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Monday, October 15, 2007

Shaffer to testify on Spitzer's license program

If you were wondering what Tony Shaffer has been up to lately, on Monday morning he will give his expert opinion to the New York State Senate as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies regarding Eliot Spitzer's program to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. If you had not guessed, he is opposed to it.

Senate Standing Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs
Chair: Senator Vincent L. Leibell
Senate Standing Committee on Transportation
Chair: Senator Thomas W. Libous
Public Hearing: Protecting our State’s Security: A public hearing to examine the security issues, review the impact, and investigate alternatives and legislation concerning the Governor’s proposal to remove statutorily required identity checks on drivers licence applications and issue drivers licenses to Illegal Immigrants.
Place: Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Time: 10:00 a.m.

We have also obtained a copy of the written testimony he submitted:

Senator Leibell, honorable senators of the great state of New York, thank you for this opportunity to participate in the hearings on this issue of vital interest not only to the people of New York, but also for the people of the United States.

My background is on record with the state – to briefly recap of my Bona fides – I am a senior fellow with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies who has served as an intelligence operations officer for more than 25 years. My counterterrorism career started in the mid 80s where I worked as a counterintelligence special agent with the Army Intelligence New York City Resident Office that worked with the New York City Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). This office supported events such as the Statue of Liberty re-opening during OPSAIL 86. In the late 1990s, while the chief of a Special Mission Task Force, I played a key role in operational planning for the first comprehensive mapping of Al Qaeda as a global threat in an operation called ABLE DANGER – while specific details are disputed, the bottom-line fact of ABLE DANGER is that a significant number of the 9/11 terrorists were identified a full year before the attacks. After the 9/11 attacks, I was in command of a special mission unit focused on counterterrorism operations in Sub-Saharan Africa and completed two combat tours to Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I have worked undercover multiple times and I am familiar with how easily fraudulent documents can be made to ‘appear’ legitimate.

It is my professional judgment that Governor Spitzer’s plan to issue illegal aliens legitimate New York State driver’s licenses will result in significant security vulnerabilities for the state of New York – and these actions will result in an increased threat for additional attacks to New York state and New York City. I base this assessment on my knowledge obtained during my 25 years of working in the field of intelligence and counter terrorism. This change of policy appears to be illegal under the Federal “Real ID” statute…but if breaking the intent and letter of federal law is not sufficient, I offer the following three points.

My first point – passage of the governor’s plan to allow illegal aliens to legally obtain New York state driver’s licenses will make New York state the preferred location for an ever increasing number of illegal aliens. This will result in illegal aliens coming from all points across our nation - and the world – in effect; the new policy will be a magnet that draws illegals and will likely double or even triple the number residents in the state.

This will produce negative consequences for New York.

Foremost, will be security – while the intent of the governor’s plan is to use “legitimate” passports as the basis for issuing licenses, there are inherent and significant problems. Assuming that all passports are “legitimate” (many of which will not be legitimate), the more illegal aliens who arrive, the more administrative pressure builds for the New York law enforcement officials to verify the authenticity of their passports– which I will address as separate problems in later testimony. With the added influx of illegals, there will be no possible way, with New York’s limited resources, to do reasonable “due diligence” on every illegal immigrant wanting a drivers license. There will likely be a “creeping diminution scale” of acceptable “legitimate” passports – and a high likelihood that illegal aliens, with or without passports, will select New York as their planned domicile due to its “illegal friendly” laws…inevitably, New York State will become one large “illegal alien sanctuary state”. Even in the best circumstances eventually with this large influx of illegals will overwhelm state resources. Unless New York State is prepared to increase its law enforcement resources significantly through additional funding and re-allocation of resources, there is no foreseeable way that Governor Spitzer’s program can be deemed “secure”. If past performance is any indication of future behavior, to deal with the inevitable backlog, bureaucrats under pressure to clear their numbers will push state law enforcement officials to take shortcuts which will result in shortened or bypassed security checks. This breakdown in security will open the door for a terrorist to slip through – and any smart terrorist organization will know to “flood” their operatives into the system knowing that several will get through. The terrorist organizations we are dealing with, especially Al Qaeda, is well funded, motivated and sophisticated. They are clever adversaries who will watch, identify, and exploit the vulnerabilities of the system – and the vulnerabilities of Governor Spitzer’s plan will be obvious. It will not take them long to identify and exploit this breakdown in security.

Let us not forget that a good number of the 9/11 hijackers had legitimate Virginia State drivers licenses that allowed them to move freely within the United States and enhanced their ability to plan and conduct the attacks. The State of Virginia has fixed its laws to preclude this from happening again – it is unconscionable that the very state that suffered the worst losses from the 9/11 attacks would willingly re-open this vulnerability and willingly provide a venue for smart terrorists to penetrate our security.

Another consequence that will add to New York State’s loss of security will be an influx of the criminal element. As with any population movement, there will be a percentage of criminals imbedded in the population. This was observed recently in New York’s neighbor to the south - in the brutal murder of 3 promising high school kids in Newark, New Jersey by illegal aliens – Newark is a sanctuary city…and with that status comes the inevitable presences of gangs, such as MS-13, who preys on the immigrant population with a culture of violence. That culture of violence will inevitably creep out of the immigrant community and menace the law abiding citizens of New York as it did in Newark. With an ever greater percentage of illegal aliens coming to New York, there is a statistical inevitability of more violent crime. Add the ability for an illegal to get a driver’s license and now the flood gates are open.

New York’s tax payers need to understand all aspects of Governor Spitzer’s new policy. They need to understand that this influx of illegals will require them to pay a hefty tax bill.

Tax payers will have to pick up the tab on additional security checks and the labor cost to perform those checks – resources that must be either diverted from their current security missions or new job positions need to be created if there is to be any hope of screening the illegals for fraudulent documents and terrorists and criminals hidden within their ranks.

On top of the increased security and administrative costs are the cost of social services that will have to be provided to the illegals as they move into the state. We are talking about immigrants who are unable to provide for their own healthcare and/or social wellbeing. There is a certainty that both medical and welfare programs will be more heavily burdened by the expansion of the illegal alien population.

Lastly, looking at the trends of most states with significant illegal alien populations, the criminal justice system will be flooded by the criminal cases generated by a good number of these illegal individuals. This will increase the case loads of the courts, and with convictions, it will rapidly increase the number of inmates in the state penal system. The use of public defenders, additional crimes and cases added to already heavily burdened legal system, along with increased use of jails and prisons to house suspects and convicts will all add to the drain of the public coffers, and require the already heavily taxed citizens of New York State to pay even more in taxes.

My Second Point – the inevitability of passport fraud and the inability of the New York law enforcement community to identify all “illegitimate” passports will lead to another 9/11 type incident. While the governor’s plan calls for the need for a “verified” passport, it does not take into account the ease with which foreign passports can either be obtained through illegal means, or counterfeited outright.
Does the Governor Spitzer’s plan to ask for additional resources to do overseas, in-depth investigations to verify the origins and legitimacy of the foreign passports, and will he be able to ensure that each individual shown on the passport is a real person who is from the country he or she purports?

Implied in the Governor Spitzer’s wish to change policy is the need to build foreign passport expertise within the state’s law enforcement system. Will there be funding available to create a staff of passport experts? Will the New York State Police be able to travel to foreign countries to verify and interview people to confirm the source of an individual’s passport?

Legitimate passports of many countries, such as in Sub-Sahara Africa and some European nations, can be obtained quite easily by terrorists and criminals. It has been noted in multiple news magazines over the last few years the ease with which criminals from Nigeria obtained third country passports for the purposes of committing financial fraud against U.S. citizens. The knowledge of how to obtain a third country legitimate passports for illegal use will be an issue New York State law enforcement officials will be obligated to deal with under Governor Spitzer’s policy. I would argue that such expertise to evaluate the validity of each and every passport of every illegal alien wanting a New York state license will not be within the expertise of the New York State Police anytime in the near future. Plus – while some passport fraud may be detected by New York State law enforcement, what becomes of an illegal alien who is discovered using an fraudulent passport (in light of Governor Spitzer’s comment that he will not perform the federal government’s work regarding illegal aliens).Does the alien get released so he or she can simply try again? And how do you detect passport fraud if the passport is issued by a sovereign country in a way that is legitimate to the legal system of that country, but, in the eyes of U.S. law would be fraudulent? How do you detect the intent of an illegal alien by simply examining his or her passport?

Plus, looking at the “worst case” scenario, once an individual using a false, doctored or illegal passport obtains a New York State drivers license, has he or she has effectively achieved “legitimate” status – and de facto U.S. citizenship? By creating this policy, Governor Spitzer is opening a path for the worst law breakers in the world – terrorists and criminals – to obtain legitimate status as citizens of New York State and the United States.

With the authority to create policy comes the necessity to maintain responsibility. In this case Governor Spitzer’s intent to change the policy, without careful study and contingency planning to address and mitigate all security risks is clearly irresponsible. The implementation of the policy to provide illegal aliens driver’s licenses requires “a willing suspension of disbelief”, to quote a New York State Senator, that this policy is in the best interest of the people of New York State and of the nation.

My third point –bringing people in “from the shadows” – for what purpose? Governor Spitzer claims that by implementing this program, the New York State insurance premiums will drop 34% because more people will be “covered”. Based on what study or detailed assessment is this based? Is someone going to guarantee the people of New York this cost savings? Has there been a polling of the major insurance companies to verify this claim?

I have outlined the security issues, unintended consequences and costs so far in my testimony – but let me now examine the so called benefits of this policy. Essentially, Governor Spitzer is telling the people of New York that the creation of security vulnerabilities, added cost of infrastructure and services to support the ever expanding illegal population of New York is worth saving on car insurance. Is this a fair trade-off?

The one “security plus” that the governor and his staff proclaim to be the best reason for implementing the policy: the ability to “track” people. Yes – as the governor points out, this change will bring people out of the shadows and give them access to New York State’s vast social services (medical, schools, welfare, etc) and a fast pass to legitimate access to all the states in the union – and allow them access to move, at will, all across the country and obtain employment. But wait – how does this “help track” these people? Governor Spitzer, to justify the program has already stated that he would “not do the work of the INS (I think he meant ICE since INS has not existed for several years) – so if you are not willing to help ICE now, why would the governor be more willing to help ICE after implementation of his policy? It appears that Governor Spitzer’s appears to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

What I see here is illegals gaining access to other states and exporting the state of New York’s security problem, like a virus, to all other states of the union. The theory is, according to the governor’s staff public comments, that the illegals will be “tracked”…if so how? With whom and how will information on the illegal be shared? What state agency will be tasked and held accountable to track them? What will be the legal basis for tracking them? Will they follow federal law and deport the illegals once they are identified? Probably more ““willing suspension of disbelief”.

Each citizen of this nation has fundamental expectation of privacy and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. So how will this new group, with legitimate driver’s licenses, be legally scrutinized any more than you or me? The answer is clear – they will not – and they will be given the same access and freedoms that you and I enjoy as law abiding citizens of this country.

The bottom-line of my testimony is this:

There are predictable security consequences and unintended consequences that will result from the implementation of the governor’s policy to provide illegal immigrants with legitimate New York State driver’s licenses – none of which are being addressed by Governor Spitzer at this point as far as I can determine.
Once an illegal has a driver’s license, this makes them a threat to not only New York, but every other state in the Union.

Plus – it is important for the people of New York to have a clear understanding of the financial burden both the implementation of the minimal security requirements and new drain on social services will bring them in taxation.

Within the realm of legal immigration is a “vetting” process. Individuals and their families are examined by a process in a systematic way. While this is not a full proof system, a great deal of information is learned about them in the process of becoming a citizen. Even ICE’s green card process requires an individual wishing legal resident status to provide significant information about their background – information that is verifiable…while not the perfect system, this system is far better and more robust than that Governor Spitzer proposes in which de facto legal resident status will be bestowed on them by simply presenting a passport that may or may not be legitimate.

If this policy is implemented, it will reward criminal behavior – and encourage more of the same. My family came over from Spain on the Lusitania just prior to World War I – and worked their way through the American legal immigration system. I appear before you now as a second generation American.

I urge the New York State Senate to examine closely Governor Spitzer’s intent to modify policy as to allow for the issuance of drivers licenses to illegal aliens, and prevent implementation of this flawed policy unless all direct and indirect consequences of the policy can be identified and mitigated.

Anthony Shaffer
Senior Fellow
Center for Advanced Defense Studies