. For example, if the detainees we keep (as opposed to handing over to the Iraqi government) are mostly English speakers, this number would be very plausible. (Figure maybe half the fluent English speakers had been to the US, and of those, a small fraction (2%) had gotten arrested at least once.)

The other likely explanation is that most of those "matches" are just false positives. A computer algorithm to match fingerprints is going to have some false positive rate, which tells you the probability that a given pair of fingerprints will be called a match by the computer, even though they're really from different people. Even when this rate is really low, you still expect some false matches when you're matching against a huge database of fingerprints. For example, if your false positive rate for a pair of fingerprints is one in a billion, and you have a database of a million fingerprints from the US, you expect one false positive per thousand detainee fingerprints tried.

If it's really the case that 1% of the folks we detain for terrorist actions against the US have both been to the US and gotten arrested there, I'd love to see an explanation.

tommy said...

Because GWB is stupid Steve. But, he's stupid in the way Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, all of them going back to FDR were stupid.

I disagree, he's more than just stupid. Bush is an internationalist plutocrat who can generally find more common ground with Saudi royals and Mexican elites than his own countrymen.

Fortunately, we have geniuses like Frances Fragos Townsend at the helm of our counterterrorism operations:

"Frankly I was surprised that we were getting those kind of hits at all," recalled Townsend, who left government in January. They identified "a potential vulnerability" to national security the government had not fully appreciated, she said.

What is the difference between a vulnerability and a "potential vulnerability?"

Well, at least we have Marc Rotenberg:

"You cannot draw a bright red line and say that's a terrorist, this person isn't," said Russ Travers, an NCTC deputy director. "If somebody swears allegiance to Bin Laden, that's an easy case. If somebody goes to a terrorist training camp, that's probably an easy case. What if a person goes to a camp and decides, 'I don't want to go to a camp, I want to go home.' Where do you draw the line?"

Yes, where do you draw the line? It's a very nuanced situation. We wouldn't want to prejudge those who have only decided to try terrorism on an experimental basis.