Remember those public-service ads with the politically correct cast of actors staring into the camera and stating, "I am an American"?
Something always bothered me about that campaign. It was the snarly attitude that many of the cast members had while supposedly proclaiming their patriotism. The ads are still running. Listen closely the next time they pop up on your television. When some of them say, "I am an American," it sounds like: "Get off my back." As if the mere fact of citizenship proved their loyalty to this country.
Well, being an American and acting like one are not the same thing.
I would like the Ad Council to put that message in its next public-service campaign. The producers needn't worry about "diversity." There are plenty of traitorous American citizens, native-born and naturalized, who illustrate the point well. The casting director could open this awareness-raising commercial with a mugshot of Jose Padilla/Abdullah al Muhajir, the New York-born, Chicago-raised gang member and alleged al Qaeda-trained operative who now stands accused of plotting to build and detonate a radiological "dirty" bomb to kill his fellow Americans.
Next: A video clip of John Walker Lindh, the Washington, D.C.-born, California-raised Taliban warrior who took up arms against his fellow Americans.
And finally: A photo lineup of six foreign-born al Qaeda terrorists who all obtained American citizenship -- and believe it or not, still call themselves our fellow Americans to this day: El Sayyid Nosair, Ali Mohammed, Wadih el Hage, Nidal Ayyad, Essam al Ridi and Khalid Abu al Dahab.
Nosair was convicted as a conspirator in the plot to bomb New York landmarks and tunnels. He gained citizenship by marrying an American. So did Mohammed and el Hage, who were convicted in connection with the 1988 American embassy bombings in Africa. Ayyad, a young Rutgers University student, was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Al Ridi, who bought a plane and weapons for Osama bin Laden and became a government witness, was naturalized in 1994.
Al Dahab married three different Americans before gaining citizenship; he had a long history of al Qaeda-tied activity in the San Francisco Bay area. His primary mission: recruiting U.S. citizens. He confessed to bringing 10 American citizens into al Qaeda and is now serving time in an Egyptian jail for his terrorist actions. He said bin Laden was eager to use the U.S. passports of American recruits to facilitate international travel by other al Qaeda terrorists.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) tells me that not a single one of these foreign-born al Qaeda terrorists has had the privilege of U.S. citizenship taken away since his role in plotting against America was revealed. This is unconscionable. And, for once, it is not the INS's fault. While federal law specifically provides for a denaturalization and deportation process for Nazi war criminals (in the Holtzman amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act), it is silent on the matter of taking American citizenship away from those who have been convicted of, or confessed to, terrorist acts against the land that embraced them.
The Justice Department has a special unit, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), whose sole focus since 1979 has been the denaturalization and deportation of Nazi-era war criminals. That is a noble pursuit still worth carrying on, but it's time to modernize the prosecutors' mission. Congress must amend federal law and empower OSI to strip naturalized American terrorists of their citizenship.
There's more than symbolism at stake here. As Americans, these naturalized terrorists could theoretically sponsor relatives to come into our country. (It isn't hard to imagine the INS, which issued visa approval notices to known dead hijackers, issuing green cards to the brothers and sisters of known alive terrorists.) As for the likes of native-born American terror suspects such as John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla/Abdullah al Muhajir, I agree with FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly, who called on Congress this week to amend federal law governing acts of expatriation so that if one of our home-grown countrymen "wages war on the U.S. on behalf of a terrorist group, he or she loses citizenship."
Those who betray our nation do not deserve our birthright. We cannot allow these snakes to call themselves Americans.