Wartime Probes Of Iraqis End

Iraqi-American Samey Jawad stands in front of a Muslim prayer called Al Kufyla at a mosque in Pomona, Calif. Friday, March 21, 2003. Jawad was recently interviewed by the FBI. An estimated 50,000 Iraqi nationals live in the United States, with the largest concentrations in California and Michigan.
The FBI has wrapped up its wartime interviews with almost 11,000 Iraqis living in the United States and will resume its prime focus on combating terrorism now that the war in Iraq is winding down.

The interviews, which began on March 20, were conducted around the clock by hundreds of FBI agents and focused on Iraqis who had ties to the former regime of Saddam Hussein and those who had recently traveled to Iraq.

While several dozen were detained for visa violations, no known terrorists or Iraqi spies were discovered in the interviews. Instead, FBI officials say, the interviews yielded important information for U.S. forces, including locations of Iraqi bunkers, tunnel systems, manufacturing plants and military installations.

With the interviews now completed, both the Justice Department and FBI will be returning to their main priority — detecting would-be terrorists and preventing another terror attack by al Qaeda or other extremist groups.

There also continues to be concerns about other forms of terror, including those from anti-government and right wing extremists who could commit their own acts of terror.

In its latest bulletin to state and local law enforcement officials Thursday, the FBI noted that April 19 marks the 10th anniversary of the government raid on the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas, in which nearly 80 people died as the compound burned to the ground.

The FBI bulletin, which goes to 18,000 law enforcement and government agencies, contains no specific threat because of the anniversary. But it does note that U.S. extremist groups have in the past used anniversaries such as Waco to stage terrorist attacks.

Timothy McVeigh chose the Waco anniversary to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, for example.

The effort to interview Iraqis, while liked to the war, also reflects a new policy of keeping closer tabs on foreigners in the United States — a move the Justice Department says is necessary in the wake of Sept. 11, but that civil liberties groups have criticized as heavy-handed and selective.

Thousands of foreigners have had to register as part of the new National Security Entry and Exit Registration System, which was required by the USA PATRIOT act passed shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The program started by conducting on-the-sport registration at airports, ports and border crossing. Nationals of more than 100 countries were logged-in.

Since late last year, successive waves of nationals from specific countries have been given deadlines to register at federal immigration offices.

People from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria were first told to register in December, but that deadline was extended to February 7. A second set of nationals also had to register at that time, those from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Pakistanis and Saudi Arabians had until March 21 to check in. April 25 is the next deadline, and applies to people from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, or Kuwait.

Males aged 16 and older who entered the United States before particular dates must register, unless they are citizens, permanent residents, green card holders, refugees, or asylum-holders. Upon registering they are photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed under oath. Those with visa problems can be detained and deported.