The West’s Islamist Infiltrators

Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is a Pakistani mother of three, an alumna of MIT, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brandeis University. She is also accused of working for Al-Qaeda and was charged last week in New York City with attempting to kill American soldiers.

Her arrest serves to remind how invisibly most Islamist infiltration proceeds. In particular, an estimated forty Al-Qaeda sympathizers or operatives have sought to penetrate U.S. intelligence agencies.

Such a well-placed infiltrator can wreck great damage explains a former CIA chief of counterintelligence, Michael Sulick: “In the war on terrorism, intelligence has replaced the Cold War’s tanks and fighter planes as the primary weapon against an unseen enemy.” Islamist moles, he argues, “could inflict far more damage to national security than Soviet spies,” for the U.S. and Soviet Union never actually fought each other, whereas now, “our nation is at war.”

Here are some American cases of attempted infiltration since 2001 that have been made public:

  • The Air Force discharged Sadeq Naji Ahmed, a Yemeni immigrant, when his superiors learned of his pro-Al-Qaeda statements. Ahmed subsequently became a baggage screener at Detroit’s Metro Airport, which terminated him for hiding his earlier discharge from the Air Force. He was convicted of making false statements and sentenced to eighteen months in jail.
  • The Chicago Police Department fired Patricia Eng-Hussain just three days into her training on learning that her husband, Mohammad Azam Hussain, was arrested for being an active member of Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H), a Pakistani terrorist group.
  • The Chicago Police Department also fired Arif Sulejmanovski, a supervising janitor at its 25th District station after it learned his name was on a federal terrorist watch list of international terrorism suspects.
  • Mohammad Alavi, an engineer at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, was arrested as he arrived on a flight from Iran, accused of taking computer access codes and software to Iran that provide details on the plant’s control rooms and plant layout. He subsequently pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property.
  • Nada Nadim Prouty, a Lebanese immigrant who worked for both the FBI and CIA, pleaded guilty to charges of: fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship; accessing a federal computer system to unlawfully query information about her relatives and the terrorist organization Hizballah; and engaging in conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • Waheeda Tehseen, a Pakistani immigrant who filled a sensitive toxicologist position with the Environmental Protection Agency, pleaded guilty to fraud and was deported. WorldNetDaily.com explains that “investigators suspect espionage is probable, as she produced highly sensitive health-hazard documents for toxic compounds and chemical pesticides. Tehseen also was an expert in parasitology as it relates to public water systems.”
  • Weiss Rasool, 31, a Fairfax County police sergeant and Afghan immigrant, pleaded guilty for checking police databases without authorization, thereby jeopardizing at least one federal terrorism investigation.
  • Nadire P. Zenelaj, 32, a 911 emergency operator of Albanian origins, was charged with 232 felony counts of computer trespass for illegally searching New York State databases, including at least one person on the FBI’s terrorist watch list.

Three other cases are less clear. The Transportation Security Administration fired Bassam Khalaf, 21, a Texan of Christian Palestinian origins, as an airport baggage screener because lyrics on his music CD, Terror Alert, applaud the 9/11 attacks. FBI Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz “showed a pattern of pro-Islamist behavior,” according to author Paul Sperry, that may have helped acquit Sami Al-Arian of terrorism charges. The Pentagon cleared Hesham Islam, an Egyptian immigrant, former U.S. Navy commander, and special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, but major questions remain about his biography and his outlook.

Other Western countries too – Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom – have been subject to infiltration efforts. (For details, see my weblog entry, “Islamists Penetrate Western Security.”)

This record prompts one to wonder what catastrophe must occur before government agencies, some of which have banished the words “Islam” and “jihad,” seriously confront their internal threat?

Westerners are indebted to Muslim agents like Fred Ghussin and “Kamil Pasha” who have been critical to fighting terrorism. That said, I stand by my 2003 statement that “There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism.”

Daniel Pipes

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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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  • Warren Jewell

    I hate to be hard-nosed, but why are we permitting ‘freedom of religion’ to persons of a sect that doesn’t believe in it, and are willing to kill against it?

    Do we have enough security and intelligence operatives to keep tabs on so many who are seemingly bound (by their scriptures!) to try to ‘convert or kill’ us who are not of them?

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    If our enemies do not live up to our standards, is that any reason for us to descend to theirs?

    I’m no security/intelligence expert. I couldn’t put my finger on the level of prudent caution that will give us the best of all possible situations. The enemy may seem to gain the advantage by choosing evil, but I am certain that inherent in their choice are many weaknesses that we can use against them without abandoning our standards and morality.

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