Pakistan-born truck driver Iyman Faris was among the first terrorists convicted after 9/11. Now, almost 20 years later, the al-Qaida sleeper cell has finally had his American citizenship revoked, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The Trump administration successfully convinced a federal judge that Faris, who was caught plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, had betrayed the United States and obtained his citizenship fraudulently.
“He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who took advantage of American generosity with plans to terrorize and murder,” Steven Weinhoeft, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said of the move, according to the AP. “He does not deserve the honor of being an American citizen.”
Faris had his citizenship revoked on Feb. 3 on the grounds that he lied to obtain citizenship status and that his terrorist activities showed a lack of loyalty to the Constitution. Federal Judge Staci Yandle, who shot down the Trump administration’s case in 2018 on the grounds that they had not proven immigration fraud, said this week that they had now proven it beyond a doubt.
Born Mohammad Rauf, Faris came to America in the 1990s, married an American woman, and worked as truck driver in Columbus, Ohio for some time before getting mixed up with 9/11 masterminds Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In its argument for stripping Faris of his citizenship, the government said that he used someone else’s papers to enter the country and lied to immigration authorities, according to the Washington Examiner.
Faris’ terrorism case became one of the most well-known after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when he was caught plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. He looked into using gas cutters to sever the suspension cables that support the bridge, then sent coded messages to al-Qaida operatives to evaluate the plot’s practicability, including saying “the weather is too hot” to indicate that he did not think the plan would work.
The now-50-year-old even met bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2000 at a training camp, just months after he took his oath of citizenship to the U.S. Faris also supported al-Qaida by researching ultralight airplanes for a senior al-Qaida leader and arranging for airline tickets to be issued to al-Qaida operatives, Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
Faris was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for providing material support to al-Qaida, according to the DOJ. Faris is currently being housed at a prison in Marion, Illinois, and will be let go in August.
But the DOJ noted that Faris may be subject to removal proceedings after his sentence is finished. His defense lawyer, Thomas Durkin, complained in response that the U.S. government is setting a “dangerous precedent” and that denaturalization and deportation were never part of Faris’ 2003 plea deal.
But the DOJ hailed the terrorist’s denaturalization as just and necessary for national security.
“A top priority at the Department of Justice is protecting our national security, and one of the things we do in support of that goal is tirelessly pursue denaturalization of known and suspected terrorists,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a statement, according to the Examiner. She went on:
What Faris did is unconscionable — he pretended to support the United States and the Constitution to naturalize while he actively supported Osama bin Laden and senior [al-Qaida] leadership in their plans to attack the United States.
Indeed, the only “dangerous precedent” would be keeping this traitor within our borders. He should be deported immediately and never allowed to return.