by Ari Lieberman
But will politics prevail over the law?
On June 1, Ali Kourani, 32, of Bronx, New York and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, were arrested by federal authorities on terrorism related charges. Both were active members of the Islamic Jihad Organization, which is an arm of the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorist group and is entrusted with carrying out international terrorist attacks and surveillance. The duo face life sentences if convicted.
Among the IJO’s infamous exploits was the 2012 Burgos bus bombing in Bulgaria which targeted Israeli tourists and resulted in the deaths of six civilians and the wounding of 32 others. The IJO has also been active in Cyprus and Thailand where its members carried out surveillance activity and prepared explosives for use against soft targets.
Ali Kourani and Samer el Debek were both naturalized US citizens. They received weapons training from Hezbollah and were well versed in the use of explosives and small arms, including rocket propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. Both men carried out surveillance missions on behalf of Hezbollah. Ali Kourani surveilled potential targets in New York, including JFK airport while Samer el Debek executed missions in Panama and Thailand. In Panama, el Debek conducted surveillance missions against Israeli and U.S. targets and cased out sites near the Panama Canal. In Thailand, he was instructed by Hezbollah to conduct a clean-up operation involving the disposal of explosive precursors.
Ali Kourani was a Lebanese national and began his career with Hezbollah when he was 16. In addition to hatred of Jews and America, he has another thing in common with the infamous Palestinian terrorist and soon to be deported Rasmea Odeh. When he applied for naturalization, he lied and stated that he had no past terrorist affiliations. As such, he was also charged with naturalization fraud.
The arrests of Kourani and el Debek attest to the vigilance and efficiency of state and federal law enforcement officials in tracking, identifying and catching terrorists. This despite the fact that the Obama administration, in its fanatical effort to finalize the Iran deal, did its best to undermine investigative efforts by law enforcement targeting Iranian, Hezbollah, and Venezuelan terrorism related initiatives.
But the arrests also underscore the exigent need for a temporary travel ban directed at high-risk countries until proper vetting procedures can be implemented. They also highlight the need to amend the executive order to broaden the list and include dysfunctional countries like Lebanon. For all intents and purposes, Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah and Hezbollah is controlled by the Islamic Republic. Therefore, Lebanon has been transformed into a vassal state of Iran.
President Trump’s executive order currently lists six countries affected by the measure. All six –Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iran – were identified by the previous administration as high risk and represent a fraction of the Muslim world. All maintain poor internal vetting procedures and all are rife with rampant graft and official corruption.
Sudan, Syria and particularly Iran are state-sponsors of international terrorism with the latter being the premier state-sponsor. Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria are in the throes of civil war where there is no real central authority. In addition, ISIS and al Qaida maintain an active presence in five of the six listed countries. While these terror groups do not maintain a significant presence in Iran, Hezbollah does. In addition, Iran in cooperation with Hezbollah and Venezuela has for a number of years been engaged in systematic passport and identity fraud.
The administration has thus far been stymied in its efforts to implement the executive order by partisan circuit court judges who favor political expediency over the law. Even Trump’s watered down version of his first executive order has been thwarted by an activist bench. Biased rulings by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth and Fourth Circuits have usurped executive authority on contrived grounds and have forced the Trump administration to seek redress from the United States Supreme Court.
Four liberal activist justices on the Supreme Court – Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are expected to vote against the executive order and four – John G. Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Anthony Alito and Neil M. Gorsuch are expected to vote in favor. Ginsburg should recuse herself for offensive comments she made about Trump last year but she won’t. That means that all eyes with be zeroed in on Anthony M. Kennedy, whose enigmatic record on the bench makes him somewhat of a wildcard.
But law and precedent are on Trump’s side. Trump is empowered to act by virtue of 8 USC §1182(f) which states in relevant part;
“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants…”
Trump is also backed by ample precedent. In 2011, Obama suspended the Iraqi refugee program for six months over terrorism fears. In 1980, Jimmy Carter issued a ban on the issuance of visas to Iranian nationals. The partisan legal challenges against Trump’s executive order are grounded in dirty politics rather than sound law. Whether Kennedy will choose to allow politics to prevail over the law is anyone’s guess.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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