Admitting Terror: Part 5

When terrorists knock, the INS is more than likely to fall down on the job

According to Shewairy, when Braish tried to pass the immigration inspection, an inspector found his name on the computerized watch list. "Mr. Braish was never admitted into the U.S., and he didn't wander alone or hide out anywhere," Shewairy declares. "He was taken to customs by INS. He was escorted to customs, and there he was questioned and returned to INS."

Shewairy's account is contradicted by court documents and a customs spokeswoman. In an affidavit, INS immigration agent Parodi wrote that Braish indeed was "admitted to the United States" by the immigration service based on false documents and his declaration that he was a U.S. citizen. Parodi also wrote that customs officers caught Braish as he tried to slip out an emergency door. Customs spokeswoman Norma Morfa confirmed that Braish had been admitted by the INS and had walked into the customs area without an escort.

"He had encountered INS, and they admitted him with his fake documents," Morfa says. "He was the very last passenger in the customs area, and he was seen by one of the inspectors trying to leave the area."

When Rishel questioned Braish, "the things he had told INS didn't jibe with what he presented to her," Morfa explains.

After being confronted with this information, INS spokeswoman Patricia Mancha, on behalf of Shewairy, conceded that inspectors had allowed Braish's entry and that he wasn't escorted to customs, which is located near the INS area.

When Rishel determined that Braish was a Muslim Palestinian born in Jordan and that his travel documents were fake, she handed him over to the INS. During the investigation Braish admitted to Parodi that he bought the Jordanian passport and phony New York documents for $2500 from a woman identified as Amal Habibi in his home city of Amman, Jordan, according to court records. Parodi's sworn report doesn't specify where Braish obtained the fake Bureau of Prisons ID card, which had the same picture on it as the fraudulent passport and driver's license.

The prison ID alarms immigration expert Krieger the most. "You can get fake birth certificates and driver's licenses anywhere," he says. "But that prison card isn't common, and it indicates to me that he was working for a terrorist organization and may have had a special purpose for being in the United States involving the prison."

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, Mia Ward, says that Braish is the only suspect known to have had such a card and that the case is currently under investigation by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.

Braish "was prevented from entering this country and was held accountable according to the laws of the United States...," Shewairy noted in a written statement to New Times. "[T]he system and the process worked."

Krieger again disagrees. "It was a screwup by INS tremendously," he says. "Here this guy was stamped in by INS, he was almost in the country, and he was unescorted. The primary inspector should have looked at those documents and verified their authenticity. But he didn't. Why? Because it's easier to let the guy slide."

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