FAIR Calls for Suspension of Visa Waiver Program in Light of New Intelligence Report

WASHINGTON, July 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report compiled by 16 government intelligence agencies warns that another attack against the United States by al-Qaeda may be imminent. While the attacks of 9/11 were carried out by terrorists carrying Middle Eastern passports, the NIE cautions that al-Qaeda may use European-based operatives to perpetrate a future attack. According to the NIE a, "growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West's Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States ."

Adding to the vulnerability of the United States is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows nationals of 27 nations to enter the U.S. without visas. With the growth of radical Islam in Europe , the VWP is a likely means by which al-Qaeda can move terrorists into the U.S. " Europe could become a platform for an attack against this country," admits Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

In light of the new NIE report and the candid admission of Secretary Chertoff, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is renewing its call for the immediate suspension of the VWP -- a call FAIR first issued after 9/11. "We know that al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will use every means at their disposal and exploit any vulnerability to carry out another dramatic and deadly attack against the United States ," warned Dan Stein , president of FAIR. "We know -- because the Secretary of Homeland Security has told us so -- that one of the vulnerabilities al-Qaeda is targeting is the VWP.

If the VWP is acknowledged to be a weakness in our defense against global terrorist groups, then the VWP must be suspended immediately," said Stein. The VWP was designed for a pre-9/11 world to make it easier for people who had a low likelihood of overstaying visas to travel here.

"After Madrid 2004, London 2005, and Glasgow last month, there can be no doubt that there are lethal and committed Islamic terrorist cells active all across Western Europe . Many of these terrorists are citizens of those countries and, under the VWP, they can easily enter the U.S. with no prior screening," Stein said. "Every intelligence report over the past several years has warned that al-Qaeda is seeking to take advantage of the VWP and is actively recruiting terrorists with European passports."

Ironically, reports of a heightened terrorist threat comes as the Bush Administration and some in Congress are pushing to expand the VWP under pressure from business interests. "Everyone understands the importance of travel to our economy," said Stein. "But legitimate travelers also understand -- in fact appreciate -- the need to take all reasonable precautions against future terrorist attacks. By now, we are all used to trading off some convenience for security whenever we travel. The economic impact of asking people to be pre-screened for visas would be minor compared with the potential impact of another deadly terrorist strike."