(CNSNews.com) – In an implicit admission that Israel is so threatened by terrorism that it is not only surrounded by countries and territories that produce terrorists but also unwillingly harbors terrorists within its own territory in a way that most other nations in the world do not, the Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”
Also included on the list–separately from Israel–are the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the four nations bordering Israel.
All but five of the nations included on the administration’s “specially designated country” list have majority Muslim populations (see the list below).
The five countries on the list that do not have majority Muslim populations–Kazakhstan (47 percent Muslim), Eritrea (36.5 percent Muslim), Israel (16.9 percent Muslim), the Philippines (5 percent Muslim) and Thailand (4.6 percent)–have had internal problems with radical Muslim terrorists, as reported by the State Department. The State Department has designated Eritrea as a country that is “not cooperating fully” with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General published the list of “specially designated countries” as an appendix to an unclassified May 11 report–“Supervision of Aliens Commensurate With Risk“–that was publicly posted on the Internet. (The appendix is on page 18 of the document.)
As a matter of policy, according to the inspector general’s report, citizens of Israel and other “specially designated countries” are subjected to a special security screening called a “Third Agency Check” (TAC) when they are actually detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the division of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the immigration laws.
ICE officers are supposed to check all aliens they take into custody against the Terrorist Watchlist, which includes the identities of individuals the U.S. government knows or reasonably suspects to be terrorists. When ICE holds a citizen from a “specially designated country” in its own detention facilities, according to the agency’s standing policy, the individual is also supposed to be run through a TAC.
“In addition to the Terrorist Watchlist screening, ICE uses a Third Agency Check (TAC) to screen aliens from specially designated countries (SDCs) that have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” says the inspector general’s report.
“The purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien,” says the report. “ICE’s policy requires officers to conduct TAC screenings only for aliens from SDCs if the aliens are in ICE custody. As a result, ICE does not perform a TAC for the majority of its population of aliens, which includes those incarcerated or released under supervision.”
The inspector general recommended in the report that ICE change its screening policy “to require officers to conduct TAC screenings for all aliens from SDCs, not just those held in ICE detention facilities.”
“ICE’s current TAC policy is ineffective because ICE does not perform a TAC for 99% of the population of aliens from SDCs,” said the inspector general’s report. “According to ICE, TACs have resulted in high-profile prosecutions of suspected terrorists.”
In its official response to the report, ICE objected to this recommendation by the inspector general because the agency says it does not have sufficient resources to do TACs on all aliens from the specially designated countries.
Even though the adminisration includes Israel among “specially designated countries” that it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told CNSNews.com that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.
“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”
“The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen.
ICE declined to say who put Israel on the list or when Israel was put there. However, in her written statement, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said the “specially designated country” list had been created “at least” seven years ago–which would have been during the presidency of George W. Bush–and that ICE was not responsible for creating it.
“This list of countries has been in existence for at least seven years,” said Christensen. “Further, ICE does not issue such designations. As the OIG report notes, the purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien ICE has in custody.”
However, on Mar. 4, 2008, the McClatchy Newspapers published a report–“Law enforcement officials secretly profiling immigrants”–that cited a memo from Ted Stark, a supervisory special agent with ICE’s Office of Intelligence, that proposed creating a single federal list of “special interest” countries (plus the West Bank and Gaza) to aid federal agencies in screening aliens.
“So many federal agencies have created different lists that U.S. officials contemplated adopting a single one to streamline the process, Stark wrote,” said the McClatchey report. “The proposed list, which officials said had yet to be adopted, includes 35 countries, most with significant Muslim or Arab populations.”
“The group of agencies–which included ICE, the National Security Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection–not only recommended one list but also suggested an interagency definition of ‘special interest alien,’” said the McClatchey report. “Under the proposal, a special interest alien would be an immigrant with terrorist ties or an immigrant who by nationality, ‘ethnicity or other factors may have ties or sympathies’ with the listed country.”
The 35 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza that were on the proposed list discussed in the ICE memo uncovered by McClatchey in March 2008 almost exactly matches the “specially designated countries” on the list published by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on May 11, 2011. There are only two differences: North Korea was on the list proposed in 2008; it is not on the May 2011 list. Israel was not on the list proposed in 2008; it is on the May 2011 list.
The State Department currently lists only four countries as “state sponsors of terrorism,” meaning they “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” These state sponsors of terror are Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba. Iran, Sudan and Syria are all listed along with Israel on the “specially designated countries” list published by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on May 11. Iran, Sudan and Syria are also all majority Muslim countries.
Cuba, the one state sponsor of terror that does not share a place with Israel on the administration’s “specially designated countries” list, was 85 percent Roman Catholic when the Castro regime took power, according to the CIA World Factbook. It also had Protestant, Jewish, Jehovah Witness and Santeria populations, says the CIA. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, however, Cuba currently has only a very small Muslim population that equals only one-tenth of one percent of the total Cuban population.
North Korea, which was on the proposed list reported by McClatchey in 2008 but is not included on the list of “specially designated countries” that the DHS inspector general published in May, has a Muslim population that is less than one-tenth of one percent of its total population, according to Pew.
CNSNews.com contacted the offices of Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, both of whom served as secretary of Homeland Security during the Bush administration, to ask if the department had listed Israel among “specially designated countries” during their tenures. Neither Ridge nor Chertoff responded.
SPECIALLY DESIGNATED COUNTRIES
Here are the countries and territories on the “specially designated country” list published on May 10, 2011 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. Except for Somalia and Yemen, the CIA’s World Factbook is the source for each country’s Muslim population percentage. For Somalia and Yemen, the source is the Pew Research Center’s 2009 report, “Mapping the Global Muslim Population.”
Country or Territory Muslim Population
Mauritania 100 percent
Gaza Strip 99.3
United Arabs Emirates 96
West Bank 75