Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trail of a Terrorist and How they use fake Passport to enter the United States thru Any International Port of entry!!!!!!!!!!!

Over and over again, investigators examining the Al Qaeda terrorist network point to a common thread -- the ease with which many in the network travel the world using fake passports or illegally obtained immigration documents.

Ahmed Ressam, the focus of this FRONTLINE report, was somewhat of an expert in fake passports. He used a counterfeit French passport to enter Canada and apply for political asylum. While living there, he supplied fake Canadian passports to other Algerians. And he used a fake Canadian passport under the alias of Benni Noris in his failed attempt to enter the United States and bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

Ressam recently testified that he was trained in these and other "security" techniques at one of Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan. He also testified that an Al Qaeda representative had recruited him to supply the group with false Canadian passports.

The picture of Al Qaeda that is emerging through Ressam's case and ongoing investigations is of a sophisticated terrorist network, able to send "sleeper" agents like Ressam anywhere in the world. Al Qaeda depends on the ability to travel internationally in order to raise funds, recruit operatives, train the operatives in Afghanistan and send them out to plan and conduct terrorist attacks. Key to their international mobility is being able to circumvent immigration laws and law enforcement "watch lists."


Investigators believe that there may be specialized Al Qaeda terrorist cells in the U.S., Canada, and Europe whose only job is to supply Al Qaeda with passports and other documents that can be used by its operatives. There are various ways they obtain and use passports:

The terrorist can physically alter a valid passport -- stolen or purchased from an accomplice -- by changing the picture or biographical data. "The terrorists are smart about which passports they use," says David Simcox, director of migration demographics and chairman of the board of the Center for Immigration Studies. "At least two of the Sept. 11 attackers used stolen Saudi Arabian passports. Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States and so using their passport makes it easier to get in at the border."

In some countries, terrorists may be able to purchase an official passport in their own name, or an alias, by bribing a corrupt official or obtaining one in the black market. Stolen passports are readily available for sale in most countries. The most popular ones on the international black market are those from countries that enjoy visa-free relationships with the United States, such as Japan or Sweden.

The terrorist can make a counterfeit passport, hoping that the border agent wouldn't be able to identify the forgery. "The INS has a forensic document laboratory to train agents to detect these false passports," Simcox says. "But there are so many countries, that it is difficult to track. And some will get through because the quality is getting so good. The technology of counterfeiting is constantly improving." Moreover, according to Simcox, internet sales of fraudulent documents has blossomed in recent years, despite efforts by law enforcement to stop the practice.

There's another angle on the trafficking in fake passports. Congressional hearings on Oct. 17, 2001 revealed relationships between the terrorists and organized criminal syndicates who smuggle humans across borders. It is a huge international business, with brokers in China, India, Africa, and Central and South America and other poor countries demanding up to $50,000 per person in order to smuggle people into the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

To avoid detection, the smugglers are constantly changing their routes and methods. Some also rely on huge numbers of fake passports, routing people through as many as two other countries to hide the country of origin. "The terrorists have made common cause with 'people smugglers' who are very good at supplying false documentation," says Simcox. "It gives the terrorists a ready source of altered counterfeit passports and, if needed, the smugglers may assist them in being smuggled into the United States."

Another aspect of passport fraud is falsifying documents, such as birth certificates, which are needed to acquire a passport. This practice, used by Ahmed Ressam, allows terrorists to get legitimate passports, using an alias, which will be basically foolproof at border crossings. "The American and Canadian passport system has a major problem because its 'breeder' document -- the birth certificate -- is such a weak document for certifying identity," says Simcox. "Despite U.S. State Department procedures for verifying birth certificates, every state is different. And the process is not computerized or centralized in any way."

The birth certificate is a "weak" document because it is relatively easy to forge and has no photo or fingerprint requirement. In the U.S. and Canada, birth certificates can be provided by a number of sources, such as state authorities, churches, and hospitals. Each state has different rules about supplying birth certificates, and acquiring copies of them. Once you have a valid birth certificate, it is relatively easy to get a driver's license, passport, and other fake identification.


As was clearly evident in the Sept. 11 attacks, many terrorists simply enter the U.S. using their own passports and a student or business visa.

INS officials say there are so many visas given out around the world that it is impossible to check the backgrounds of every person. Two of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers entered the U.S. by applying to take classes at a university or technical school, acquiring a student visa, and then never showing up for class. Three of the terrorists entered on business or tourism visas and simply overstayed their visa.

(The INS says the number of foreigners in the U.S. who have overstayed their visas currently stands at more than 2 million.) Finally, two of the Sept. 11 hijackers who had been put on an FBI "watch list" while they were in the U.S. on visas were not located.

The INS has little or no capacity to track visa holders once they are in the United States. The issue of entry-exit tracking of visa holders is now being given new priority. INS officials argue that at present, it is impossible to track all foreigners in the U.S., and the agency doesn't have the manpower to physically put people on planes

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