Judicial Watch • Homeland Security

Homeland Security Archives | Judicial Watch

Just when you thought the scandals involving U.S. airport security couldn’t possibly get any worse, a Philadelphia newspaper reports that the Department of Homeland Security hired a defrocked priest accused of molesting children without bothering to complete a background check.

It’s as if Abbott & Costello are in charge of airport security in the United States. Otherwise how could one explain the many transgressions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the monstrous agency created by Congress to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s generously funded to the tune of billions annually and has 65,000 employees yet can’t get the job done.

Just a few months ago a federal audit trashed the TSA, essentially saying that the DHS agency is so inept, the country remains inexcusably vulnerably to a repeat of 9/11. That’s partly because it doesn’t adequately screen luggage and passengers but mainly because it fails to properly vet foreign flight students. Remember that the Islamic terrorists who intentionally crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon trained as pilots in U.S. aviation schools and the TSA is supposed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Other mishaps include approving background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of major U.S. airports, guns and bombs regularly getting past officers during random tests and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo.  When a loaded gun slipped through “security” at Los Angeles International Airport last fall, the TSA appeared particularly stupid, saying it was another agency’s “issue” because its “mandate is to screen baggage for explosives” not loaded guns.

Considering this history, it may not seem all that surprising that the agency hired a defrocked priest with a shady history as a security officer at a major U.S. airport. The man, Thomas Harkins, was removed from the ministry by the Diocese of Camden over allegations that he had molested a pair of grade-school girls, according to the news report.  He was never criminally prosecuted but the diocese doled out nearly $200,000 to settle civil lawsuits.

At Philadelphia International Airport Harkins, who earns $75,600 a year, oversees screening operations for checked baggage but he once patted down airline passengers as they went through the facility’s security checkpoint. The TSA admits in the story that it never completed his background check. Here’s why; he was hired at a time when the agency was initially “staffing up” to protect airports from terrorists and background checks were often not completed.






The Obama Administration is skewing figures to show that it has deported a record number of illegal immigrants and, not surprisingly, the mainstream media has bought it hook, line and sinker.

A number of media reports have quoted the administration’s inflated deportation stats, but the House Judiciary Committee is setting the record straight after obtaining internal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) documents that tell a different story. The files show that the administration is cooking the books to make it seem as if deportations are at an all-time high when in fact they have decreased significantly.

It turns out that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is unscrupulously including numbers from a special program that technically should not count for deportations. It’s called the Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP) and it’s a joint effort between ICE and Customs and Border Protection that transfers illegal aliens apprehended at the southern border back to Mexico.

It’s illegitimate to count illegal immigrants apprehended by the Border Patrol under this program as ICE removals, the House Judiciary Committee says. There are no penalties or bars attached when illegal immigrants are sent back south via ATEP and they can simply attempt re-entry, the committee further points out. In many cases they do.

When ATEP removals are subtracted from ICE’s recent, “record” deportation numbers, the 2011 removal total would drop from approximately 397,000 to roughly 360,000 and the 2012 removal total would drop from about 334,000 to around 263,000 (annualized this is estimated to be a drop from about 400,000 to 315,000).  This means that ICE removals for this year will be about 14% below 2008 (369,000) and 19% below 2009 (389,000).

The internal records reviewed by the congressional committee also reveal a discrepancy between arrests and actual removals.  Specifically, ICE has reported 221,656 arrests yet report 334,249 removals for 2012 so far – a discrepancy of nearly 112,000 removals.  ATEP accounts for 72,030 removals within this discrepancy, but there are more than 40,000 removals that remain unaccounted for. 

The documents clearly show that President Obama and other administration officials have “falsified” records to achieve historic deportation numbers, according to the Texas congressman who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith. “It’s bad enough that the President has neglected to enforce our immigration laws but it’s even worse that his Administration would distort statistics to deceive the American people,” Smith said.

The mainstream media tells a much different story, consistently reporting that a record number of foreigners were deported in 2011. One major newspaper went so far as to predict that the record deportations are on track for this year, even as the numbers of migrants crossing the border illegally dropped to a 40-year low. The same story highlighted that an “all-time high” number of removals were convicted criminals.





Drivers with terrorism and drug-smuggling ties were cleared by the United States for “expedited border crossing” under a free-trade agreement created to facilitate commercial traffic between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

As inconceivable as this may seem, it’s documented in a federal audit released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. It says that the DHS agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), created after 9/11 to protect the country from terrorists, narcotics and illegal aliens for years compromised border security by failing to exclude high risk drivers from the program known as Free and Secure Trade (FAST).

Under FAST, participants who meet certain eligibility criteria are considered low risk and receive expedited border processing between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to ensure security and safety of inter border commerce while enhancing the economic prosperity of each country. Ideally, this enables CBP to focus security efforts and inspections on commerce that is “high or unknown risk” while ensuring the flow of legitimate, “low-risk commerce.”

In 2011 more than 80,100 drivers participated in the FAST program, according the DHS IG report. Nearly 70,000 were enrolled in FAST along the U.S.-Canada border and over 11,500 along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the program, each one is supposed to meet a thorough security clearance that assures there’s no risk in letting the individual travel freely in and out of the country with cargo.

Instead, “high risk drivers” were actively enrolled in the program, exposing CBP to increased “risk of compromised border security,” the IG said. Investigators found that, at least half a dozen cleared drivers for years had connections to terrorism and drug smuggling operations. It gets scarier; it took federal officials five years to realize it! At least two dozen others had criminal, immigration or agricultural violations.

More than a decade after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, Americans may wonder how this could happen. The nutshell version, as per the IG, is that CBP didn’t bother to check the various law enforcement databases to assure the drivers were low risk. Additionally, our not-so-friendly neighbor to the south doesn’t bother vetting FAST candidates so the U.S. has no way to determine if there’s a criminal history.

This is quite risky, considering Mexico is the origin of most of the human and drug smuggling into the U.S. and home to a drug war that has claimed about 50,000 lives since 2006, the IG points out. The IG goes on to state the obvious; benefits granted to FAST participants “make the program attractive to drug smugglers.”






In a chilling revelation, the agency created after 9/11 to protect the United States from another terrorist attack claims it achieved its “goal” by gaining “operational control” over a mere 13% of the nation’s borders.

It gets better. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took six years to accomplish this great feat that, as simple math indicates, leaves an overwhelming portion of the nation’s foreign borders out of “operational control.” The term is used to describe areas where the DHS agency on the front lines, the U.S. Border Patrol, has the ability to detect and interdict illegal activity.

The operational control goal was set by DHS in 2004 and mission accomplished was reported—and internally celebrated—in the fall of 2010. The American public is only hearing about this now because the information is included in a new federal report that largely focuses on implementation challenges facing the Border Patrol.

With 20,000 officers, the agency is responsible for securing nearly 6,000 miles of Mexican and Canadian international land borders and more than 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding Florida and Puerto Rico. The priority mission of the Border Patrol, according to its own website, is preventing terrorists and their weapons—including weapons of mass destruction—from entering the United States.

That makes the celebrated 13% figure even scarier because it means the feds only had the ability to detect and interdict illegal activity in a snippet—1,107-mile range—of the nation’s foreign borders. Previous audits have also documented the serious vulnerabilities that plague the nation’s borders. For instance, a few years ago undercover federal investigators easily smuggled radioactive material and other contraband into the U.S. through Canada. 

Subsequent to that, a congressional report exposed that less than 1% of the U.S.-Canada border is adequately secured by the U.S. The situation is worst in the south. Just last summer the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center revealed that stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border are controlled by drug-trafficking organizations. The cartels actually “control access to the U.S.-Mexico border” and the “smuggling routes across it,” according to the Justice Department probe.

So what can we expect related to border security in the years to come? Homeland Security officials are still developing a new goal and measure for border security, according this week’s federal audit. Evidently, they’re combining their creative juices to come up with a new goal that will reflect a “more quantitative methodology across border locations and the agency’s evolving view of border security.” Scary, isn’t it?






The federal judge who presided over the trial of a Homeland Security director convicted of helping an illegal immigrant avoid deportation disagrees with the verdict and has ordered a new trial, saying it was “overkill” for the government to prosecute the official in the first place.

This sort of blatant judicial activism may seem unbelievable but this is a true story, straight out of the United States District Court in Massachusetts. A Reagan-appointed judge, Douglas P. Woodlock, didn’t like the outcome of a trial and has issued an order for a new one. His official reason is that he erred in his jury instructions and therefore a new trial is warranted, one in which appropriate jury instructions will be delivered.

But in his 50-page order Judge Woodlock injects some very revealing information that clearly outlines his opinion of the case. For instance he writes:  “I view the pursuit of this case to have been overkill through the improvident invocation of federal criminal felony process when alternative administrative sanctions more closely tailored to the significance of the misconduct are available and adequate. And I am puzzled by the dogged consistency which causes this prosecution to continue.”

The case involves a high-ranking Homeland Security director (Lorraine Henderson) in the New England area convicted in 2010 of helping her illegal alien housekeeper flout the federal immigration laws Uncle Sam paid her to enforce.  A Boston jury deliberated for 4 ½ hours before finding Henderson guilty after a six-day trial in which she took the stand. Federal prosecutors say that for years Henderson paid illegal immigrants cash to clean her house and she coached them on how to avoid deportation.

Henderson ignored repeated warnings over the years from a fellow federal officer that her domestic employees were in the country illegally, according to a federal affidavit. She was also recorded warning an illegal alien employee about deportation and telling the worker “if you leave they won’t let you back.” This is serious stuff, considering that Henderson wielded tremendous power and was authorized to grant or deny waivers to illegal immigrants seeking U.S. entry. She was also responsible for identifying and intercepting terrorists or terrorist threats at area seaports and airports.

Incredibly, Judge Woodlock seems to defend the disgraced Homeland Security director in his retrial order: “The cleaning lady’s employment was not itself illegal under regulations promulgated by the attorney general of the United States,” he wrote. “ And the empathetic advice that the defendant gave her cleaning lady about immigration law practices – induced from the defendant as part of the script contrived for an elaborate undercover investigation involving surreptitious electronic recordings into her relationship with the cleaning lady – did not advise the cleaning lady to engage in fraud or commit some other crime.”

As the Moroccan who plotted a suicide bombing inside the U.S. Capitol appears in federal court today, much of the mainstream media coverage omits a crucial part of the story; this is the class of illegal immigrant the Obama Administration is sparing from deportation.  

That’s because, like millions of others, the would-be assassin didn’t have a criminal record and thus never posed a threat to the public, according to the feds. Like many of the illegal aliens protected by the Obama Administration the attempted bomber, 29-year-old Amine El Khalifi, came to the U.S. as a kid (“through no fault of his own” as the open borders movement says).  He could have easily qualified for discounted college tuition at a number of taxpayer-funded colleges and universities nationwide.

El Khalifi lived under the radar in Alexandria Virginia while he orchestrated attacking a number of targets, including military buildings, a Washington D.C. restaurant popular among military officials and a synagogue. Last week he planned to blow up the nation’s capitol as a suicide bomber in a martyrdom operation. El Khalifi concocted a detailed plot and believed he was working with al Qaeda. 

Incredibly, El Khalifi is the prototype of illegal immigrant protected by Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan. Officially launched in mid-November, the initiative halts the removal of illegal aliens with no criminal records. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviews all deportation cases and operates a “training program” to assure that enforcement agents and prosecuting attorneys don’t remove certain types of illegal immigrants.

The idea, according to the administration, is to deport only undocumented aliens who have been convicted of serious crimes or pose a national security risk. That means a large class of illegal immigrants are being granted de facto amnesty, which is technically illegal without the consent of Congress. So far thousands have been spared removal under the outrageous initiative. 

As if this weren’t bad enough, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records indicate that serious criminals are not being targeted for removal either. This in addition to a sharp drop in the number of overall deportations during a recent quarter analyzed by a nonprofit university group dedicated to researching the U.S. government. 

The nonpartisan New York-based data research center, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), provides detailed information about the operation of hundreds of government agencies. Immigration is one of many areas it researches. This week TRAC released ICE data that shows the number of deportation proceedings initiated by the government during a recent quarter fell 33% from the previous quarter. 

The records also reveal that serious criminals are not being targeted as ICE promised when it announced its top enforcement priority. Of the 24,073 individuals targeted for deportation during the period analyzed, 8,884 were charged with immigration violations while only 1,300—just 3.3%—were sought to be removed as “aggravated felons,” the records show.

This is downright scary. That’s why Judicial Watch has worked to obtain information on how this is all being carried out. Last spring JW sued DHS for records concerning “deferred action” or “parole” to suspend removal proceedings against a particular group of individuals. The lawsuit was filed because the agency has ignored a federal public records request that dates back to July 2010.




A renowned Hezbollah terrorist in U.S. military custody for murdering five American soldiers in Iraq may soon be released by the Obama Administration, evidently to appease Muslims.

The perplexing story was reported recently by a mainstream newspaper that portrays the case as a “dilemma” for the president as American troops prepare to exit Iraq. The Lebanese militant, Ali Mussa Daqduq, has been in U.S. military custody in Iraq since 2007 for his involvement in a carefully orchestrated plot that killed, kidnapped and tortured American military officers.

The incident took place in a city called Karbala, south of Baghdad in early 2007. Around a dozen terrorists dressed in U.S. military uniforms opened fire on Americans after approaching a camp in five sports utility vehicles resembling U.S. transports. One U.S. soldier died at the scene and four others were kidnapped, tortured and executed. Daqduq, a Hezbollah commander, was the mastermind.

But the Obama Administration can’t decide what to do with him. The president doesn’t want to violate Iraq’s sovereignty by removing Daqduq from the country when the U.S. withdraws at the end of the month. If Iraq is gracious enough to grant the U.S. permission to remove the terrorist so that he can be tried, this presents yet another huge dilemma for Obama.

Taking Daqduq to the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Cuba, which houses other high-value terrorists, is out of the question because the facility is an anathema in the Middle East, according to the newspaper that broke the story. Furthermore, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki would not approve the “unacceptable” Guantanamo option.

What to do with this Islamic terrorist who murdered members of our military? Incredibly, releasing him seems to be a very realistic option, according to various news reports. One mainstream outlet says that Daqduq may soon go free,without facing trial. This has outraged some members of Congress who offer the administration a reasonable solution.

During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, one senator insisted Daqduq should go to Guantanamo to be tried before a military commission. Releasing him to the Iraqis would be like letting him go and trying him in a U.S. civilian court would be disastrous, the lawmaker pointed out. The administration already tested that brilliant idea when it proposed trying 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan.

The Guantanamo option is clearly the most sensible. Last month Judicial Watch was approved by the Department of Defense (DOD) to observe the arraignment of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the al-Qaeda terrorist charged with orchestrating the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole. JW witnessed a deep commitment to justice by military lawyers as well as al-Nashiri’s topnotch capital defense attorney. Read JW’s Guantanamo coverage here.

Middle Eastern terrorists have infiltrated Latin American countries—especially Mexico—to plan an attack against the United States, according to an alarming exposé broadcast this week by the world’s largest Spanish news network.

The Univision documentary, “La Amenaza Irani,” (Iranian Threat), uses undercover, never-before-seen video footage to illustrate how Iran’s growing political, economic and military ties to Latin America threaten U.S. security. The videos were part of a seven-month investigation in which college-aged Mexicans infiltrated diplomatic circles in Mexico to obtain recordings that prove diplomats from Iran, Venezuela and Cuba planned a cybernetic attack against the White House, FBI, Pentagon and U.S. nuclear plants.

The documentary also features secret video taken by extremists linked to Iran and footage from an undercover journalist who infiltrated Venezuelan military camps where terrorists trained. The news network’s investigative team also tracked the expansion of Iranian interests in the hemisphere, including money-laundering and drug-trafficking activities by terrorist groups supported by Iran.

A segment is dedicated to the connection between Mexican drug cartels and the foiled plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. a few months ago. One of the Iranians charged had been ordered by that country’s Special Forces to travel to Mexico to recruit members of the notorious drug cartel “Los Zetas” to carry out the plot. The massive scheme against U.S. government information and computer systems had been in the works years earlier, the documentary reveals.

The ties between Middle Eastern terrorists and Latin America are nothing new, though specific plots against the U.S. from the region have likely not been exposed in this manner. Since 1982 Cuba has appeared on the State Department’s list of countries that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, which means restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales and other financial restrictions.

Earlier this year the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which examines issues for federal lawmakers, published areport on Latin American terrorist concerns to the United States. It points out that, while Latin America has not been the focal point of the U.S. war on terrorism, the region has struggled with domestic terrorism for decades and international terrorist groups have used it as a battle ground to advance their causes.

The report specifically mentions Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America in its attempt to circumvent U.S. sanctions as well as its ties to the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah. In fact, the CRS report quotes a separate State Department antiterrorism document that says the U.S. remains concerned that sympathizers of Hezbollah and the Sunni Muslim Palestinian group Hamas are raising money among the sizable Middle Eastern communities in the tri-border area of Argentina.

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