Home Foreign Policy Di Leo: Boots on the Ground, in a New York Forest

Di Leo: Boots on the Ground, in a New York Forest


By John F. Di Leo - 

Reflections on the immigration of Tashfeen Malik, and the search for balance in a war-torn world…

By the morning of September 23, John Anderson (not his real name) had had a very rough 24 hours.

In his line of work, that might not have been unusual, but it was rather new for him. He’d been in this job for a year and a half, and had just closed a pretty substantial deal the day before. The discussions began on the night of the 21st, and went on well into the night, but by morning, an impressive operation was as good as transferred.

In a world in which only three things count – “location, location, location” – this deal had all three. A commanding view of the river, an opportunity to stop traffic from either direction on all sides, and a simply beautiful piece of tranquil scenery to boot, although the scenery wasn’t the selling point that made this particular property shine.

The deal had everything – big names, big numbers, big acreage – and promised to go down in the history books if everything worked as planned. This deal could be quite a coup.

Unfortunately for young “Anderson,” only thirty years old and on the verge of an earth-shaking accomplishment, everything went south almost as soon as he and his new, shall we say, “business partner,” shook on the deal at Thomas Smith’s house at Stony Point, NY, bright and early on the morning of September 22nd.

Their rivals caught wind that something was going on, and gave chase. John Anderson changed clothes so he wouldn’t be noticed, and – forced to abandon his rental – the Vulture – he decided to head back to New York on horseback. Luckily, he had good sturdy boots, and spurred the borrowed horse onward to the regional office in New York City, the home base of his job as North American network chief.

The first day’s ride was nerve-wracking but uneventful, and he might have been just beginning to relax, thinking it was going to work out all right, after all. Heck, even if he lost his horse, he could walk a long time in those fine boots! But then, near Tarrytown, NY, he was noticed by three militiamen – John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams – at about 9:00am on the morning of September 23, 1780.

Their long interrogation of this suspicious individual, who bore a letter from the commander of West Point, no less, but something still didn’t seem right, resulted in a nugget of information. He let it slip that he was a British officer! So they decided to search him, just in case. What was a British officer doing in plainclothes, after all?

Nothing interesting in his coat pockets… or in his trouser pockets… or in the lining of his hat… but… what’s this in your boot, sir?

Deep in those sturdy boots, protected from the elements or from a militiaman’s searching eyes (he had thought), John Anderson still had the documents that his new “business partner” had given him. Plans for a surprise visit, perhaps during a standard “pass in review” on-site, perhaps even an arrangement for the transfer of the facility from the old ownership to the new, perhaps even on a day when the General – yes, THE general, the one and only George Washington – would be paying a visit.

In this solitary Englishman’s boots, three cautious militiamen had discovered the proof, heretofore utterly unexpected, of the most shocking treason in early American history: the brilliant Connecticut strategist, General Benedict Arnold, hero of the Canadian campaign, had agreed to defect to the British, and turn over our critical, fully manned fortress, West Point, with all its strategic value, its stores of supplies, and its entire detachment of Colonial servicemen! All in one fell swoop.

We stopped the turnover. We hanged the spy. And we saved West Point.

All because three servicemen were on their toes that day, and thought to keep on digging until they were sure they knew everything they needed to, in order to do the right thing for their country.

Learning Lessons from a Distant Past

Major John Andre was the head of the British army’s spy network in North America; he knew the risks. When he donned civilian clothes to ride behind enemy lines, he virtually signed his own death warrant… though the far guiltier Benedict Arnold got away.

In 1780, America was at war. It was a somewhat more gentlemanly war than the current one… the combatants didn’t strap bombs to their children’s vests and send them into a mall, or blow up civilians in a theater, or firebomb churches or drop cages of captives into rivers to drown them en masse… but still, it was a war, and that means there was suffering and death beyond words.

The combatants in a war must know what is possible, must acknowledge reality, and deal with it honestly. You have to know who your enemy is, and what he’s capable of, and be prepared to deal harshly with his troops, before he can deal harshly with yours.

Our three militiamen – Paulding, Van Wart, and Williams – interrogated a stranger, searched him head to toe, even checking his boots, because they knew it might be necessary, to properly serve the war effort.

We might flinch at this sort of thing, particularly if we’re good libertarians who don’t want to violate a person’s right to be free of the risk of an unreasonable search and seizure.

But John Andre – a military officer wearing civilian clothes, going under an assumed name in wartime – enjoyed no such legal protection.   Our Bill of Rights, protecting our citizens from those unreasonable searches and seizures, among other things, wasn’t to be ratified for another eleven years. In September of 1780, we didn’t have much of a country yet, let alone a functioning Constitution.

And John Andre was an enemy combatant, an officer in the British military, committed to do us harm. How much harm? Well, long before it became our army’s war college, West Point was a critical strategic installation, full to the brim with soldiers, equipment and munitions. Benedict Arnold’s plan to turn all these valiant soldiers and supplies over to the British was so immoral, even when he joined the British as the result of the vile deal, his fellow British officers were disgusted at the very sight of him.

Our soldiers owed John Andre no special courtesy, no protection of his rights to privacy, in his words, deeds, or person. If our soldiers found anything incriminating on an enemy combatant, they were well within their authority.


Tashfeen Malik, Pakistani Immigrant

In 2014, a Pakistani woman named Tashfeen Malik applied for a marriage visa, in order to legally come to the United States with her new husband, the US-born Syed Farook. The United States government was therefore invited to inspect her, to see if this visa should be granted.

The United States government claims to have a detailed vetting process in place for such situations, particularly for applicants from known hotbeds of islamofascist terror theory, such as Pakistan. Edward Ramotowski, testifying before the U.S. Senate, said that the vetting process included “an immigrant visa interview, facial recognition screening, interagency counterterrorism screening,” and a host of other steps.

And yet they missed the fact that Tashfeen Malik, who with her new husband recently shot up a government agency holiday luncheon in San Bernardino, California, killing fourteen and wounding many more, had been posting about her jihadist sympathies on Facebook for years before that visa was issued.

And yes. Oh yes. That visa was issued.   Without a pause, without a hitch. And so the satanic spouses came to America, looking for the right opportunity to commit jihad.

Challenging the Process

Nobody expects the impossible from our government. We have a nation of 300-some million people, tens of millions of whom are here illegally. We have millions of requests to process, every year – people desiring student visas, or tourist visas, or work visas, or immigration visas.

We cannot fairly demand that our government succeed in stopping 100% of the hostiles who attempt entry. With porous borders, thousands of miles of coastlines, and all the many challenges inherent in this current war, we must probably acknowledge that some will get through.

But we must try. Government has an obligation to defend the nation from attackers, all the more clearly in wartime. And we certainly are at war, even though we aren’t the ones who declared it. Our government knows the risks, and must therefore do the best it can to identify, and stop the importation of, enemy combatants, in every way it possibly can.

We know that the islamofascists use social media; it’s the primary form of communication between the bombers, as well as between the commanders and their demonic acolytes. So naturally, especially in the middle east, checking the social media presence of visa applicants should be a standard component of the vetting process… but we learned this week that it is not.

Reporters challenged the policies and/or approaches that some federal agencies have, in which they intentionally do not check the social media footprint of applicants, even from the most dangerous places, even from areas most likely to produce the most radical threats. Social media has its challenges, we are told. Many use an alias, and claim a false address on Facebook and other sites.

And all this we grant. We know that if they check Facebook, they might not find anything. But then again, they might. And for the limited time it takes to perform the check, surely it’s worth trying, isn’t it? Perhaps it might not have stopped Tashfeen Malik – at least some of what she posted was indeed under a pseudonym – but perhaps it might have, at that. We’ll never know, now. We only know that it wasn’t even tried; her poisonous social media footprint was never even screened, and fourteen innocent California citizens – social workers dedicated to serving the handicapped – are now dead at the hands of this monster and her equally monstrous husband.

A Warped View of Rights

When interviewed in the early days of this discovery, some in the federal government have indicated openness to reviewing the processes that let the malevolent Tashfeen Malik slip through… but others have not.

At the highest level of this administration – Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security – we have seen a shocking refusal to recognize the need to not only be open to a change, but to focus on social media as a necessary element of the vetting process.

Since everyone on earth has known – for years now – that many jihadists use social media for communications and proselytizing, it is clear to all sane onlookers that a review of applicants’ social media footprints is critical. While aliases and privacy settings can bar the way in some cases, there is simply no reason not to perform a cursory check, since so much is there for the viewing, freely and easily accessed at the click of a mouse.

But Secretary Johnson and others in the administration cite “an expectation of privacy” by the applicant, protecting them from invasive government searches of social media footprints.

This is the ultimate and unavoidable conclusion of the Left’s half-century march from reason to insanity in the criminal justice arena. In the mid-20th century, Supreme Court rulings began to establish technicality acquittals that enabled guilty criminals to be found not guilty by reason of errors by arresting police or by the prosecution. Instead of punishing the arresting police for going in without a warrant, or punishing the bureaucrats at police headquarters for errors in the booking, we would simply let the criminal go free to commit more crimes. Outrageous, but now an accepted part of the American system.

So we have an element of the law enforcement community with this warped respect for the rights – both real and imagined – of even obviously guilty parties, and this warped approach has now crept into foreign policy and national security as well.

At the heart of this latest error is this idea, propounded day after day by people in a position to know better, that the applicants for US entry have privacy rights upon which the US government must not infringe.

This is wrong on two counts: There is no “right to privacy” in the Constitution (the emanations and penumbras of the abortion lobby notwithstanding), and even if there were, it would not apply to non-citizens.

The protections of the Bill of Rights apply to US citizens. The Constitution is in place to lay out the structural form and boundaries of the federal government, and the Bill of Rights was added to limit what that government can do in its relations with US citizens.

Non-citizens get no such automatic Constitutional protections, because non-citizens are subject to other governments, not to ours. Our government may choose to extend some or many of them through reciprocal treaty with foreign allies, of course, and usually should… but it’s not automatic, and our government’s national security obligations to its citizens always trumps any limits on its behavior to foreigners.

When a foreigner applies for a visa to come to America – for any reason – our government owes no obligation of privacy to that applicant; rather, our government owes an obligation to the 300 million Americans back home to make a responsible effort to vet the applicant. The idea that this applicant has Constitutional rights at all, before becoming subject to the government established by that Constitution as a US citizen, is not just wrong, it is irresponsible and, frankly, insane.

A Return to Common Sense

Let us return for a moment to that September moment in Tarrytown, New York, so long ago.

Our militiamen – Paulding, Van Wart, and Williams – detained an unfamiliar Englishman on horseback… interviewed him at length against his will… frisked him and searched his clothing… confiscated papers they found concealed in his boot.

All these actions would be treated as unconstitutional violations by the convoluted reading of the Bill of Rights that Secretary Johnson professes today. The Obama Administration would call it a violation of his privacy to go through his pockets and boots looking for incriminating evidence; they would call it a violation of the Constitutional limits on search and seizure.

But John Andre – using the name John Anderson that day – was not a US citizen; he was a foreigner. And not just any foreigner, but an enemy spy, working on an intricate plot to utilize the treason of a high-ranking American official to turn US property, equipment and personnel over to the enemy, for them to use against us for the remainder of the war.

Thank Divine Providence that our three militiamen thought first of their duty to America, rather than of this horseman’s imagined rights.

We were at war, and this dutiful interrogation and search revealed a plot, heretofore utterly unsuspected. Benedict Arnold got away, but the discovery likely saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers who would have been caught at unawares and been imprisoned or killed if the Arnold/Andre plan had come to fruition.

The loss of West Point would have been a crushing blow to our war effort in 1780. Our militiamen’s honorable primary respect for their duty to country, rather than an imagined respect for a foreigner’s rights, may, in this case, have won the war.

In a Jeh Johnson administration, those soldiers might not have interrogated John Andre so long, and would certainly never have put his boots on the ground to search them for incriminating evidence. Talk about an invasion of privacy!

In a Jeh Johnson administration, John Andre and Benedict Arnold would have gotten away with their plan. We would not know Benedict Arnold today as the foiled traitor who escaped upon discovery of his plot to turn over West Point to the enemy; we would know Benedict Arnold as the successful traitor who engineered the British occupation of West Point, the slaughter and/or imprisonment of hundreds of our servicemen, and the resultant expansion of the British hold on territory from merely New York City proper to all of New York and more.

Yes, one investigation, one interrogation, one successful search and discovery, can indeed make that much of a difference. On single moments such as these, history is turned.

Shall the United States government learn its lesson? Shall the missed clues in the Tashfeen Malik visa process be the turning point, after which American government will return to sanity in these matters?

Or do we have to wait for a new Administration to take office in 2017, to return sanity and pro-American policy to American governance?

Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance manager and writer. He studied history and political science at Northwestern University, but credits the great books he’s read since graduation for his understanding of American history. He recommends the great biographies of General Washington, by Richard Brookhiser, Willard Stern Randall, Joseph Ellis and others, for a deeper understanding of the Benedict Arnold affair, and the War of Independence in general.

John also compliments the terrific talk show host, Joe Walsh of WIND AM560, and other tenacious investigative journalists for their reporting on the Farook/Malik story and the discovery of the government’s fatal procedural errors that enabled these jihadists’ killing spree at San Bernardino.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut, and the byline and IR URL are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook and LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo. Yes indeed, like many in social media, he does go by his own name in social media. It’s really not always that hard to find out what people are thinking online.


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