February 8th, 2017

About those seven countries and 9/11

[NOTE: Last night I wrote a draft for a new post about the 9th Circuit hearing concerning the TRO against Trump’s immigration EO. When I was finished, though, I found that it was enormous and contained enough material for about twenty separate posts on twenty separate related topics.

Well, I’m not going to be writing them today. And to top it all off, I’m extra-busy this afternoon. So I’m just going to dash off this one about one of those related topics, and it won’t be as thorough as I’d like it to be. I might add a few more of them this evening, depending on how inspired and energetic I’m feeling.]

One of the many issues raised by critics of Trump’s immigration EO is that it deals with seven countries, but those countries have not historically been the vectors of terrorism in the US. “Why not Saudi Arabia?” they cry. “After all, that was the country of origin of most of the 9/11 hijackers.”

True, but irrelevant. No one is claiming that the seven countries have been the origins of all or most of the terrorist attacks that have ever occurred in this country. Nor is that a necessary claim to make in order to consider the focus of the EO to be valid. 9/11 happened over fifteen years ago, and events—and the probable sources of present-day Islamicist terrorism, and probably future terrorism as well—have changed somewhat.

The seven countries were not chosen by President Trump. They were designated by President Obama and adopted by Trump, and no one (or very few people) raised an eyebrow at Obama’s choices at the time. And of course, those people who criticize Trump by pointing out that quite a few recent terrorists have been citizens are also mentioning something that isn’t particularly relevant, because our control over citizens is far less (we can’t deport a citizen we suspect of being a terrorist, for example). And the fact that some citizens are becoming terrorists does not mean that newcomers can’t be (or become) terrorists as well.

Trump’s EO is not just aimed at arrivals from the seven countries, either, it’s aimed at certain current legal residents who have recently visited any of the seven countries (which are places for terrorist training and ISIS connections), and those holding dual European citizenship as well as citizenship from one of those countries. In other words, the EO is designed to make sure that a dual French-Somalian citizen cannot come here for the moment; under Trump’s temporary EO he/she would be stopped for 90 days until new vetting rules are devised. At least, that’s my present understanding.

Those who advance the “include Saudi Arabia” argument are doing so for the most part with the knowledge that this isn’t going to happen, for practical reasons. Saudi Arabia is a country with which we have a completely different diplomatic and in particular economic relationship than we do with, say, Somalia. Now, you might think a Saudi ban would be a good idea, and perhaps Trump’s final vetting system will include a different type of vetting than at present for Saudis as well (I don’t know what the current vetting entails, or if it is inadequate). But, realistically speaking, Trump chose the 7 countries because they already had been designated by Obama and because our ties with them were not especially friendly.

However, there is one thing that is relevant about 9/11 and the Trump EO: the hijackers came here legally on visas:

All of them entered the country legally on a temporary visa, mostly tourist visas with entry permits for six months. Although four of them attended flight school in the United States, only one is known to have entered on an appropriate visa for such study, and one entered on an F-1 student visa. Besides the four pilots, all but one of the terrorists entered the United States only once and had been in the country for only three to five months before the attacks.

The four pilots had been in the United States for extended periods, although none was a legal permanent resident. Some had received more than one temporary visa, most of which were currently valid on September 11, but at least three of them had fallen out of status and were, therefore, in the United States illegally.

The terrorists had obtained U.S. identification that was used for boarding flights in the form of Florida, Virginia, California and New Jersey driver’s licenses/ID cards. One of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta, was detained in Florida for driving without a license, but subsequently obtained one. Thirteen of the terrorists had Florida driver’s licenses or ID cards, seven had Virginia driver’s licenses, at least two had California licenses and two had New Jersey driver’s licenses. According to the March 28, 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Robert Thibadeau, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Internet Security laboratory, says that “the 19 terrorists on Sept. 11 were holding 63 state driver’s licenses for identification.”

(I’ve written a previous post about the visa issue and 9/11.)

We are indeed fortunate that there has not been any large-scale attack here subsequent to the 9/11 horrors. There are many theories as to why, but in this country most of the terrorists lately have been of the supposedly “lone wolf” type—and some of those arrested have indeed been from the seven countries (see this and this). It is also important and relevant to note that the seven countries feature in the history of many recent Islamicist terrorist attacks in Europe, and that although patterns there are somewhat different from here, they are not so very different than we can or should ignore that fact.

24 Responses to “About those seven countries and 9/11”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Syria, Yemen and Somalia really don’t have a government; near complete breakdown in civil society. Vetting not possible. That’s one of the reasons for the 90 day pause.

  2. Brian E Says:

    I enjoy reading your posts as they are well thought out (even the ones I disagree with).

    There is another element to this that I’ve read elsewhere but doesn’t get the scrutiny it deserves. That is the effect of second generation terrorists in this country. The parents came here, have adapted to a greater or lesser extent, but it’s the next generation that becomes radicalized and commits a terror act (the homegrown terrorist).

    I spent some time in Norway in the early mid 70’s and there was something possibly similar going on. The older generation, those that had experienced WWII, couldn’t have been more appreciative of America. Their kids, mostly college age that I knew, had the opposite opinion of America. Of course, the Vietnam war was still fresh in everyone’s mind– but it was interesting how quickly attitudes changed.

    I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but the second generation Muslims see the excesses of this country, and if they remain faithful to Islam, must reject it. One of our main exports is hedonism, which to a large part of the world, isn’t well received.

  3. huxley Says:

    Those who advance the “include Saudi Arabia” argument are doing so for the most part with the knowledge that this isn’t going to happen, for practical reasons. Saudi Arabia is a country with which we have a completely different diplomatic and in particular economic relationship than we do with, say, Somalia.

    neo: Delicately put!

    I remember the same “Why not Saudi Arabia?” argument when we invaded Iraq from people equally insincere.

  4. Cornhead Says:

    The biggest IPO in history is coming out of KSA this year. No travel ban. Eric Cantor’s firm just got a piece of it.

  5. Richard Saunders Says:

    Forgetting the lack of standing, the lack of irreparable harm (how can a temporary suspension cause irreparable harm?), the district court’s abuse of discretion and ultra vires ruling, the most compelling reason to vacate the order is that this is not a justiciable question. It’s obvious to everyone that this is a dispute over the policy of the order, which is resolved by the legislative and executive branches, not the judiciary.

    BTW, for all you federal civil pro fans out there, what would happen if the Administration simply declared it was following the Boston court order and not the Washington order? Does one district court have precedence over another?

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    David Horowitz nails it;
    “An SDS radical once wrote, “the issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” In other words, the cause-whether inner city blacks or women–is never the real cause, but only an occasion to advance the real cause, which is the accumulation of power to make the revolution.”

    Obstructing Trump, demonizing Trump and ideally impeachment and conviction of Trump, plus adding ever more illegals to the voting rolls so as to regain the Presidency with control of Congress is what this is about.

  7. parker Says:


    I need to pay off the bet. How?

    And, yes, that is what this is about.

  8. expat Says:

    This is a bit OT, but I just read that only 10% of assylum intake agencies in Germany have equipment to compare fingerprints with databases. That means that people can register under different names in different areas. What do you think it is like in Yemen or Somalia. And given that radical groups have loads of blank passports to give out, the problems with our vetting becomes obvious. I#m starting to wonder whether Trump’s seven-state delay was also a signal to other countries to get off their a**es.

  9. Bill Says:

    How come it never can just be about what it’s about except when it’s your cause, GB?

    Convincing yourselves that everyone who disagrees with Trump is arguing in bad faith is intellectually lazy, but I’m sure it’s comforting.

    Claiming moral high ground when your standard bearer is an amoral nationalistic big government authoritarian like Trump doesn’t compute anymore with me.

  10. Bill Says:

    Also, since when is an SDS radical a reasonable stand-in for, say, the large plurality of moderately left of center Democrats and independents (or right of center former GOP small govt conservatives) who don’t like or agree with Trump? What percentage of the American electorate are in the same ideological camp as SDS radicals?

  11. parker Says:

    “What percentage….?”


    I will leave it to you to make the tally; but you might want to start with 90% of the msm, 80% of the horde in hollywood, and nearly all of those attached to the dnc. The Patrick Moynihans of the dnc have 95% gone the way of the dinosaurs. And, I would add 80% of the professors.

    BTW, I miss people like Patrick Moynihan in the democrat party.

  12. OM Says:


    It seems that identifying and prosecuting the small percentage that wear the black togs and face masks, who beat, burn, and batter is the way to go. They have been coddled for 8 years. Contrast what happened in OR and NV under BHO when Federal lands were “occupied,” Federal land was burned (range fire of little consequence), or Federal workers were disobeyed.

    RICCO and domestic terrorism come to mind for ANTIFAC and the anarchists of the black block.

  13. parker Says:


    I agree, more or less, but those who agitate for rebellion, although not violently, are culpable. Those people should be shamed; the only problem is they have no sense of shame. Ashley Judd comes to mind.

    I did not support the BLM (the original BLM) rebellion. I understand their frustration, but do not applaud their actions. The western states suffer from so much of their states being under federal control. And, perhaps we are in need of far fewer federal ‘workers’ to be obeyed.

  14. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I’ve never doubted that you were good for it.
    email me at geoffreybritain@gmail.com


    I readily concede that the vast majority of the other side are sincere… useful idiots, proven by their willful blindness to facts, logic, reason and the common sense that we’ve been presenting to them for decades and even longer.

    But those are not the ones driving this, it’s the hard left activists, congressional democrats and the media who are feeding the flames.

    I know it’s a comfort to imagine that sincere, well intended persuasion can yet prevail. I too once held that POV, as Ymarsakar can confirm.

    As for Horowitz’s dictum, it’s an observation, not a judgement. No moral superiority needed.

  15. parker Says:


    Will do, and gladly. BTW, parker is my midle name and the name family and friends know me by. I became parker at an early age in honor of the uncle Parker I never knew/rembemred Uncle Parker who died when I was 3 in Korea. We all paid or have kin who paid the cost of freedom. parker I am (lower case because I can never reached his level of sacrifice.) We remember, my children remember, and so shall my grandchildren. So say we all. I will always be parker here instead of Parker.

  16. Bill Says:

    GB: I readily concede that the vast majority of the other side are sincere… useful idiots, proven by their willful blindness to facts, logic, reason and the common sense that we’ve been presenting to them for decades and even longer.

    I used to think that too. Until my party nominated and elected Donald Trump to the highest office in the land.

    Until my party decided that ruling by EO is good, presidential power needs to be expanded, and that constitutional governance is for chumps

    Until my party decided that their President doesn’t have to be subject to conflict of interest ethics, and that he and his family can profit off his office

    Until my party decided that it’s OK for the President to pick winners and losers, calling out businesses he has either a private or public beef with and bullying them into doing his will.

    Until my party decided that truth doesn’t matter, and personal morality doesn’t matter.

    Until my party decided to fall for every authoritarian trick in the book. Let said authoritarian and his enablers define a common enemy (especially if enemy’s “sin” is their ethnicity). Check. Get away with big lie ethics, until the truth is so hard to find (at least for the “willfully blind”) that his followers will only believe and receive news from approved propaganda outlets in the conservative media – check

  17. Bill Says:

    And I haven’t even mentioned allowing said authoritarian ruler to engage in disgusting moral equivalence about OUR country and the country ruled by his favored dictator bromance. Behavior that would have been denounced Bigly in this space had the previous occupant said such things.

    I get why people voted for Trump – no one wanted Hillary (I didn’t either). I don’t get the moral superiority. The platform for that stance us WAY shakier than it used to be.

  18. OM Says:


    But, but, civil war, tipping point, Hillary, Hillary, Flight 93 …..

    We will see, if we keep our eyes open. Self deception and wishful thinking usually work out in the end, right? /s

    Good points.

  19. Bill Says:

    And I’m assuming we won’t be hearing the Trump admin equivalent of the “Moochelle” criticism any time soon either.

    No one cares anymore . . . It was all political theater.

  20. Big Maq Says:

    Not sure why Afghanistan and Pakistan have fallen off the radar on potential threats for importing jihadists.

    Maybe our job was successfully done in Afghanistan and maybe killing bin ladin effectively took care of Pakistan?

    Wouldn’t know that from “conservative” media prior to the election, though.

    I get the argument about why Saudi Arabia is problematic, but it seems to me that if security was the utmost concern and was an urgent priority, there ought to have been serious consideration of these two countries.

    Perhaps people like bunion thought it brilliant to pick the same list as obama had, as it would provide some kind of “cover”.

    Perhaps so, if one wants to rush things and not want to have to make the case.

    The question of these two countries is a legitimate one, which hits at the internal inconsistency in the thinking behind this EO.

    The problem is there are all these broken pieces, with how this came / comes together, that it erodes the confidence in this admin’s ability and judgement, AND, more importantly, in the base issue we face.

    I know Neo, through great diligence, brings to light some of the hard facts and considered opinions behind this all, but that in itself (that it takes such extraordinary effort to bring clarity) is a symptom of the larger issue we face.

    It is hard to trust anyone as an authority, and even harder to get clarity. trump is as much a generator of that “fog” as anyone. So, we are seemingly left with choosing sides for the sake of choosing sides.

    It is terrible that anyone who might be concerned about terrorism and our exposure to this (probably the vast majority of the country), to feel compelled to choose between:

    a) a POTUS who rushs an EO (an approach we generally opposed when obama did so), effectively without much of a rollout or explanation, spins (lies?) to us about the what and hows, and who (unnecessarily) attacks the judiciary,

    b) aliging with left, some (many?) of whom are opposing for opposing’s sake, or who’d support a far more generous open door (if not open borders), not wanting to validate any issue or threat out of political correctness.

    Can we stand athwart of the red vs blue politics and see things as they are, even in disagreement, and demand competency, explanation, and truth?

    Or, must we be all-in on everything trump, for fear that if he loses on something once, all the rest of any good he may do is down the drain?

    In the meantime, if the latter, our credibility diminishes with trump’s, no different than those on the left for whom obama could do no wrong.

    Frankly, something’s gotta give. The country cannot sustain this heightened uncertainty and tension without some impact – and we cannot now honestly claim it is all from the left.

    If trump doesn’t deliver on explosive growth (and I’m skeptical he will, if he follows through on his threats wrt trade, which could overwhelm all the other good), all bets are off with all these other distractions from trump, and the fortunes of the GOP will follow suit.

    We’ll see.

    I sincerely hope we see more good than chaos, not only for the good of the country, but also as I’d hate to see dems dominating Congress after 2018.

    First two weeks our of 100 days – not yet convinced.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Big Maq:

    I definitely agree that this was rushed and not well thought out. And there was no pressing reason it had to be so rushed, because there was no particular heightened threat recently. A few more weeks would have been fine. Trump wanted something dramatic to happen quickly. In this case too much was sacrificed to that goal, and he’s paying for it (so far, anyway).

    Maybe he will learn. I really don’t know if that will happen.

  22. Bill Says:

    “Maybe he will learn”

    That’s what we’re all counting on. I’m not encouraged, though.

  23. Big Maq Says:

    An example of clarity through the fog each side is pumping out:


    Only thing that I heard different was that they did NOT get the leader they were targeting, as that leader was apparently taunting trump a short while later on FB or twitter. Don’t know if that is confirmed or not.

  24. Big Maq Says:

    “Does Donald Trump Understand that Chaos Has a Cost? …
    The president and his advisers are hurting their own legal case. “
    – David French

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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