Bombs in Brooklyn: How the Two Illegal Aliens Arrested for Plotting to
Bomb the New York Subway Entered and Remained in the United States
March, 1998
Office of the Inspector General
Department of Justice

D. Mezer's initial attempts to enter the United States

1. Canadian information

According to the U.S. asylum application Mezer later filed, from the time of his arrival in Canada in 1993 until approximately 1996, he attempted several illegal entries into the United States but was never successful. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also informed the OIG that it had information concerning "suspicious activity" by Mezer in February 1996. Connie Dennison of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated that in February 1996, she stopped and questioned a man named Haikal Khaldon after he made several border crossings at Winnipeg, Manitoba, within a brief time period. Khaldon said he lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was meeting Mezer in Winnipeg to discuss opening a business. Dennison said that when Khaldon returned to the United States later that same day, the U.S. Customs Service detained Khaldon and questioned him concerning $15,000 in unreported currency he had. Mezer apparently was not questioned or arrested, but his name was entered into the FOSS system based on the incident.5

Other details about this incident were not entered into the Canadian computerized database but were maintained in the official file in Manitoba. None of the Border Patrol personnel to whom the OIG spoke were able to access any information about this incident, other than by telephoning their Canadian counterparts.

The INS does not have a centralized database recording all immigration-related apprehensions along the northern border.6 At our request, the INS conducted a manual search of records from 1993 to 1997 at U.S. ports of entry across from Toronto, where Mezer claimed to have attempted illegal entries, and across from Manitoba, where Mezer was cited for this "suspicious activity." The search did not yield records of any immigration-related apprehensions in either of these areas.

2. Two apprehensions of Mezer, June 1996

As we describe in detail below, in June 1996, Mezer was detained twice by the INS Border Patrol in Washington state for trying to enter the United States illegally. Before describing the facts surrounding these events, we first provide background information describing the conditions faced by the Border Patrol on the Canadian/northwest United States border.

a. Conditions in the INS' Blaine Sector

The Border Patrol's "Blaine Sector," with headquarters in Blaine, Washington, is located in the northwestern part of Washington state. The Blaine Sector covers approximately 102 miles of border between the United States and Canada, from Puget Sound on the west coast of Washington to the Cascade mountains in central Washington. The Blaine Sector is also responsible for Border Patrol operations covering the coast of western Washington and the entire states of Oregon and Alaska.

The Blaine Sector is divided into 5 stations, including the "Blaine station," which covers 12 miles of northern border and the west coast of Washington; the "Lynden station," which covers the remaining 90 miles of border; the "Port Angeles station" on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest part of the state; the "Bellingham station," about 25 miles south of the northern border between Blaine and Lynden; and the "Roseburg station," in Roseburg, Oregon. Border Patrol records indicate that the Border Patrol apprehends more aliens in the Blaine Sector than at any other place along the 3,500 mile border between the United States and Canada.7

Most of the Blaine Sector's resources are concentrated at or near the 102 miles along the northern border. But the amount of these resources is not great. Blaine Sector's Border Patrol staffing along 102 miles of the United States-Canadian border currently consists of 19 agents and 4 supervisors, along with a few support employees.8 Present staffing allows for two to three Border Patrol Agents at the Blaine and Lynden stations to cover the border during each shift, and the entire Blaine Sector is unguarded from midnight to 8:00 a.m. A Border Patrol official stated that in the last two years, 50 percent of the Blaine Sector's manpower has been detailed out of the sector to work on the United States-Mexican border.

Within the Blaine Sector, there are five Ports of Entry operated by the INS and the U.S. Customs Service. INS statistics reflect that more than 1.9 million individuals passed through the these Ports of Entry in July 1997. A large number of these entries consists of local residents who commute across the border on a regular basis to shop or buy gasoline. Due to the heavy traffic, the INS attempts to limit inspection time to an average of no more than 13 seconds per vehicle, even if there are several people in the car.

According to our interviews of INS personnel in the Blaine Sector, individuals who are apprehended attempting to enter the United States illegally through this sector are normally sent back to Canada voluntarily. The most common exceptions are when the alien reenters the United States after being deported subsequent to conviction for an aggravated felony or when there are unusual circumstances surrounding the entry into the United States, such as evidence of alien smuggling or suspicion of a crime. As discussed below, INS officials told us that prosecutions are rare even when an alien reenters the United States after a deportation order. Border Patrol agents explained that there are only about 150 beds available for all aliens whom the INS detains within the Blaine Sector. As a consequence, most aliens are voluntarily returned to Canada without formal proceedings.

The INS provided statistics to us which confirm that most aliens are voluntarily returned to Canada. The Assistant Chief Patrol Agent for the Blaine Sector reported that 723 of 794 aliens apprehended along the border during fiscal year 1996 were voluntarily returned to Canada. In the Blaine Sector as a whole in that year, 1348 of the 2224 aliens apprehended were voluntarily returned, while 391 were detained for deportation proceedings. (The remaining aliens fell into other categories, such as released on their own recognizance or granted 30 days to voluntarily leave the United States.)

According to Border Patrol and INS officials, even when formal deportation proceedings are instituted against an alien, low bonds are normally set, often as low as $1,500, and the aliens are usually released pending their deportation hearings. An INS official told us that if released aliens do not attend the hearings, the INS lacks the resources to track down most aliens, because of the large number of persons in the United States illegally. As of October 1996, the INS estimated that there are approximately 5 million illegal aliens in the United States. See OIG Inspection Report, "Inspection of Monitoring of Nonimmigrant Overstays" (July 1997). Even when aliens are issued final orders of deportation, many are not detained and the INS has inadequate procedures and resources to apprehend them. See OIG Inspection Report, "Immigration and Naturalization Service Deportation of Aliens After Final Orders Have Been Issued" (March 1996).

The lack of available detention space nationwide for illegal aliens has become so acute that in the past two years, the Attorney General has invoked a waiver of a law requiring the detention of certain criminal aliens pending deportation. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA)required that the INS detain certain criminal aliens upon completion of their prison sentences, while they are awaiting deportation.9 See 8 U.S.C. 1226; IIRIRA 303(b)(2). In recognition of the INS' limited detention space, however, this act provided for "Transition Period Custody Rules" if the Attorney General notifies Congress within a prescribed time that there is insufficient detention space and personnel available to carry out INS' new detention responsibilities. IIRIRA 303(b)(2). On October 9, 1996, and September 26, 1997, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, pursuant to a delegation of authority from the Attorney General, invoked this waiver because of "insufficient detention space and Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel available to carry out" the law.

Not only are aliens normally released pending their deportation hearings, but also it is extremely rare that an alien attempting to enter the United States illegally is prosecuted criminally, even though Entry Without Inspection is a criminal violation under 8 U.S.C. 212(a)(6)(A)(i). The Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) with primary responsibility for prosecuting immigration cases in the Western District of Washington, which covers the Blaine Sector, stated that absent unusual circumstances, such as the existence of direct evidence that the alien was involved in alien smuggling or where there is "very strong evidence of other more serious crimes," his office does not prosecute aliens for the misdemeanor offense of Entry Without Inspection. INS officials confirmed to us that U.S. Attorneys' Offices across the United States normally do not prosecute aliens for the offense of Entry Without Inspection alone. As a result, aliens often are apprehended attempting illegal entries into the United States, even on multiple occasions, without criminal charges being brought. The AUSA also told us that criminal prosecutions are rare even for the felony offense of Reentry After Deportation (8 U.S.C. 1326), which applies when an alien attempts to enter the United States after he has been previously ordered deported or excluded.

b. Mezer's first apprehension in the United States, June 23, 1996

i. Mezer's Arrest

Ross Lake is located in a rugged wilderness area in North Cascades National Park in Washington state, within the eastern part of the Blaine Sector, and straddles the border between Canada and the United States. On June 23, 1996, at about 5:00 p.m., several tourists reported seeing a man, later identified as Mezer, on the bank of Ross Lake, on the United States side, waving for assistance. The tourists called a local hotel, the Ross Lake Resort, which in turn notified the National Park Service dispatcher. At about 6:30 p.m., two NPS Rangers, Marshall Plumer and Joe Dreimiller, located Mezer riding with tourists in a resort boat near the place where he was originally spotted. The tourists were attempting to assist Mezer by taking him to the resort at the south end of the lake.

When NPS Rangers Plumer and Dreimiller reached Mezer, he informed them that he was a Palestinian and a citizen of Jordan. He also said that he was traveling with a friend who had separated from him over seven hours earlier and that he was concerned about his friend's safety. Mezer was suffering from hypothermia.

The two Rangers located Mezer's friend, Jamal Abed, about four miles from where they found Mezer. Abed was also suffering from hypothermia. He showed the NPS Rangers a Washington state driver's license which listed a Seattle, Washington, address, a U.S. employment authorization document, and $600 in U.S. currency.

Abed was born in Kuwait but has a Jordanian passport. According to Abed's INS file (known as an "Alien File" or "A-file"), Abed had lived in the United States for approximately sixteen years and was being considered by INS for legal resident status. The alien file indicated that Abed worked as a taxi cab driver in the United States, and on November 8, 1995, the INS had authorized "advance parole" for him, which enabled him to drive passengers across the border into Canada and return to the United States. He was also a landed immigrant in Canada.

Both Mezer and Abed told the NPS Rangers that they had started hiking from the Canadian side of the park the day before and had spent the previous night camping on the trail. But they had no camping gear and no vehicles were left at the trail head where they said they had entered the park. NPS Ranger Plumer radioed his supervisor, NPS Supervisory Ranger Cindy Crowle, and they agreed that because of logistical problems in reaching the Border Patrol from the remote Ross Lake area, the National Park Service would provide lodging for Mezer and Abed that night and transfer them to the Border Patrol at the Lynden office in the morning.

In the National Park Service Case Incident Record which was signed by Plumer on July 6, 1996, Plumer stated that "investigation indicates that Abed was attempting to help Abumezer gain illegal entry into the United States from Canada." Plumer told us that he believed Abed was the alien smuggler because Abed had a Washington state driver's license with a Seattle address and could speak English, while Mezer had no U.S. address and had difficulty speaking English. In addition, Abed claimed to have assisted the U.S. military in Kuwait, and he also had a U.S. employment authorization card and $600, which Plumer thought could have been payment for helping Mezer cross the border. Plumer said that during the ride to the NPS facility where Mezer and Abed were lodged on the night of their apprehension, Mezer attempted to speak to Abed in Arabic, but Abed did not want to talk to Mezer.

However, NPS Ranger Crowle told the OIG that after Mezer and Abed were found, she learned from someone (whose name she could not recall) that Mezer had previously been investigated by the Canadian authorities in Manitoba, although she did not recall the precise charge, if any. As explained above, the only information about this incident from Canadian databases was that Mezer was connected with "suspicious activity" near the border. Crowle also recalled that when she discussed the situation with Border Patrol Agent Mike Habib of the Lynden station, Habib speculated that these individuals may be involved in alien smuggling. It appears that Crowle or a Canadian authority who provided the information to her may have inferred, without specific evidence, that the suspicious activity was alien smuggling.

The final NPS report regarding Mezer's arrest, which was submitted by Plumer but reviewed and approved by Crowle on July 10, 1997, contained the following comment regarding Mezer: "Canadian immigration: involved in smuggling in Manitoba." It appears that Crowle was the one who inserted the phrase about Mezer's alleged involvement in alien smuggling. Crowle did not remember any details about how or why she thought that Mezer was involved in alien smuggling, or how the circumstances of Mezer's apprehension on Ross Lake suggested alien smuggling by him rather than by Abed.

Crowle said that after receiving the information about the apprehension of Mezer and Abed by NPS Rangers Plumer and Dreimiller, she telephoned Border Patrol Agent Habib at the Lynden station and U.S. Customs Service Inspector Tom Schreiber at the Sumas, Washington, Port of Entry, which is the closest Port of Entry to Ross Lake. Crowle provided Habib and Schreiber with the information about Mezer's and Abed's arrests and asked for a criminal records check on them.

Habib told us that he contacted the dispatcher at the INS' Blaine Sector Headquarters and asked for information about Mezer and Abed. The supervisor of the communications unit at the Blaine Sector explained that when a Border Patrol agent requests a records check, the dispatcher checks a number of databases containing information on criminal history records and warrants in the United States and Canada,10 immigration records, and records of aliens who are not permitted to enter the United States.11 Habib reported to Crowle that neither man had a criminal record. Habib said that he was told by the Blaine dispatcher that CIS and Canadian criminal history checks for both individuals were negative.12 By contrast, Customs Service Agent Schreiber notified Crowle that Mezer had a criminal record for simple assault in Canada and that Abed did not have a record.

Habib said that he wrote a note for the Border Patrol agent who was scheduled to start work at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, describing the arrest of Mezer and Abed and suggesting that the agents call NPS Ranger Crowle. Habib acknowledged that he commented to Crowle that this looked like a case of alien smuggling, but he did not speculate as to who was the smuggler.

Border Patrol agent Dave Hatton began work on the next shift, at about 7:00 a.m. the following morning, June 24, 1996. He said he learned from Habib's note that the National Park Service had two people in custody who were suspected of attempting to enter the United States in the Ross Lake area. Hatton told us he thought he discussed the circumstances of Mezer's and Abed's entry into the United States with a NPS Ranger named "Cindy" [Crowle's first name]. Hatton arranged to meet NPS Ranger Plumer and Chief Ranger Pete Cowan at Ross Lake to pick up Mezer and Abed. The three met later that morning at Ross Lake, where NPS turned over Mezer and Abed. Hatton placed the two men under arrest.

ii. Return to Canada

Hatton said that before voluntarily returning an alien to Canada, a Border Patrol agent normally contacts his supervisor, who makes a decision about whether to initiate deportation proceedings or to voluntarily return the alien. Hatton said the decision is normally based on available detention space, the circumstances of the illegal entry, and the alien's record. Hatton said that on June 24, 1996, he called the Blaine Sector Headquarters to discuss whether to return Mezer and Abed to Canada voluntarily. Hatton said that he was told that neither of the men had a criminal record.

Hatton said he could not remember the supervisor with whom he spoke, but said that some supervisor advised him that because there was no jail space in the Blaine Sector, Hatton should attempt to return Mezer and Abed to Canada voluntarily if the Canadians would accept them. Hatton said that at no time was he aware of any information suggesting that Mezer was a terrorist or was suspected by the Israeli government of being a terrorist.

Hatton said that after talking with a supervisor at the Blaine Sector, he telephoned Canadian immigration inspectors at the Huntington, British Columbia, Port of Entry, the closest port to Hatton's work station in Lynden, Washington. The Canadians told Hatton that Mezer had been admitted to Canada as a student and that Abed had permanent residence status in Canada. Hatton said that the Canadian inspectors agreed to accept Mezer's and Abed's return to Canada. On June 24, Hatton turned Mezer and Abed over to the Canadian authorities at the Huntington Port of Entry.

Hatton completed an INS I-213 "Record of Deportable Alien" arrest form for both Mezer and Abed. The I-213 form is designed to capture significant information about circumstances of the arrest and factors that support the deportability of an alien. On both Abed's and Mezer's I-213 forms, Hatton wrote that National Park Service Rangers apprehended Mezer and Abed on June 23, 1996, and that both claimed they were only out for a day hike but were not dressed for the area. Hatton wrote on Mezer's I-213 form that "Can. Imm. informed this officer that [Mezer] was suspected of alien smuggling from Can. into the U.S." Hatton also took fingerprints of Mezer and Abed, which were sent to the FBI after Hatton returned Mezer and Abed to Canada.

When questioned by the OIG, Hatton could not recall the source of the information about Mezer's suspected alien smuggling or even whether the accusation actually pertained to Mezer or to Abed. Hatton recalled only that someone, either at the National Park Service or at Canadian Immigration, had reported that one or both of them might be involved in alien smuggling. As noted above, the likely sources for Hatton's information were NPS Ranger Cindy Crowle and the "suspicious activity" report on the Canadian FOSS database.

c. Mezer's second apprehension in the United States, June 29, 1996

On June 29, 1996, five days after Mezer was voluntarily returned to Canada, Border Patrol agent Neal Clark apprehended Mezer again as he attempted to enter the United States approximately 65 miles west of Ross Lake. Clark observed Mezer as he entered the United States through Peace Arch Park, a large open park next to the Port of Entry in Blaine, Washington. Mezer was wearing a "walkman" personal stereo as he casually jogged into the United States.

When Clark stopped Mezer and questioned him about his immigration status, Mezer first claimed that he was a Canadian citizen, then a landed immigrant in Canada, then a student in Canada, and finally a Canadian Convention Refugee. Mezer also said that he was a citizen of Israel (as opposed to Jordan, which he stated during his first apprehension). Mezer told Clark that his immigration documents were in his vehicle parked on the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park. When pressed about the type of vehicle, Mezer changed his story and said that he came to the park by taxi. Mezer was carrying $500 in U.S. currency and $260 in Canadian currency. Based on Mezer's admission that he did not have any U.S. immigration status, Clark contacted the Border Patrol dispatcher at the Blaine Sector, who informed him of Mezer's arrest several days before.

Mezer's re-entry into the United States, even after being voluntarily returned several days earlier, was a potential misdemeanor offense. INS and an AUSA told us that Mezer was no more likely to be prosecuted on this occasion than the first time he was apprehended in the United States.

Border Patrol agent Clark said that because it was the policy within the Blaine INS Sector to return aliens to Canada, he contacted Blaine Headquarters to seek permission to return Mezer if the Canadians would accept him. Clark said that someone at Headquarters (Clark could not remember who) gave him permission to return Mezer to Canada, and that within an hour of Mezer's apprehension, he took Mezer to the Canadian immigration officials at the Douglass Port of Entry, the Canadian Port of Entry across from Blaine. The Canadian officials confirmed Mezer's Canadian refugee status and agreed to accept Mezer's return to Canada.

Clark wrote an I-213 report in which he stated that Mezer was a native and citizen of Israel, that he passed by the Blaine Port of Entry without inspection, that he had current valid immigration status in Canada, and that he was voluntarily returned to Canada at his request. The report did not make any reference to alien smuggling. Clark said that while he would normally run a criminal records check before voluntarily returning an alien to Canada, he could not remember if he did so on this occasion.

After returning Mezer to Canada, Clark reviewed the I-213 report written by Border Patrol agent Hatton about the arrest of Mezer several days earlier. Clark then wrote another report about Mezer, called an Intelligence Report. These reports are designed to keep Border Patrol offices and other agencies apprised of potentially significant developments. In his Intelligence Report on Mezer, Clark recounted Mezer's contradictory statements about his immigration status and the circumstances under which he had arrived at Peace Arch Park, and noted that Mezer carried $500 in U.S. currency and $260 Canadian currency but no other documentation or identification. Apparently based on Hatton's I-213 report, Clark wrote in his Intelligence Report that NPS Rangers near Ross Lake "believed [Mezer] to be checking the area for possible routes" five days earlier. Clark also wrote that when he apprehended Mezer, Clark did not know if Mezer "was again probing for entry points, or if this was an attempt to enter himself." Clark added that Mezer was "listed on the Canadian Computer as being a possible alien smuggler, and these last two events would tend to lead to that conclusion." Clark recommended "[i]f nothing else, Mezer should be set up for deportation proceedings if apprehended again." Clark sent this report to several Border Patrol offices in the Washington region.

Clark told us that he suspected that Mezer was probing the border to find points of entry for smuggling aliens, based on the facts reported by Hatton concerning Mezer's arrest at Ross Lake several days earlier, Mezer's second apprehension so quickly after the first one, Mezer's deceptive responses to Clark's questions about his nationality, and the circumstances of Mezer being in the Peace Arch Park. Clark acknowledged, however, that his conclusion depended on Hatton's previous report. Clark added that he may have concluded that Mezer was "listed on the Canadian Computer as being a possible alien smuggler" based on Hatton's statement in his I-213 that "Canadian Immigration had informed [Hatton] that [Mezer] was suspected of alien smuggling," not on anything that Clark observed. Clark could not identify any independent source for this statement. Further, when we informed Clark about what NPS Ranger Plumer said he observed with regard to Mezer and Abed during and after the Ross Lake apprehensions,Clark said that if he had known this information, he would likely have concluded that Abed was leading Mezer, rather than the other way around, as Plumer also concluded.

On July 1, 1996, based on Clark's report, the Acting Intelligence Agent for the Blaine Sector, David Keller, wrote a second, more detailed Intelligence Report captioned: "Suspected Toronto Based Alien Smuggler encountered in Blaine Sector." The report described the facts surrounding Mezer's two recent apprehensions and stated that: (1) information gained from the interview of Abed and Mezer and from "a variety of Canadian sources" indicated that Abed and Mezer were looking for entry points in the Blaine Sector Area; (2) Mezer was "listed as a suspected alien smuggler" based in Toronto, Canada; and (3) that if these leads were accurate, this would be "the first organized Middle East group encountered within the Blaine area." Keller told the OIG that his intelligence report did not make any mention of concerns about terrorism because neither the facts of Mezer's apprehensions nor the criminal record checks suggested anything about terrorism.

Keller could not specifically identify for us the "variety of Canadian sources" who indicated that Mezer and Abed were probing for entry points. Keller speculated that he must have obtained this general information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Immigration and Passport Section in Vancouver, British Columbia. Keller said that his reference that Mezer was "listed as a suspected alien smuggler based in Toronto, Canada" must have been based solely on Hatton's I-213 report.13

Keller sent his July 1, 1996, Intelligence Report to the FBI office in Bellingham, Washington, which forwarded it to the FBI office in Seattle. Keller explained to us that he did this, not because of any concern about alien smuggling, but because Middle Eastern aliens crossing the northwest border were relatively rare occurrences and tended to catch the Border Patrol's attention. He said he had wanted the FBI to be aware of this case in the event that Mezer or Abed were involved or became involved in any type of crime.

We interviewed FBI Agents Ramon Garcia and Cathy Fahey, who worked in the FBI's Bellingham office. Neither specifically recalled receiving Keller's report. Both agents stated that if they had received this report, they would not have deemed it significant because the FBI does not have jurisdiction over alien smuggling and the report did not allege any other serious crime. They said that although they did not remember this case specifically, they would normally search FBI indices to determine if there was any FBI interest in the subject, and then forward such a report to the Seattle FBI office.

Doug Auckland, a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI Anti-Terrorism Division in Seattle, confirmed that his office received Keller's report regarding Mezer. Auckland said that because the report dealt with alien smuggling and did not make any mention of possible terrorist activity or association, his office indexed Mezer's name into the computer system but did not take any further action. The Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Seattle office confirmed that alien smuggling allegations are not within FBI investigative jurisdiction. She said that because there was no reference to terrorism or other criminal activity within the FBI's jurisdiction in Keller's intelligence report, the FBI did not take any action based on it.

In July 1996, the Intelligence Division at INS Headquarters in Washington issued a third Intelligence Report, based on Keller's report, entitled "Alien Smuggling at the Canadian Border." The Headquarters report described the facts of Mezer's two apprehensions and repeated Keller's statements that "Canadian reports show that [Mezer] is listed as a suspected alien smuggler" and that "these incidents are the first known attempt at organized middle east alien smuggling in the Blaine area." The Headquarters report was sent to various INS offices as part of a monthly intelligence report.

 


5 Dennison told the OIG that she could not disclose any more of the specifics of her investigation, including the nature of the "suspicious activity" between Khaldon and Mezer.

6 An INS official stated that Border Patrol Stations have access to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) database, which contains information about prior deportations and those "voluntary returns" that are entered into the TECS system. However, informal voluntary returns may not be entered into the TECS system.

7 Chief Border Patrol Agent Carey James provided the following statistics concerning northern border apprehensions for fiscal years 1993 through 1997:

Sector FY-97 FY-96 FY-95 FY-94 FY-93
Blaine 2684 2224 4067 3998 4473
Spokane 1313 1992 2061 1753
Havre 1483 1456 1298 1237
Grand Forks 1334 1451 1237 1162
Detroit 1304 1424 1214 1291
Buffalo 2090 1634 1177 1483
Swanton 1712 1951 1705 2564
Houlton 247 293 352 775


James said that the drop in apprehensions for the Blaine Sector in FY-96 and FY-97 occurred because Border Patrol agents were detailed from the Blaine Sector to the Mexican border.

8 The Blaine Station has three supervisors and nine agents and the Lynden Station has one supervisor and ten agents.

9 These include aliens who are (1) inadmissable by reason of having committed offenses covered in section 212(a)(2) (crimes involving moral turpitude and controlled substances); (2) deportable by reason of having committed an offense covered by section 237(a)(2)(A)(ii), (A)(iii), (B), (C), or (D) (sections involving: two or more crimes of moral turpitude; aggravated felonies; controlled substances; firearms offenses; and other miscellaneous crimes); (3) deportable under section 237(a)(2)(A)(i) on the basis of an offense on which the alien has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for at least one year, or (4) inadmissible under section 212(a)(3)(b) or deportable under section 237(a)(4)(B) when the alien is released on parole, granted supervised release or probation, and without regard to whether the alien may be arrested or imprisoned again for the same offense. INA 236(c).

10 Blaine Sector dispatchers can check the FBI's National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database and local and state databases to determine if the suspected illegal alien has any outstanding warrants. The dispatchers also can check the INS Central Index System (CIS) to determine if the alien has any prior INS record and, if so, the location of his A-file.

When a suspected alien is apprehended coming from Canada, an additional set of requests can be made to the Canadian government. Through the United States National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS), the dispatcher has access to the Canadian Criminal Name Index (CNI), which contains information reflecting whether the individual has been processed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The CNI does not contain any information about the specific charges or whether the individual was convicted. Once a person is identified in CNI, a request can be made through the RCMP for Canadian Criminal Records System (CRS) to obtain specific information relating to the charges.

11 The INS' National Automated Immigration Lookout System (NAILS) contains information entered into the Department of State's "Tipoff" system about suspected terrorists. The "Tipoff" system was created in 1991, primarily to alert INS inspectors and Border Patrol agents that a dangerous person may be attempting to gain entry to the United States. "Tipoff" information normally consists of classified information received from various U.S. domestic or foreign intelligence gathering agencies. The information in the NAILS system primarily consists of information such as a subject's name, date of birth, place of birth, passport number, country of origin, and a code designator. The code designator tells the requesting agency what information is known or suspected concerning the individual, such as whether he is a known or suspected terrorist. An INS officer who obtains a "hit" for a suspected terrorist is supposed to telephone the Tipoff director in INS Headquarters for further information about the individual, which is classified. To date, approximately 7,000 names have been entered into Tipoff, and 32 "known terrorists" have been denied entry into the United States. Mezer was not listed in Tipoff.

12 When we told Habib about Mezer's simple assault conviction, Habib commented that even if he had been told about this offense, because of the minor nature of the charge he would have listed "no criminal record" on his I-213 report, whether or not the charge was conditionally discharged.

13 Keller said that after Mezer's arrest in New York, Keller had tried to verify the information in his report, but said that the only relevant information he was able to locate came from the Customs Service in Canada, which reported that Mezer had been suspected of "suspicious activity" at the border in Manitoba. Canadian authorities would not provide Keller with further information.

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Bombs in Brooklyn: How the Two Illegal Aliens Arrested for Plotting to
Bomb the New York Subway Entered and Remained in the United States
March, 1998
Office of the Inspector General
Department of Justice