Why the matter went so far in the courts is the mystery. Hatred of Israel? It should have been an open-and-shut case

Until Wednesday, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had tried to deport a former Hamas member who it claimed had been involved in terrorism and was a threat to the United States. But, as the late radio newscaster Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

The ex-Hamas terrorist is Mosab Hasan Yousef who has been the subject of postings on FrumForum by me and others. Four months ago he published a memoir describing a decade in which he was of the best assets of the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency. During his fifteen minute immigration hearing in San Diego, a Homeland Security lawyer declared that the department was dropping its objection to Yousef remaining in the United States, and immigration judge Rico Bartolomei, granted him political asylum. The government attorney, Kerri Calcador offered no explanation for Homeland Security’s change of heart.

Even though Yousef has been vindicated one must wonder why the U.S. government put him through a frightful ordeal in the first place. Yousef, quite realistically, anticipated that if he were sent back to the West Bank, as Homeland Security wants, he would have certainly been killed. On his blog last month he wrote, “Exposing terrorist secrets and warning the world cost me everything. I am a traitor to my people, disowned by family, a man without a country. And now the country that I have come to for sanctuary is turning its back.” His father, who is a senior leader in Hamas and now serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison, has disowned him.

On his blog, Yousef admitted, “Yes, while working for Israeli intelligence, I posed as a terrorist. Yes, I carried a gun. Yes, I was in terrorist meetings with Yasser Arafat, my father and other terrorist leaders. It was part of my job.” Yousef says that he would give reports about these meetings to Shin Bet. To prove that Yousef posted a terrorist threat to the United States, Homeland Security cited a passage in his own book in which he identifies three suspects in a suicide bombing to a Shin Bet official. Yousef though also drove the suspects to a safe house. Yousef says that his work for Israel required that he do anything that he could to learn about Hamas, and that neither he nor Shin Bet knew that his passengers were suspects in a suicide bombing when he gave them a ride. In an editorial early in June, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the U.S. government never took its own charges against Yousef very seriously. “If Mr. Yousef were a security threat, you’d expect that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would have found reason to detain him. Yet he remains free to travel and even to book-selling circuit.”

Recently, a New York Times story by reporter Julia Preston discussed the increased difficulty of obtaining political asylum in the U.S.. Immigration judges have, according to Preston, “created several legal hurdles for asylum seekers fleeing [Central American] gangs, requiring them to prove that they are part of a ‘particular social group’ that is widely recognized in their home society as being under attack, something like a persecuted ethnic minority.”

Deborah Anker a law professor and the head of the Immigration and the Clinical Program at Harvard says, “Requirements have been imposed that make no sense in terms of prior jurisprudence and are impossible to interpret.” Respected federal judge Richard Posner has branded the new standards as “illogical” and “perverse”.

Preston’s story suggests that these new legal standards could have deadly consequences for young men in Central America who escaped to the United States in order to avoid recruitment by criminal gangs. “I’ve done about a hundred cases of Salvadorian males who have refused to join gangs,” says Missouri immigration lawyer Roy Petty. “I have to tell them that they are probably going to lose. The immigration system did not believe that these people are really in danger.” Once they are returned to their country, they run a high risk of being killed by the criminal gangs that they tried to escape. Preston writes, “While the civil wars of Central America subsided by the 1990s, the number of people seeking refuge from criminal gangs there has soared in the last decade as the maras, as they are known in Spanish, have extended their violent networks across the region. In many cities the gangs have become more powerful than the police.”

Still, Yousef’s case is qualitatively different from those escaping gangs in Central America. Members of Congress and other prominent individuals have attested to how his underground work prevented terrorist attacks in Israel and in other countries. Former CIA Director James Woolsey called him “a remarkable young man” who should be commended for “his extraordinary heroism and courage”. Woolsey also said that Yousef’s deportation would “set us back years in the war on terror”.

But probably the most extraordinary testimony for his courage comes from Gonen ben Itzhak who was his Shin Bet handler. Itzhak, now retired, publicly revealed that he was an Israeli intelligence agent only to declare his support for Yousef as the date of his immigration hearing approached. He told Fox News that Yousef saved “Americans, Jews, Palestinians and other human beings.”

Yousef says that he has gained expertise that enables him to help the United States fight Islamic terrorism. Ben Itzhak heartily agrees. The Fort Hood shooter and the individuals who wanted to set off bombs on an airliner on Christmas day and in Times Square can slip through security while Yousef who has and is willing to help the West fight terrorism is threatened with deportation leading to his probable death. That alone shows that there are serious flaws in the way that the United States fights terrorism.