What's in a Name?

Published on May 23rd, 2011

When we introduce ourselves to others we start out by telling our name.  The most fundamental conversation usually starts with the question, “Who are you?  What’s your name?” When a person is judged to be a decent person we say that he (she) has a “good name.” Certainly our names are an integral part of who we are.  In this era of the internet, when we meet people or are planning to do business with someone, we are likely to check the person’s name in Google or some other search engine. The last time I spoke with my dad, as he lay on his deathbed, I recall promising him I would take care of the family name.  So important are our names to most people. For a criminal or a terrorist, however, a name is an identifier that can thwart their efforts to commit crimes or a terrorist attack—therefore those who wish to operate “under the radar” use multiple false names as a form of camouflage the way that a chameleon uses changes in coloration—in order to hide in plain sight or, in the parlance of the 9/11 Commission, in order to embed themselves in a community as they prepare to launch an attack. In order to protect our nation in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the government created “No Fly” lists and terror watch lists.  Even before 9/11 inspectors of the former INS used “Look Out Books” that contained the names and passport numbers and other identifiers to attempt to keep out those who, by law, were to be barred from entering the United States. There have always been those who made money by creating false identity documents desired by all sorts of people who had a need to conceal their true identities or other facts about themselves.  When I was a college student, one of the guys I went to high school with was arrested for producing false ID that was used by underage students who wanted to buy drinks at local bars. Given the nature of our world today, however, the production of false identity documents has never posed a greater threat to our safety or to our nation’s security and technology has made it easier than ever to produce convincing looking counterfeit and/or altered identity documents.  Today, more than underage drinking is involved in the production of false identity documents.  Today, organized fraud document rings abound and the money to be made is nothing short of astounding! Recently a news report of a particularly violent and pernicious document fraud ring was published in the Washington Post that was entitled: Manassas man key player in fake-ID card ring.” As an INS special agent I often found that those who were intent on violating our laws and, indeed, had been convicted of violating our laws, used multiple false identities.  It was not uncommon to find arrest records, so called “Rap Sheets” that memorialized so many false aliases that an entire page, or more, was devoted to listing all of those names. The 9/11 Commission noted that the use of multiple false identities was an essential component of the embedding process utilized by the 19 terrorists who wrought such destruction upon our nation and our way of life, as well as causing the savage obliteration of the thousands of victims of their wanton terrorist attacks and the never ending suffering this has had on the family members, friends and colleagues of those innocent victims. Today identity theft is described as the fastest growing white collar crime in our country and certainly those whose identities are stolen will tell you in no uncertain terms that this is not a “victimless” crime.  Yet there are those in politics and in other circles who advocate for the creation of a massive amnesty program under the aegis of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”  There are many reasons why such a massive amnesty program is wrong-headed and would not only represent a betrayal of our nation and our citizens but also a betrayal of those millions of lawful immigrants who have played by the rules, abided by the laws and secured their lawful status through the lawful process that, every year, provides more than 1.1 million aliens with lawful immigrant status and places them, immediately, on a pathway to United States citizenship. This lawful system it plagued with fraud and a host of other issues I will address in future commentaries, but the point is that there is a lawful program that provides more aliens with permanent resident status than does any other country on this planet. If our nation’s leaders prove to be so duplicitous as to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform, then unknown millions, likely tens of millions of illegal aliens who are undocumented, will be provided with lawful status in names that cannot be proven to be their true names. It is ironic that the open borders/pro-amnesty advocates have embraced the term “undocumented” in an effort to minimize the fact that illegal aliens are, in fact, aliens whose presence in our country represents a violation of laws and is, hence illegal.  Today, I will tell you that the term “undocumented” represents one of the most profoundly disturbing factors in Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the fact that these aliens are unable or, perhaps, unwilling to provide official identity documents that can definitively prove their true identities. Without being able to know a person’s true identity as verified by official and reliable documentation, aliens engaged in terrorism or criminal activities would be easily able to conceal their true names, their true nationalities, their true criminal histories, or their potential affiliations with criminal and/or terrorist organizations. In the name of national security, the citizens of our nation have experienced and continue to experience a continual erosion of their expectations of privacy and freedom, yet there are those, including high level members of the current administration that are eager to provide millions of illegal aliens with official identity documents and lawful status that would enable the criminals and terrorists among them to create new and “clean” identities for themselves that would provide them with ample opportunities to embed themselves in our country, throughout our country, and provide them with a level of credibility that would facilitate their criminal or terrorist aspirations, would threaten national security and endanger the lives of all who are present in our country. Those who are pushing for the passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform will talk about the fact that applications for inclusion in this program would have to undergo a “security check” and be fingerprinted.  This may sound reassuring but upon closer scrutiny it becomes readily apparent that this would not prevent those terrorists or transnational criminals from easily gaming the system. If the applicant for Comprehensive Immigration Reform has never been fingerprinted in our country, their fingerprints would most likely not show up in the databases.  Similarly a false name would certainly not show up- remember this is a false name.  Such aliens would be granted identity documents that would immediately enable them to apply for and receive a genuine Social Security card, a driver’s license, library cards, credit cards, and other official identity documents—all in a fictitious name. Most of the names on “Terror Watch Lists” and “No Fly” lists are not backed up with biometrics.  This means that someone whose true name is on every watch list and “No Fly” list could easily gain access to airliners, government and corporate office buildings and secure employment in a job that provides access to jobs involving critical infrastructure! The only thing worse than no security is false security.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the use of false identity documents would create the potentially devastating threat that false security represents to our nation at a particularly perilous time in history.

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