The UK police and MI5 have remained tight-lipped on this latest episode at the Birmingham Airport and provided little details and it remains unknown whether the 22-year old Pakistani man was caught with the terrorist-aiding documents stemming from a routine customs search or if authorities were acting upon gathered intelligence. A flurry of questions from reporters revealed little details until, finally, a police spokesman stated that “The arrest was not as a result of any ongoing investigation and there was no immediate threat to the public”.
Of course, it may have been part of a larger investigation that has been going on and the police simply do not want to reveal it. This is fine, for the authorities may have “flipped” this man or may not want to reveal the sources that led to the arrest. And, they have all the right in the world to not reveal the full circumstances of the arrest. As Katharine Graham once said:
“We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows“
So, what are the implications for the UK, the US and the West? Damian Green, UK immigration minister believes the number of foreign students with visas is unsustainable. He’s disturbed that non-EU migrants who came to his country in 2004 consisted mostly of students, 185,000 to be exact, and five years later, 21% of them still remained! Green questioned why they were staying on, asked appropriate questions: “Why are they staying on and what were they remaining in the UK to do?
Fair questions to ask. Net migration to the UK increased by 33,000, to a whopping 196,000 in 2009 and the number of visas issued to students rose by 35% to 362,015. In fact, the Internal Home Office stated that over 90,000 people entered the UK every year to take courses that were below degree level at private institutions. True, the practice of accepting so many foreign students does add 12.5 billion pounds to the economy each year, but by not playing by the rules and having them leave when their visas expire results in threats to the UK’s citizenry.
For example, the BBC Newsnight media found systemic fraud in the issuance of student visas method. Their investigators bought two bogus visa documents; one for 200 pounds, the other for only 150 pounds. If they were Pakistani al Qaeda members, they would have been guaranteed entrance into the UK.
The method of UK visa-issuance is straightforward. Foreign students must obtain a formal invitation to study in the UK from any one of 2,000 colleges that are on an approved list run by the Home Office. The “formal invitation” is an official document called a “visa letter”. By the way, there are many rows of shops that spring up and are listed on the Home Office’s approved list. A foreign student needs 40 points to gain entry into the UK, and the visa letter is 30 points. To get the much-needed 10 more points, the student needs to have several thousand pounds in a bank for 28 days, which he/she could easily borrow or be reimbursed with by al Qaeda or Hamas.
You get the picture! And, so did Newsnight media. They approached a small, private college in west London called Gateway2uk Education, which had an “A” rating from the UK Border Agency. For cash, Newsnight investigators bought the bogus visa letters from a secret office in London’s Wembley Park. All the details were filmed. A progression of young foreign men came and left while they were filming their investigators bought two bogus visa documents. In fact, one was sold by a former administrator of Gateway2uk Education!
This tip of the iceberg investigation by Newsnight should raise the fear hackles on MI5, MI6 and the Home Office…not to mention the U.S. Intelligence Community’s as well.
This endemic visa fraud in the UK may be the reason why students from Pakistan prefer pursuing higher education in the UK than in America. Of course, historical ties between the two countries made their educational systems more similar, the entry requirements much easier, and the resulting degrees much easier to use back in Pakistan. Khalil ur Rehman runs a visa consultancy business in Lahore, Pakistan, and stated that Pakistanis apply for schooling in the UK and Australia because the educational systems are similar. The UK’s educational alignment with Pakistan, plus the atmosphere in the U.S. after 9/11, resulted in a Pakistani trend to avoid the U.S.. Interestingly, though, most people emigrating from the UK travel to Australia, followed by the USA.
A decade ago, the UK censes recorded 747,285 Pakistani residence and over 55% of them were born in the UK. In 2009, people born in Pakistan living in the UK was 441,000 and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis in Pakistan estimated that 1.2 million Pakistanis live in the UK, about half the total number living in Europe.
Not surprisingly, Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in England. Over 1.54 million Muslims live in England and Wales…about 3.3% of the population. In 2009, 2.4 million Muslims lived in the UK, although a 2010 Pew Research Center study estimated that number to be just under 3 million.
There needs to be systemic changes in the UK regarding the Pakistani prevalence. Most are, no doubt, typical British citizens. However, Pakistan and Pakistanis have been connected to most of the major terrorist plots in the UK since 2001, Including the July 7, 2005 attacks in London. Finally, we all remember the 2009 terrorist sweep where a dozen UK residents were arrested. They traveled to and from Pakistan where they received training, logistical support, and moral affirmation by fellow radicals. Of the 12 arrested, 11 were Pakistani nationals.
At an AFIO seminar in Tyson Corners, Va., I picked up the book "Londonistan" by Melanie Phillips. It was a great read and I recommend it highly. Phillips shows how Britain's imperial policy of "benign neglect" towards radical Islamist groups in the 1980s and 1990s came close to malign complicity in the activities of some of the most determined terrorist organizations ever to emerge in Europe.
Author Phillips describes the establishment and growth of Muslim extremist groups in London as well as the administrative incompetence and cultural weakness that still permits it to happen.
"Londonistan" is described as a last-minute warning for Britain and for much of the free world...it is a courageous exposé of what is happening in Britain and is a last minute wake up call for the British to act now before it is too late.
The suicide bombings described above that were carried out in London in 2005 by British Muslims revealed an alarming network of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers. Under the noses of British intelligence, London became the European hub for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamist terror and extremism - so much so that it has been mockingly dubbed 'Londonistan'. Melanie Phillips pieces together the story of how Londonistan developed as a result of the collapse of British self-confidence and national identity and its resulting paralysis by multiculturalism and appeasement. The result is an ugly climate in Britain of irrationality and defeatism, which now threatens to undermine the alliance with America and imperil the defence of the free world. I recommend this book by Melanie Phillips:
So, what are the implications for the UK…and America…of this Pakistani situation. How can we guarantee the safety of the citizenry, including the mostly law-abiding Pakistani public, from the radical Islamic segment?
How about these ideas:
- Get rid of sub-degree courses from the visa application process.
- Strictly enforce all visa time-duration limits instead of studying why foreign student guests remain in the UK far past the time the visa time limit expires.
- Students in the UK must play by the rules and obey the nation’s laws. If they are suspected of terrorist-related affiliation activities… they’re gone!
- Visa documents, formal invitation letters, visa letters, and the bank accounts of visa applicants should be scrutinized more. Students should not be allowed to take out loans to earn the last 10 points needed for acceptance, unless the loans are from a British banking institution. This would protect the many decent Pakistani students wishing to further their education in the UK.
- All above-mentioned documents should be uniformly coded and impossible to reproduce. The UK government has introduced a new electronic system to combat visa fraud. Complement this system with microchip-embedded visa documents to be carried at all times.
- The CIA, NSA and other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) out-source analytical and operational duties to private contractors. Similarly, MI5 can contract with private investigators and other companies in the UK to provide surveillance and classified operations to uncover visa fraud.
- The undercover operation conducted by Newsnight media should be duplicated on a continual, never-ending basis.
OSINT SUGGESTS US/PAKISTANI RELATIONS IMPROVING
Robert Morton, Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online Spy series "Corey Pearson, CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean." The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the SECURE CONTACT FORM