The Spies among Us

Published on April 15th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
April 15, 2016
Critics have long wondered whether a link exists between admitting one million legal immigrants each year and potential national security consequences.  
During the Obama administration, evidence has steadily mounted that an inadequately monitored immigration system has compromised the nation’s safety. Last fall, Saudi Arabian national Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, a navy civilian engineer, was convicted of passing secret information about the navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer. A U.S. District Judge sentenced Awwad to 11 years in a federal penitentiary. But how a Saudi national passed security clearances despite his obviously anti-American sentiments was never revealed.
A similar conflict developed early this year when Iranian-born, U.S. naturalized citizen Majid Karimi, a three-decade long Navy employee who had changed his name to James Robert Baker, one of his many multiple identities, repeatedly lied on his security clearance paperwork. At the time Karimi was indicted, he still held an Iranian passport that he used for personal travel despite it being a flagrant security rules violation. Again, how an immigrant from one of the U.S.’s most avowed enemies—Iran—received security clearance and duped the Navy for thirty years is unknown.
But the most egregious case of immigrant turned traitor surfaced last weekend when the Navy revealed that Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Taiwan, a Naval War College graduate, and a reconnaissance pilot with access to top secret information, is locked up in a Norfolk, Virginia brig. Lin is suspected of espionage on behalf of foreign powers, namely China and his native Taiwan. A report in the U.S. Naval Intelligence News published said that the charges against Lin include communicating secret information “relating to the national defense to representatives of a foreign government and could carry the death penalty.”
At the security problem’s core is lax immigration oversight coupled with an urgency several consecutive administrations have shown toward increasing the foreign-born population admitted to the U.S. Not only has the military been made vulnerable, but the ever-higher enrollment of international students exposes the U.S. to greater future risks. According to the International Institute of Education, more than 300,000 Chinese nationals are enrolled in American universities, about 31 percent of the total overseas’ student base, and a fivefold increase since 2000. Also present in significant numbers are students from terrorist-sponsoring states Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
But as with the naval officers’ cases, fraud in Chinese university applications is rampant. Zinch China, a consulting agency, found that 90 percent of Chinese applicants submit fake recommendations, 70 percent have other people write their essays, 50 percent have forged high school transcripts, and 10 percent list academic awards and other achievements they did not receive. The daughter of Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, studied at Harvard under an assumed name. Last month, federal prosecutors indicted 15 Chinese students for taking exams on others' behalf, or enlisting others to do so on their behalf, in order to obtain student visas.
Nevertheless, despite what should be grave concerns about the true identity, skill level, and the ultimate intentions of incoming Chinese students, American universities are, in the words of one expert, “addicted” to them. The reason: more than 60 percent pay the full tuition rate. With millions of immigrants permanently settling in the U.S. every year and about a million college students enrolling annually tracking them is impossible. Little wonder that the naval scandals occurred, and with immigration at its current pace, more disgraces in the military or society-at-large are inevitable.

 Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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