Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tracking American ISIS - Not So Easy Even with Passports. Tourists vs Terrorists & NSA

A good question came up on my Facebook page about Americans who leave to join ISIS in Syria as Jihadists. How can we know if they return?

My clever nephew suggested in a comment that they be on a "no fly" list.  Would that "fix" it?

Good idea -- except for one thing - we don't know who is going to be a jihadist or going as a tourist or to visit family.  I have been in Syria and Turkey. Am I a possible terrorist? I didn't even need a visa to get into Turkey because I arrived on a cruise ship.

                                               No, This is NOT me. But YES, it is likely an
                                              American with a U.S. Passport. No need to
                                             "sneak" across Mexico border as some politicians
                                             claim (proof that they don't know what they are
                                             talking about.)

Besides, the jihadists aren't traveling direct to Syria because it would be too obvious and it is a hot war zone even in Damascus. Assad's people control the airport so they would be detained most likely - to keep them from joining ISIS which is fighting Assad (along with everyone else they hate.)
 
I was in Syria for legal negotiations for a Texas mom whose 12 year old daughter was 70 miles away in Lebanon (closed to Americans at the time, but open today.)  Last December I was in Turkey as a tourist on vacation. Does that make me a potential terrorist? Should that put me on a "watch" list or a "no fly" list?

                                                       Michael Fjetland, Damascus, Syria
                                                       Do I look like a terrorist?
                                                       How do you know? How does our
                                                       government  know?

What about the many people who are legal residents or citizens of the U.S. who have FAMILY in those countries. Should they be suspects because they want to see their family?

The Jihadists are going through neighboring countries like Turkey--which I myself went to last December as a tourist. Should that put ME on the no fly list? See how crazy it could get - not everyone is an international lawyer as I have been. Americans may not realize it but many hyphenated Americans (Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Latin Americans) travel back and forth to see family or do business ALL the time! 

Here is a map to give you an idea what a problem this is (Syria is next door - the jihadists are going to Turkey and crossing that LONG border into Syria).
 Notice how Turkey, Syria and Iraq come together  and the long border Turkey has with Syria

The only way to find out "who is who" is if we DO have a NSA checking people out. So that is the rock and the hard place. Do I want them reading my email or monitoring my phone calls? No.

Do I want them monitoring the email of someone being recruited on the Internet by ISIS? Yes.

How do they tell the difference without looking at our stuff or having the FBI show up at the door?

Either we don't investigate to see who is going out of the U.S. to become a terrorist and who is traveling internationally as a tourist, as millions of innocent people do each year.

We need to decide the best way to handle this because not knowing the difference between normal international travelers like myself (13 million of us in 2009 alone) and terrorists-in-training will eventually prove to be deadly at some point.  I say that with my terrorism analyst hat on. 

I have watched Turkey's leader allow thousands of these young jihadists cross the Turkish border. I have watched Erdogen's tanks sit silent on a hill overlooking ISIS attacking the Kurdish town in Syria below, killing thousands.  The Turks never fired a shot as they stood watching through binoculars the men in black run across the stark desert sand.
                                         Turkish tank (with flag) overlooking Kobane across
                                         border, under attack by ISIS. Turks never fired a shot

 Turkey's President Erdogen supports President Assad in Syria (who has killed over 200,000 of his own citizens in shellings.) Erdogen is a Muslim and hates the Kurds, who happen to be related to the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. So why would he care about the Kurds in Kobane?   ISIS hates EVERYBODY.

The Kurds are our best allies in Iraq but they have no heavy weapons like ISIS. ISIS didn't have any either until they overran Mosul in Iraq and stole our tanks from the Iraqis. That was a fumble by Iraq's leader Maliki who had replaced competent commanders with kiss-ass loyalists. When they fled, the soldiers did too, leaving ISIS free to just walk in and take countless American built tanks and heavy weapons. Those weapons are now killing Kurds, minority Christians and even Muslims all across Syria and Iraq.

         Photo: American tank with ISIS black flag - one looted from Mosul, Iraq
                            We need to reclaim it by blowing it up before it kills more civilians

Can you see what kind of problem we have here? Stay tuned...it is far from over.

To get a flavor of Syria I saw, details are in "Better Times Ahead April Fool"

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