September 1, 2006, - 3:30 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
A USA Today Freedom of Information Act request regarding college student’s financial aid records reveals alarming results. It is proof that almost five years after 9/11, the scope of FBI investigations into foreign students is far too small and limited.
And it is evidence that higher education financial aid fraud–to the tune of millions–by those possibly connected to terrorism, remains unchecked. And it is proof that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is doing basically nothing with regard to investigating fraud by foreign student aliens. The agency is hardly even in the picture.
In a program called “Project Strike Back,” created just days after 9/11, the FBI asked the Department of Education to examine financial aid records of a few hundred terror suspects already under investigation. The Bureau did not ask for the records to be turned over–only for Education to look at the financial aid records for any of the few hundred names on the list and look for student loan fraud and/or other “anomalies.”
Moreover, the FBI’s request was so small, and its further requests dwindling so much further, the FBI and Department of Education closed Project Strike Back. Some “strike back.” More like, Project Please Strike Us Again. Now, financial aid remains a ripe target of Islamic terrorists and foreign students to exploit.
A better approach would have been to mine the list for Middle-Eastern and Islamic names and search for those not yet under investigation to find student loan fraud–a common activity with terrorists (who have also exploited student visas). But the FBI didn’t dare to do the right thing and do a real, comprehensive investigation. Lest the ACLU and New York Times types come out of the wood work and squawk mercilessly. Regardless, the agency is under scrutiny, today, for Project Strike Back, anyway. It’s absurd.
USA Today’s results show how phony reporters’ claims of “data mining of millions of records” is here–and probably in most other terrorism-related investigations. Today, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism’s website features screaming headlines about “millions” of student records being “scoured.” Unfortunately, it was NOT millions of records (but should have been). It was only a few hundred. And there was hardly any scouring.
If only the “sky were falling” as Medill School “reporter” Laura McGann (whose story was unfortunately run on the AP wire and in media outlets all over) would have you believe, then we’d be a lot safer. But we aren’t. Instead, taxpayers are left to the mercy of foreign students and those here with evil intentions.
If the “reporting” out of the Medill School is any indication of what future journalists are being taught–and it apparently is–it’s no wonder we constantly see exaggerated New York Times front page pieces attacking the most basic security measures and investigations to prevent terrorism. In this case, it is shocking how little the FBI is doing, when it’s investigation should be extensive. On the contrary, it is paltry and shameful.
And no wonder truth and reporting seem to go together like oil and water, these days.
Tags: data mining, Debbie Schlussel, Department of Education, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laura McGann, media outlets, Medill School, New York Times, Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, oil, reporter, USA Today