The direct cause of 9/11 was the fact that it was so easy for primarily Saudi nationals to obtain visas and remain in the country unvetted. Eighteen years later, we still have not learned the lesson that immigration policy is the cornerstone of national security.
At present, there are roughly 45,000 foreign students here on F visas from Saudi Arabia, much more than we admitted in 2001. Worse, we take an unlimited number of unvetted foreign students and easily grant their spouses F-2 visas when marriage and visa fraud have been known terrorist loopholes. The case of Naif Abdulaziz M. Alfallaj should remind lawmakers of the need for visa reform.
In a case eerily similar to the profile of the 9/11 hijackers, on Feb. 5, 2018, Naif Alfallaj was arrested by the FBI and charged with lying about his past history with al Qaeda in order to get a visa. He came in late 2011 from Saudi Arabia on an F-2 visa as the husband of a foreign student. According to the complaint, Alfallaj applied for flight lessons in Oklahoma based on the issuance of that visa. At the time, he denied any ties to terror, but fingerprints on an application to the notorious al Farooq al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan showed otherwise. According to the FBI, “The document was recovered by the U.S. military from an al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan and included an emergency contact number associated with Alfallaj’s father in Saudi Arabia.”
Al Farooq was one of the camps where the 9/11 hijackers trained. Hani Hasan Hanjour, the 9/l1 hijacker who piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, was admitted in September 2000 on an F-1 student visa from Saudi Arabia. Yet 10 years later, Alfallaj was able to obtain a similar entry after having trained at the very same camp and having used to the visa to apply for flight school in Oklahoma.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk sentenced Alfallaj to 151 months’ imprisonment for visa fraud and giving false statements to federal agents.