Citizenship in the United States is nothing less than a priceless treasure. Recently, the US Government sought to revoke the citizenship of Iyman Faris, a convicted terrorist who was a naturalized citizen. The government was unsuccessful with the process of denaturalization in Federal Court. Judge Staci Yandle of the 7th Circuit recently held that the government did not provide sufficient evidence to convince her that Iyman Faris’ misrepresentations on his immigration papers had influenced the decision to make him a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Faris was sent to New York by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2002 to case and conduct surveillance on the Brooklyn Bridge and determine whether Al Qaeda could drop the iconic bridge by cutting the steel cables using blow torches. While in an Afghan terrorist camp Faris met Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives.
Faris was born in Karachi, Pakistan on June 4, 1969. In March 1994, he entered the United States in New York using a passport and visa belonging to another person. Faris requested political asylum and filled out a “Request for Asylum with Immigration” in July 1994. While his political asylum request was pending, Faris married Geneva Bowling a U.S. citizen in 1995. Marrying a US citizen meant that Faris could then file a “Petition for Alien Relative” and be recognized as an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen. Faris also filed an “Application to Register as a Permanent Resident or Adjust Status.” Due to Faris’ application to Adjust Status because of his marriage, INS never considered Faris’ request for political asylum. In March 1996, Faris was granted permanent resident status and in 1999 became a naturalized citizen.
In 2000, during divorce proceedings from his wife, Faris asked the Court for a continuance since he stated he needed to travel to the Middle East for a family emergency. Instead, Faris traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he went to an Al Qaeda training camp and met Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Upon his return to Columbus, Ohio, Faris, the commercial truck driver was on a different mission to strike the Brooklyn Bridge. Faris and his ex-wife would both be interviewed by the FBI after the September 11th attacks. Faris conducted research on the internet of the Brooklyn Bridge before he physically traveled to the Bridge to case this iconic target in New York City.
Terrorists have used almost every way to enter and stay in a country. Faris used another person’s passport and visa to travel to the United States. Once in the United States he requested political asylum to stay in the country. This is one of the oldest ploys to be allowed to stay in a country and Faris also took advantage of this loophole just like other terrorists. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual adviser to the first World Trade Center terrorists also used an asylum to thwart his deportation back to Egypt. Ramzi Yousef arrived at JFK International Airport in New York from Pakistan on September 1, 1992. Yousef was using an Iraqi passport and didn’t have a visa and his boarding pass was under the name of Azan Mohammed and he arrived in the US with multiple IDs in other names. The INS Inspector recommended that he be detained. But since he was seeking political asylum he was released on his own recognizance and told to show up for a political asylum hearing at a later date. Needless to say, Ramzi Yousef wasn’t interested in asylum but in conducting a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Mir Aimal Kansi, who killed two CIA officers and Gazi Abu Mezer, who attempted to blow up a New York subway train are two other terrorists that used political asylum to stay in the United States.
Once allowed to stay in the country a terrorist has to find a way to extend his ability to stay or change his status. Marrying an American is one method we have seen terrorists use. Iyman Faris married Geneva Bowling in 1995. What is not known is whether he was in love with her or just using her for her status as a U.S. citizen.
What we do know is that Iyman Faris was sent to New York to conduct casing and surveillance operations on the Brooklyn Bridge after September 11th for Al-Qaeda. Whether he should retain his naturalized citizenship was the question before a Federal Judge. Just knowing that he was attempting to help Al-Qaeda after September 11th alone one might think would be grounds for denaturalization. Arriving in New York and using another person’s passport and visa one would think would be grounds as Iyman Faris did when he first arrived in the United States. Traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan and going to an Al-Qaeda training camp and meeting with Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad one would think might be grounds. Returning to the United States and undertaking casing operations against an iconic target in New York one would think might be grounds for denaturalization.
The US Supreme Court in Costello v United States held that the Government “carries a heavy burden of proof in a proceeding to divest a naturalized citizen of his citizenship.” The US government brought a denaturalization action against Fedorenko a former armed guard at the Nazi concentration camp at Treblinka in Poland alleging he had procured his US citizenship illegally or by willfully misrepresenting a material fact. The Government charged that Fedorenko, in applying for his visa and for citizenship, had willfully concealed that he had served as an armed guard at Treblinka and had committed crimes against inmates of the camp because they were Jewish, and that therefore he had procured his naturalization illegally or by willfully misrepresenting material facts. The US Supreme Court in Fedorenko v United States held that Fedorenko illegally procured citizenship and his citizenship must be revoked.
But in Faris’ case Judge Yandle decided the government did not provide sufficient evidence to convince her that Faris’ “misrepresentations” on his immigration papers had influenced the decision to grant him citizenship, and therefore ruled in favor of the convicted terrorist. There was no mention of the fact in the Court’s opinion that Faris had used another person’s passport and visa to actually enter the US. There was no mention of “terrorist tradecraft” to enter a country includes using another person’s passport or identification. Or that terrorist tradecraft includes seeking “political asylum” since this is a loophole terrorists have utilized numerous times or marrying a citizen so that one can remain in a country where one is planning terrorist operations. Iyman Faris took the below Oath of Allegiance to the United States when he became a naturalized citizen.
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
It seems that he didn’t take this oath of allegiance seriously and instead targeted his new country for Al-Qaeda. And now he wants to retain his citizenship. The government should appeal Judge Yandle’s decision and should be able to take into account the original statements and materials from his application for asylum as well as the facts that he arrived in the country using someone else’s passport and visa as well as the fact that he had multiple identifications in other names on him. In 2003, Faris was sentenced to 20 years and thus just has a few years left on his sentence before being released. If he retains his US citizenship he will be released within the United States. Or if Judge Yandle’s decision is successfully appealed, Iyman Faris can then be deported back to Pakistan once he has served his sentence.