Joel Mowbray
Waving to the cheering crowd at the St. Patrick’s Day parade with a giddy Congressman by his side, Irish Republican Army political leader Gerry Adams visited the United States thanks to a special provision put into the law for him more than a decade ago by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

And in that time, many other staunch advocates of terrorism have utilized that very same provision in order to come to the United States—including several affiliated with the Taliban.

Simply put, the language Sen. Kennedy inserted into the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1990 states that consular officers cannot refuse a visa to someone on the grounds of advocacy of terrorism. He did this because his pal, Gerry Adams, had been denied a visa because of his role as an advocate for Irish Republican Army terrorism in Northern Ireland.

But while the law has been effective in keeping the door open for Adams—allowing him to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade yet again this month in Holyoke, Massachusetts—it has also proved a bonanza for people such as the former spokesman for the Taliban and an imam who helped run an Islamic school that is closely tied to the Taliban.

Though Sen. Kennedy has steadfastly refused to close the Gerry Adams loophole (including shortly after 9/11), the State Department has the authority under the law to do so. Yet State has only tweaked it, but has otherwise refused.

(While the Patriot Act grants the Department of Homeland Security the authority to deny visas to those who use a “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity,” DHS seems to do so only sporadically.)

So who has gotten in thanks to Sen. Kennedy? For starters, the Gerry Adams provision is almost certainly the reason former Taliban spokesman Rahmatullah Hashemi was able to attain a student visa to attend Yale University. The lengthy New York Times Magazine profile of him that caused quite a stir last month indicated that he was open about his Taliban past, yet he received his visa with ease.

Whichever consular officer granted Rahmatullah’s visa, though, was just following orders. Under the subheading, “Advocacy of Terrorism Not Always Exclusionary,” a high threshold is set, whereby inciting people to commit terrorist acts is not enough cause to deny someone a visa. The visa applicant’s “speech must not only have induced others to undertake terrorist activity, but it must also have been made with the specific intent that such activity would result in death or serious bodily injury.”

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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