In Sept. 19, 2001, in the Chicago suburb of Justice, Ill., U.S. authorities made the first major arrest in connection with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nabil al-Marabh technically was taken into custody on the basis of immigration and parole violations, but authorities believe he may have played a major role in coordinating the terrorist strikes.
Telephone records showed al-Marabh made telephone calls to at least two of the 19 members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda team who commandeered the planes used to kill more than 3,000 people. According to newspaper reports, al-Marabh also is suspected of providing the terrorists with cash and fake IDs. He had been a coworker at a Boston taxi company and shared a residence with Raed Hijazi, an alleged al-Qaeda operative now in prison in Jordan on charges that he planned to bomb a luxury hotel in Amman during the 2000 millennium celebration. Sketches of an airport flight line, including aircraft and runways, were found at a Detroit apartment al-Marabh had shared with three other men who also were arrested, according to the Cox News Service.
This wasn't the first time al-Marabh, apparently born in Kuwait in 1966, had been arrested in the United States. In fact, in an incident that has terrorism experts shaking their heads, he had been in custody less than three months before his Sept. 19 arrest. On June 27, 2001, a U.S. border guard in Niagara Falls, N.Y., found al-Marabh in the back of a tractor-trailer trying to sneak across the border with a fake Canadian passport.
How did the U.S. government bungle this one? To a large extent, another government mostly is to blame. The biggest U.S. mistake appears to have been sending al-Marabh back across the border to face "justice" in Canada. Despite the fact that he had been deported from Canada in 1994, had been found guilty of stabbing a man in the leg in Boston and had known ties to al-Qaeda's Hijazi, a Canadian judge released him after his uncle posted bail of $7,500 Canadian currency, or about $4,500 U.S. Al-Marabh did not so much as attend his deportation hearing and found his way back to the United States.
Even after Sept. 11, Canada's minister of immigration, Elinor Caplan, defended the judge's decision and said it was in line with Canada's policies. "We do not detain people on whispers or innuendo," she told Detroit television station WDIV a month after the terrorist attacks.
Terrorism experts and a growing number of concerned Canadians contend that the al-Marabh incident is just one more indication of why Canada has become a haven for terrorists. "We've got a lot of blood on our hands worldwide," says David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's top intelligence agency. Harris tells INSIGHT, "If some can say the Americans were asleep at the switch prior to the 11th of September, we've been in a coma."
In 1998 the director of CSIS told a special committee of the Canadian Parliament that members of more than 50 international terrorist groups were living there. "With perhaps the singular exception of the United States, there are more international terrorist groups active here than in any other country," testified CSIS Director Ward Elcock. "Terrorist groups are present here whose origins lie in virtually every significant regional, ethnic and nationalist conflict there is."
The CSIS elaborated in 1999. "For a number of reasons, Canada is an attractive venue for terrorists," said a CSIS report. "Long borders and coastlines offer many points of entry which can facilitate movement to and from various sites around the world, particularly the United States."
But there is another reason experts say Canada has become attractive to terrorists--one which went unspoken by the CSIS. That is, Canada's highly permissive immigration and refugee policies. …