Where government debt is concerned, advanced economies should be fixing the roof while the sun shines. That’s the central message of a new IMF Fiscal Monitor entitled “Capitalizing on Good Times.”
The paper entails projections based on growth forecasts and budget plans of what will happen to deficits and debt across advanced economies. And the results for the United States are not pretty. In fact, as the chart below shows, the US is now the only advanced country projected to see a rising debt-to-GDP ratio in the coming 5 years.1
Now we have to take all this with a pinch of salt of course. For advanced economies as a whole the IMF says “the fiscal stance is expected to be mildly expansionary in 2018 and 2019, followed by gradual adjustment in outer years”. I’ll believe that when I see it. Governments around the world have a tendency to plan to be fiscally responsible in a few years’ time, without eventually delivering, and to be overoptimistic about their growth prospects (many of which, it’s worth noting, are much, much worse than the US).
But it is notable that the US is now the only country which is explicitly planning for larger budget deficits, and higher public debt to-GDP, over the next half decade. Hot on the heels of the CBO analysis last week, this report again shows just how unprecedented current US policy action (deliberately expanding borrowing via the tax and omnibus spending bills) and inaction (on entitlement spending) is given the favorable economic conditions.
1 The IMF uses a different definition of debt here – gross government debt – whereas figures usually reported in the media, and by the Congressional Budget Office related to public debt held by the public.
Shortly after the air and missile strikes that U.S., British and French forces launched against the Syrian government’s alleged chemical weapons sites, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that the goal simply was to degrade the ability of Bashar-al Assad’s regime to use such weapons in the future and to bolster the longstanding international taboo. “These strikes are about deterring the barbaric use of chemical weapons in Syria and beyond.” May stressed: “This was not about interfering in a civil war. And it was not about regime change.”
Her comment simply lacks credibility. There is no such thing as a neutral military intervention by outside powers. Even if the intervenors do not intend to affect the wider political context, the act of attacking one party in a civil war automatically works to the disadvantage of that party and strengthens the position of its adversaries. President George H. W. Bush’s deployment of U.S. troops in Somalia in late 1992 did not seem to have an underlying geopolitical purpose. The situation in that fractured country was indeed dire, with tens of thousands of people already starving. Washington’s relief effort aimed at using the U.S. military to distribute food and take other measures to ease the widespread suffering. It fit the definition of a truly humanitarian military mission.
Nevertheless, the moment U.S. troops arrived, they inevitably began to affect the balance of power among the contending militias. Some of those factions soon resented the American presence, and sporadic armed clashes erupted between their fighters and U.S. troops. That dynamic culminated an intense firefight in the capital, Mogadishu—the “Blackhawk Down” episode in early October 1993 that claimed the lives of 18 U.S. Army Rangers and more than 300 Somalis.
In the case of Syria, Western officials cannot even invoke the defense of not wanting to meddle in that country’s larger political and military struggles. Within months after demonstrations erupted against Assad’s rule in 2011, Washington and its allies began to aid the insurgency. Washington helped organize an ad hoc collaboration of some 60 nations (primarily a combination of Western and Sunni Muslim powers) to do so. That group, which became known as the Friends of the Syrian People, met in Tunis in late February 2012 to formulate aid plans, including the provision of “emergency” supplies to refugees and “increased training” for Syrian opposition leaders. In her memoirs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that although the United States was “not prepared to join such efforts to arm the rebels,” she did tell the Saudi-led coalition that Washington would supplement their efforts by providing nonlethal assistance. By September 2013, the CIA was indisputably providing weapons to insurgent forces.
U.S. support for so-called moderate rebels has increased inexorably since then. In addition to aiding existing factions, the Obama administration asked Congress in June 2014 to authorize $500 million to vet, train, and equip a new force of moderate fighters. Officials spent all of those funds over the next 14 months, but managed to graduate only a few dozen fighters, most of whom quickly defected or surrendered to more radical Islamist forces.
In light of such a lengthy track record of Western aid to anti-Assad insurgents, it is preposterous for U.S. and Western European leaders to claim that they have no intention of interfering in Syria’s internal strife. From the beginning, their goal has been to help oust Assad from power. Interference in the internal affairs of another nation is objectionable on principle, but it also is strategically unwise in the case of Syria. The reality is that there are very few “moderate” Syrian rebels in any Western meaning of that term. The few secular, democratic types who do exist are largely ineffectual militarily. Militant Sunni Islamists dominate the ranks of the anti-Assad insurgents. With the decline of ISIS, the most powerful faction is Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate).
By degrading the Syrian government’s military assets with the latest attacks, as well as the missile strikes following the earlier chemical weapons incident in early 2017, the West risks enabling the Islamist rebel coalition to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the Syrian conflict. Assad is assuredly a corrupt and brutal ruler, but to help empower such a successor regime is hardly in the West’s best interest. Yet contrary to May’s statements about not interfering in Syria’s struggle, a rebel victory still appears to be the goal of the Western powers.
Raúl Castro is stepping down as president of Cuba. His replacement—Miguel Díaz-Canel—is not only a much younger man (57), but also a civilian. The image of an elderly Cuban dictator wearing an olive-green uniform will soon be thing of the past. Perhaps tropical versions of glasnost and perestroika could also be in the offing?
Don’t get your hopes up.
As Cuban dissident and human rights activist Antonio Rodiles puts it, believing that democratic transition is possible from within the regime constitutes the triumph of hope over facts. First, Raúl is not retiring yet. He remains the secretary general of the Communist Party until 2021. This is the post where true power lies in Cuba. Raúl will also stay as the commander in chief of the armed forces. It seems Díaz-Canel will be just a figurehead of the regime.
Second, Raúl has been grooming his son, Alejandro Castro Espín, to replace him as secretary general of the Communist Party in 2021. Castro Espín is already one of the most powerful—and feared—figures in Cuba. Moreover, Raúl’s son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas is the CEO of Grupo de Administración Empresarial Sociedad Anónima (GAESA), the military-owned conglomerate that controls 60 percent of the island’s economy. The Castro family will continue calling the shots.
Finally, in recent years the Cuban authorities, including Díaz-Canel, have been adamant that Cuba's Stalinist political and economic system is not negotiable. Those who expect the new president to be a Cuban Gorbachev will be disappointed.
One group that can attest to the brutish nature of the Cuban regime—and how repression of dissidents has actually increased lately—is The Ladies in White. For a decade and a half, they have been beaten and harassed by government thugs for demanding the release of political prisoners and the introduction of more civil and political liberties. I’m very pleased that in the context of this phony transition in Cuba, Cato awarded them the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty 2018.
Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the struggle for freedom of The Ladies in White will successfully end any time soon. The Cuban dictatorship will stay in place, just with a younger face at its helm.
Cato adjunct scholars Charlie Silver and David Hyman have an important oped in today's Houston Chronicle explaining how third-party payment increases prices for drugs and other medical goods and services. An excerpt:
If you’re like us, your health insurance coverage includes a prescription drug benefit. The benefit isn’t free, but you’re willing to pay for it because it saves you money every time you have a prescription filled. You are responsible for your co-pay, and your insurer pays the rest.
At least, that’s how it is supposed to work. But the truth is that your insurer often pays nothing. Your co-pay is all the pharmacy receives. Not only that, but your co-pay often exceeds the amount that someone without insurance would have paid for the drug. That’s right: People who don’t have insurance are paying less than you are for the same drug...
The scam works by taking advantage of consumers’ naive belief that their insurers are watching out for them. Suppose you have high blood pressure and your doctor prescribes amlodipine, a medication used by millions. If you have insurance, you probably think your insurer negotiated a great deal because a month’s supply at the pharmacy costs you only $10. But if you paid cash for the same drug at Costco, you’d have to pay only $1.85...
The real problem is that insurance is a terrible way of paying for things that we can and should pay for directly. Price-gouging does not happen with drugs that are sold over-the-counter at retail outlets like CVS, Costco or Wal-Mart. Those prices are transparent and easy to compare. When people pay directly for drugs, there are no hidden transfers between pharmacies and PBMs either. Competition does for cash customers what PBMs and pharmacies don’t seem able to do for one in four of the prescriptions filled by insured customers — reduce drug prices to the lowest sustainable level.
Overcharges occur throughout the rest of our health care system too, and they drive up the cost of all sorts of procedures. Why? Because insurers don’t care about costs nearly as much as patients do. If we want to get health care spending under control, we should pay for it directly as often as we can.
Speaking to a group of law enforcement officials in Raleigh, NC yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced proposed rule changes to the way the Drug Enforcement Administration sets quotas on the manufacturing of opioids. The DEA now presumes to be able to divine the likelihood a particular type of prescription opioid will be diverted to the illegal market when setting production quotas.
The Attorney General said, “Under this proposed new rule, if DEA believes that a company’s opioids are being diverted for misuse, then they will reduce the amount of opioids that company can make.”
The DEA ordered a 25 percent reduction in opioid production in 2017 and another 20 percent reduction for 2018. The tight quotas on opioid production contributed to the acute shortage of injectable opioids being felt in hospitals across the nation. It is not only making patients suffer needlessly but places them at increased risk for adverse drug reactions or overdose. Just the other day, after pleas from numerous medical professional associations, with the shortage reaching crisis levels, the DEA announced it will begin to relax this year’s quotas. But it may take months before things improve.
The damage to hospitalized patients is an unintended consequence of central planning and should come as no surprise. DEA administrators had the fatal conceit of believing they could determine just how many opioids should be produced for what they call the “legitimate” pain control needs of the nation’s patients. Yet even after the DEA recognized that the quotas caused harm, with these new proposed regulations they are determined to get back up in the saddle and ride that horse again.
Despite the reduction in opioid supply and a 41 percent reduction in the prescription of high-dose opioids by health care practitioners since 2010—the year prescribing peaked—the overdose rate continues to soar, having increased 20 percent from 2015 to 2016. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nonmedical use of prescription opioids peaked in 2012, and total prescription opioid use in 2014 was less than in 2012. The evidence is that nonmedical users migrate to cheaper and easier to obtain heroin and fentanyl when diverted prescription opioids become less available. The overdose rate from fentanyl has increased at a clip of 88 percent per year since 2013, and the overdose rate from heroin increased 19 percent per year for the past 2 years after increasing at a rate of 33 percent per year from 2010-2014. Meanwhile, the overdose rate increase for prescription opioids has been unchanged at 3 percent per year since 2009.
The Attorney General and the DEA administrators seem unable to learn from their mistakes. They continue to view the opioid overdose crisis as a product of the number of pills produced or prescribed. They have been wrong about this from the get-go. It has always been the result of nonmedical users accessing drugs in a black market fueled by drug prohibition. The underground market responds quickly. It provides nonmedical users with cheaper and more dangerous and deadly drugs in response to prescription opioid restrictions.
Not content with the damage they have already caused, regulators appear ready to double down on the supply-side approach to the overdose crisis. This means America’s hospitals can look forward to more and possibly greater shortages of vitally needed opioids, while first responders swell their emergency rooms with ever growing numbers of heroin and fentanyl overdoses.
In my new policy analysis released today, I identify 65 vetting failures where the visa vetting system allowed a foreign-born person to enter the United States as an adult or older teenager when they had already radicalized—80 percent occurred before 9/11. Just 13 vetting failures have occurred since 9/11, and only one—the last one (Tashfeen Malik)—resulted in any deaths in the United States. That’s one vetting failure for every 29 million visa or status approvals, and one deadly failure for every 379 million visa or status approvals from 2002 to 2016.
As I note, 9/11 is reasonable point of analysis because after the attacks the United States invested heavily in new vetting procedures. I define vetting failure as broadly as possible to include even private thoughts that later became public and anyone who committed their offense within a decade of entry even without evidence that they radicalized before entry. The vast majority of terrorism offenders both before and after 9/11 were born in the United States, grew up here, or lived for lengthy periods before they committed an offense.
I ran out of room in my policy analysis to provide detailed biographies and details on each vetting failure, so here is supplemental information about each vetting failure. This list should help the government better understand the phenomenon that so worries the president. In the policy analysis, I have tables in the policy analysis that break down each failure based on their status at entry, age at entry, type of information missed, chage year, nationality, and type of offense—either domestic plot or support for groups abroad. Below are figures from my policy analysis, highlighting the changes over time, and at the end, there are tables listing the vetting failures:
1. Fadil Abdelghani was born in Sudan and arrived in 1987 on a tourist visa at the age of 25. According the 9/11 Travel Report, he “overstayed his 1987 tourist visa and obtained legal residency by marrying an American.” During his trial, however, his lawyer stated that he came in 1989, and then worked as a cabdriver in New York. Fadil who grew up as the son of wealthy Sudanese parents testified that he was an unwitting participant in the plot to blow up landmarks in New York in 1993. His father believed that his son was happy in America. In 1995, a jury found him guilty of the bombing conspiracy. He lived in New Jersey with six or seven Sudanese immigrants.
- Pre-entry activities: No evidence of his pre-immigration beliefs have emerged, but he joined a mosque headed by radical cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman after his entry. He is considered a vetting failure purely because he committed his offense within 10 years of entry.
2. Matarawy Mohammed Said Saleh was born in Egypt and entered into a fraudulent marriage to obtain an immigrant visa (legal permanent residency) in 1987 at the age of 31. Saleh appears to have been nothing more than a common criminal. In 1988, he was convicted for selling heroin and served two years in prison. The INS released him on an $8,000 bond in 1990 subject to removal proceedings. In 1993, just before the FBI busted up the plot to blow up landmarks in New York, he agreed to supply stolen cars to the conspirators to transport explosives. The government described his role as “minor,” and he received probation and was deported.
- Pre-entry activities: No evidence regarding his pre-entry views is publicly available. He is considered a vetting failure purely because he committed his offense within 10 years of entry.
3. Mohammed Salameh was born in Palestine, has Jordanian citizenship, and entered in 1988 on a tourist visa at the age of 20. Salameh overstayed his visa but couldn’t find work and had to ask family members for support. No definitive evidence has emerged about his pre-entry beliefs, but he joined the mosque of radical cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman after he entered. He rented the truck that was used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people. At his sentencing, he complained about U.S. support of Israel.
- Pre-entry activities: He served a conscript in the Jordanian army. His family has said that he told them that he moved to the states to look for work. They said he became very religious before he left, but avoided radical groups. His family believed his arrest was a Jewish conspiracy
4. Yū Kikumura was born in Japan and entered the United States in March 1988 on a tourist visa at the age of 36. He spent a month in the United States collecting bomb making materials. A New Jersey patrolman pulled him over and found three bombs. He intended to bomb a Navy and Marine recruiting office in New York. Two days after his arrest, the Japanese Red Army, a radical Marxist group, bombed a U.S.O. canteen in Italy in retaliation for the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986. He was convicted of transporting an explosive with the intent to kill.
- Pre-entry activities: In the 1970s, Kikumura joined the Japanese Red Army. In 1986, the Netherlands arrested him with bomb materials and deported him back to Japan. He used a stolen passport to obtain a tourist visa.
5. Eyad Mahmoud Ismoil was born in Kuwait, has Jordanian citizenship, and entered in 1989 on student visa to study English at Wichita State at the age of 21. He violated the terms of his visa by dropping out of school in 1990 because he couldn’t afford tuition. He moved to Brooklyn to work as a cab driver and then to Dallas to work as a grocery store employee. His coworkers in Dallas described him as “not smart.” He married an American woman, but apparently never filed for a green card. He divorced her in 1993. He traveled from Dallas to New Jersey to drive the van for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people.
- Pre-entry activities: He was childhood friends with fellow conspirator Ramzi Yousef who told him to join him for the bombing. Yousef was the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind.
6. Billy Alexander was born in the Bahamas to Haitian parents and entered the United States on an unknown status at some point prior to February 1991 when he shot and killed Jean-Claude Olivier. He later killed Fritz Dor. Louis Thermitus, a Haitian American business owner, allegedly hired Alexander to kill Olivier and Dor. Although Thermitus was never prosecuted, both victims were Haitian American radio personalities who urged listeners to boycott Thermitus for his support of Haiti’s military coup.
- Pre-entry activities: Nothing is known about Alexander’s personal political beliefs, but he appears to have been a common criminal, having killed someone else in a robbery in 1991. He was found guilty of first degree murder. He is considered a vetting failure purely because he committed his offense within 10 years of entry.
7. Glossy Bruce Joseph was born in the Bahamas to a Haitian father and Jamaican mother and entered the United States on an unknown status at some point prior to February 1991 when he drove the car for hired hitman Billy Alexander’s killing of Jean-Claude Olivier, a Haitian American radio personality critical of the military coup in Haiti. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
- Pre-entry activities: Very little is publicly available about Joseph’s personal views. He was described as a carpenter in the press. He is considered a vetting failure purely because he committed his offense within 10 years of entry.
8. Mir Kansi (aka Qazi/Kasi) was born in Pakistan and entered the United States in February 1991 on a tourist visa at the age of 26. Overstaying his visa, he filed a claim of political asylum in February 1992, claiming to have entered illegally. He received work authorization while his application was pending. His claim was denied. He worked for moving companies in 1991 and 1992 and as a courier in 1992. He had a college degree in English and was independently wealthy, so he didn’t need to work. In January 1993, Qazi killed two CIA employees and fled to Pakistan. In 1997, he was convicted of first-degree murder.
- Pre-entry activities: He claimed to have come up with the plan for an attack and identified his target in the United States before he entered. He said he was motivated by the U.S.-Israeli treatment of Muslims in the Middle East. Before he arrived, he was involved with a “militant nationalist movement” among Pashtun Pakistanis. In 1989, he participated in an anti-American protest against T.S. Eliot where participants shouted “Death to America,” and Kansi fired a gun into the air.
9. Hani Hanjour was born in Saudi Arabia and first entered the United States in October 1991 on a student visa at the age of 19 to study English in Arizona. He lived in the United States until February 1992. He returned in April 1996 on a tourist visa, but adjusted his status to a student to study English and briefly attend flight school. He left in November 1996. He returned in November 1997 again claiming to study English, but instead attended flight school in Arizona. He stayed until April 1999 when he received his commercial pilot’s license. In 1999, Hanjour went to Afghanistan to meet with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other participants in the 9/11 attacks. In September 2000, Hanjour received another student visa and entered on December 8, 2000 for the final time. Altogether, Hanjour spent just over two years in the United States. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Hanjour flew American Airlines Flight 77 that went into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: His time before his initial 1991 entry is not well documented. He was the son of a wealthy car dealer. He traveled to Afghanistan in the late 1980s to “participate in jihad” but the Soviets withdrew, and so he worked for a relief agency. A Washington Post profile states that he “seemed to have discovered fundamentalist Islam” in Arizona and that it was his brother’s idea to send him to Arizona to stay. The 9/11 Commission Report details contacts with known militants during this time. During his 1997 stay, he expressed anti-Jewish views.
10. Adel Abdel Bary (Bari) was born in Egypt and first entered the United States in 1991 on a multi-entry visa at the age of 31. As a lawyer, he represented El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian American accused of killing Meir Kahane in New York. Nosair was acquitted, but then later convicted of crimes related to this murder in federal court, and in 1993, Nosair was convicted for planning to bomb locations in New York. He stayed in the United States for about six months. As early as 1994, Bary took over the business affairs for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an Islamist terrorist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government that in the mid-1990s affiliated itself with al Qaeda. In 1996, EIJ’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri appointed Bary head of the London branch. From 1996 to 1999, Bary served as communication coordinator for the London cell of al Qaeda, funneling messages from bin Laden and Zawahiri to the media and setting up press interviews for them. Egypt sentenced him to death in absentia for a bombing there in 1995. In 1999, Bary was charged as part of the prosecution of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, though the government stated that there is no evidence “that Bary assisted in the bombings themselves.” He was finally extradited in 2012 and pled guilty in 2014.
- Pre-entry activities: In Egypt, prior to his 1991 entry, he was arrested in 1982 for sheltering Muntasser Zayat, a critic of the Mubarak regime. The government detained and tortured him without trial on and off from 1982 to 1991. From 1987 to 1991, Bary represented clients who opposed Mubarak. During this time, he became a fundamentalist, burning family photos and influencing his sister to wear a veil and her father a beard.
11. Ramzi Yousef was born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents, has Pakistani citizenship, and entered the United States in September 1992 at the age of 24 on a pending asylum claim. At the U.S. airport, he had no visa, having bribed a Pakistani official to allow him to board the plane, so he claimed asylum and was released pending a hearing. In February 1993, he built and helped plant the bomb for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people. At his sentencing, he said, “I am a terrorist, and I am proud of it.”
- Pre-entry activities: He traveled with Ahmad Ajaj who was found to have bomb-making instructions in his possession, but Yousef was not connected to him. Yousef was the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Yousef fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s. He trained at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan after the war.
12. Ahmed Ajaj was born in Palestine and first entered the United States in 1991 on an asylum claim at the age of 26, but he left the country to attend a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and returned on a fraudulent Swedish passport in September 1992. After INS found bomb making materials in his luggage, he was arrested and not released despite his claim of asylum. He helped plot the 1993 World Trade Center bombing behind bars, which killed six people. He was briefly released from prison after the attacks and rearrested in March 9, 1993. He was convicted in 1994.
- Pre-entry activities: He traveled with Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing.
13. Mohamad Youssef Hammoud was born in Lebanon and entered the United States in November 1992 at the age of 18 on an asylum claim. He attempted to use fraudulent documents to enter, but when he was detained, he claimed asylum and was released. His asylum claim was denied and ordered deported in 1993, but he appealed the decision. In December 1994, he married a U.S. citizen and applied for permanent residency. His application was denied because the marriage was a sham, and he was ordered deported again in August 1996. He entered into another sham marriage and received conditional permanent residency in July 1998. He entered into various conspiracies to raise money through credit card fraud and sale of contraband cigarettes. He ultimately was arrested in 2000 and convicted of providing material support for a foreign terrorist organization, Hezbollah. He gave $3,500.
- Pre-entry activities: In his youth, he was a member of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and the government alleged that he was on a “mission” to raise money for it.
14. Habis Abdulla al Saoub was born in Jordan and entered the United States in 1993 on an immigrant visa (as a legal permanent resident) through marriage to a U.S. citizen at the age of 28. In October 2002, he was indicted for forming a Portland terrorist cell and planning to carry out attacks in the United States. He fled the country and was killed in Pakistan.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, in the 1980s, he fought against the Soviets as a mujahedeen fighter in Afghanistan.
15. Iyman Faris was born in Pakistan and entered the United States in May 1994 on a student visa at the age of 25. Faris never enrolled in school, but in 1995, he married a U.S. citizen and became a legal permanent resident. He worked as a truck driver, but he had a mental breakdown and turned suicidal, trying to jump off a Columbus bridge. His marriage ended in 2000. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan where he met Osama bin laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind. In 2003, he was arrested for conspiring to provide al Qaeda with information amount potential targets in the United States, including the Brooklyn Bridge, and for making several purchases for al Qaeda overseas, including sleeping bags and plane tickets. Experts dismissed the plot he considered—using blowtorches to cut the Brooklyn Bridge cables—as absurd. He pled guilty. He also met with Nuradin Abdi to discuss a plot to plant a bomb in a Columbus shopping mall, but the plan was not developed.
- Pre-entry activities: He maintained a “friendly relationship” with an unidentified al Qaeda leader since the 1980s.
16. Mohammed Abdullah Warsame was born in Somalia, emigrated to Canada as a refugee in 1989, became a Canadian citizen in 1992, and first entered the United States in 1995 on a temporary visa at the age of 22 to marry a Somali legal permanent resident. He applied for a green card immediately in 1995, but did not receive it until 2002 when he relocated permanently to Minneapolis. He visited his wife at least once on a temporary visa in the meantime when she became pregnant, giving birth in 1998. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan and attended an al Qaeda training camp, and in 2000, he worked at an al Qaeda guesthouse and clinic. He sent money to the camp in 2001. In January 2004, he was arrested and pled guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization in 2009. He claims to have gone to Afghanistan because he saw it as a Utopian Islamic society and was quickly disillusioned and left.
- Pre-entry activities: Nothing is publicly available about his pre-entry views.
17. Ali Hassan Abu Kamal was born in Israel, used an Israeli passport, and entered the United States in December 1996 at the age of 69. He spent nearly 50 years teaching English in Gaza. Then he came to the United States in December and in January, he bought a gun using a Florida ID, and in February, he went to the Empire State Building observation deck and shot seven people, killing one. He also killed himself. He carried a letter describing his motives as U.S. mistreatment of Palestinians, but he had also recently lose $500,000. Law enforcement described him as a deranged man working alone. According to his daughter, the Palestinian authority told his family to say that the attack was not politically motivated.
18. Muhammed Aatique was born in Pakistan and entered the United States in 1996 on a student visa at the age of 23 and later adjusted his status to an H-1B high skilled worker. One source has him entering on an H-1B, but every source has him studying at Virginia Tech before going to work requiring a student visa (e.g. “he traveled to the United States to attend graduate school”). At Virginia Tech in 1996, he met the founding member, Young Kwon, of the Virginia Jihad Group which was a paintball club that intended to travel to Pakistan to join a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Lashkar-e-Taib. His participation in the games began in 2001, and his arrest came in 2003. In September 2003, he pled guilty to “preparing for and beginning a military expedition to be carried out from the United States against India” and “discharging a firearm in a crime of violence” during five days at an LET camp in Pakistan. Prosecutors stated that he was “less culpable” for the conspiracy than the others.
- Pre-entry activities: Nothing is publicly available about his pre-entry views.
19. Nuradin M. Abdi was born in Somalia, first entered the United States in 1995 using a false passport at the age of 23, then returned entering illegally from Canada in 1997. In October 1998, he applied for asylum and received it in January 1999. He later admitted that he falsified every fact in his application. He first planned to travel to Kosovo to help Muslims fight the Serbs, but first attempted to travel to Chechnya to train in 1999 and then to travel to an Ethiopian terrorist training camp in 2000. Neither attempt was successful, but he did try to raise money for Somali extremist. In 2002, he met with Iyman Faris and Christopher Paul to discuss a plot to plant a bomb in a Columbus, Ohio shopping mall. This plot was not developed. In 2003, the FBI arrested him, and in 2004, he pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists by traveling to the Ethiopian training camp.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he arrived in the United States in 1995, he had researched terrorist training camps in Ethiopia online.
20. Fadl Mohammed Maatouk was born in Lebanon and first entered the United States in January 1999 on a tourist visa. He falsified information on his visa application, including his marital status, his intended place of residence, and his employment. In 2001, he married a U.S. citizen and received permanent residency. From 2001 to 2005, he operated a flea market in Jacksonville, and he sold drug paraphernalia and then sent the money to Lebanon. After his arrest for that, it came to light that in May 2003, he allowed his brother to lend his gun to a member of Hezbollah to provide a bodyguard service to a leader of Hezbollah. He also transported camouflaged clothes to Lebanon to give to the member of Hezbollah. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support for a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered the United States, he lived with his family in a suburb of Beirut, and he was a university-trained accountant.
21. Yassin Muhiddin Aref was born in Iraq and first entered the United States as a refugee in October 1999 at the age of 29. In the United States, he owned Little Italy Pizzeria and founded a mosque in Albany. In 2003, his name was found in a notebook next to the word “brother” in a bombed out encampment in Iraq, an area where he was the son of a well-known imam, and in 2004, the FBI targeted him in a sting operation in which he agreed to launder money for a member of his mosque in order to supply missiles for a fictitious operation to assassinate Pakistan’s ambassador in New York. In 2006, a jury found him guilty of money laundering, conspiracy, and attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization.
- Pre-entry activities: In Iraq, Aref was an Iraqi Kurd and an imam at a mosque. In 1988, Saddam Hussein’s army destroyed his town, and he finally fled the country for good in 1994 where he registered as a refugee with the United Nations in Syria.
22. Oussama Kassir was born in Lebanon, moved to Sweden in 1984, became a Swedish citizen in 1989, and came to the United States in November 1999 at the age of 33 under the Visa Waiver Program. He resided in Seattle for two months during which time he attempted to start a terrorist training camp. He was furious when he realized that he had been conned into coming by a U.S. resident trying to make money off the “camp.” He left the country and was finally arrested in 2005 in the Czech Republic. He was convicted. He has said he loved Osama bin Laden.
- Pre-entry activities: In Sweden, he served time for a drug offense, illegal firearms, and assault of a police officer, and he said that he converted to Islam in jail with the help from another Swedish terrorism suspect Kerim Chatty.
23. Moussa Ali Hamdan was born in Lebanon and entered the United States for the first time in (at the latest) 2000 at the age of 28 as a legal permanent resident, naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen in 2005. From 2003 to 2007, he lived at an apartment in New Jersey. In 2007 and 2008, he installed carpet, and he later operated a car dealership. In late 2006, law enforcement discovered that Hamdan was attempting to purchase stolen goods for export and, in late 2007, engaged him in a sting operation. In September, Hamdan introduced the government’s informant to a person who was selling counterfeit dollars to support Hezbollah. In November 2009, he was charged. He fled the country. After his capture, he pleaded guilty to material support for a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April 2012.
- Pre-entry activities: It is possible that he was just a criminal motivated by financial gain, but his court documents are sealed, so it is difficult to reconstruct the details of his involvement.
24. Hammad Riaz Samana was born in Pakistan and first entered the United States in 2000 as a legal permanent resident with his family at the age of 16. In the United States, Samana attended Santa Monica College, worked at Barnes and Noble, and provided Arabic lessons to people at the mosque where he met U.S.-born Muslim convert, Gregory Patterson. In 2004, Kevin James, a U.S.-born convict, recruited Levar Washington in prison to join his radical Islamist group, and once released in November 2004, Washington began to share an apartment with Patterson. Through discussions of the Iraq War and Guantanamo Bay, Washington recruited Patterson and Samana (still living with his parents) to James’s group. From May to July 2005, Washington orchestrated a series of gas station robberies to finance planned terrorist attacks against National Guard facilities, the Israeli Consulate, and Jewish synagogues. In 2005, he was charged. Samana was initially declared mentally unfit to stand trial due to his schizophrenia, and for this reason as well as his smaller role in the plot, he received a lighter sentence after pleading guilty.
- Pre-entry activities: In Pakistan, Samana was raised Muslim, but appears to have suffered from a mental breakdown in the United States that may have resulted in his willingness to be recruited. In 2005, he quit playing sports to focus on his religious studies. Because his court documents are sealed, it is difficult to know the full details.
25. Wassim I. Mazloum was born in Lebanon and first entered the United States in 2000 as a legal permanent resident at the age of 19 with his mother and siblings. He obtained a GED and took engineering courses at the University of Toledo while working at a car lot with his brother. In October 2004, he was recruited into a terrorist cell by U.S.-born Mohammad Zaki Amawi. He participated in firearms training in the expectation of going to fight in Iraq and offered to support the group financially or send money to Iraqi insurgents. In February 2006, Mazloum was indicted and, in 2009, convicted for material support for terrorism and conspiracy to murder persons in another country.
- Pre-entry activities: In Lebanon, Mazloum’s father abandoned his four children when Mazloum was ten. In the 1990s, he had witnessed Israeli air attacks by U.S.-supplied planes, which “had a powerful impact on him.” Several family members who joined Hezbollah died in these attacks. That could imply a pre-entry radicalization, but Mazloum withdrew from the conspiracy voluntarily in April 2005 and reenrolled in college. He refused to rejoin despite repeated efforts by the government’s informant. The judge found that he “more thoroughly embraced” the conspiracy than the others, but that “just as quickly and as brilliantly as that flame flared up... it was extinguished.”
26. Mohamed Atta was born in Egypt and first entered the United States in June 2000 on tourist visa at the age of 32. He enrolled in a U.S. flight school and sought to change his status to a student. After passing his commercial pilot’s license test, he left the United States in January 2001, having overstayed his visa by a month. He reentered the United States a week later, being admitted for an eight-month stay as a tourist despite stating that he was a student. He left the United States in July 2001 and reentered two weeks later where he was granted another length of stay as a tourist. He spent three weeks outside of the United States in 13 months. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Atta flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center, which killed 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he had graduated with a degree in architectural engineering and moved to Hamburg, Germany in 1992. According to the 9/11 Commission, “When Atta arrived in Germany, he appeared religious, but not fanatically so.” He joined a hardline mosque, and by 1997, he stood out “because of his abrasive and increasingly dogmatic personality” and his “anti-Semitic and Anti-American opinions.” By 1998, he grew a beard and began to advocate for violent jihad. He remained as a student in Germany until 1999 when he traveled to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to discuss the hijacking plan. He filmed a martyrdom video before he left for the United States.
27. Nawaf al-Hazmi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States in January 2000 at the age of 25 on a tourist visa. Hazmi moved to San Diego and worked part-time at a car wash. He attended a mosque with Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born al Qaeda operative. He took flight lessons, and in July 2000, he sought to extend his stay. In April 2000, he moved to Fairfax, Virginia where Awlaki had also moved to preach at a mosque. In August 2001, he was added to the INS watchlist. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Hazmi was a hijacker on American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Prior to his entry, he was raised in Saudi Arabia by a father who had tried to kill him, leaving him with a large scar. In 1993, he traveled to Afghanistan and met al Qaeda members, and in 1995, he fought in Bosnia in defense of Muslims there. In 1997, he returned to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden and fought against the Northern Alliance. In 1999, bin Laden selected him for a suicide mission, and the same year, he met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to discuss the 9/11 attacks.
28. Ziad Jarrah was born in Lebanon and entered the United States in June 2000 as a tourist at the age of 25. He studied at a Florida flight school, violating his immigration status. He left and reentered on six subsequent occasions, each time as a tourist. As part of the 9/11 Attacks, Jarrah flew United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before his entry, Jarrah was the son of wealthy, secular Muslim family that sent him to Christian schools. He moved to Germany in 1996 to study. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Far from displaying radical beliefs when he first moved to Germany, he arrived with a reputation for knowing where to find the best discos and beaches in Beirut, and in Greifswald was known to enjoy student parties and drinking beer.” He also was mostly living his girlfriend. By the end of the year, however, he had radicalized, desiring not to leave the world "in a natural way." In late 1997, he moved to Hamburg where he joined a Islamist mosque and met Mohammed Atta. In 1999, Atta, Jarrah, and others in Hamburg traveled to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who recommended them for the 9/11 plot.
29. Khalid al Mihdhar was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on January 15, 2000. He entered using a passport with an “indicator of possible terrorist affiliation” and traveled with Nawaf al Hazmi, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Hazmi helped Hani Hanjour to hijack and fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Mihdhar became an activist Islamist in the early 1990s and fought in Bosnia with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and in 1997, attempted to smuggle arms into the Saudi Arabia for attacks. At the time of his entry, Mihdhar was an al Qaeda operative known U.S. intelligence, which had a copy of his passport. Mindhar was so excited to conduct a U.S. attack that he obtained a U.S. visa before traveling to Afghanistan in 1999 to meet bin Laden.
30. Marwan al Shehhi was born in United Arab Emirates and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 29, 2001 at the age of 23. Shehhi used a new passport to obtain the visa to hide his travel to Afghanistan, and he was probably not interviewed. In July 2000, he enrolled with Mohamed Atta in flight school, and both sought to change his status to a student. In December 2000, he obtained a commercial pilot license. He then left the country in January and returned a week later. He was admitted despite stating that he was a student obtaining flight school lessons. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Shehhi flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, Shehhi’s father was a “prayer leader” at the local mosque. In 1995, Shehhi served in the Emirati military and then received a military scholarship to study in Germany in 1996. He prayed five times each day. He started to avoid restaurants that served alcohol, and in 1998, transferred to Hamburg to meet up with Mohamed Atta, another hijacker, who moved into his apartment. In November 1999, he moved to Afghanistan and met with bin Laden where he volunteered for a suicide mission.
31. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was born in Qatar, first came to the United States from 1983 at the age of 18 most likely on a student visa, stayed until December 1990, then returned in 2000 probably on a tourist visa at the age of 35. He left and then returned with his family on September 10, 2001 on a student visa. Sometime after his 1983 entry, al-Marri enrolled in college in 1987 and graduated in 1991. During his 2000 entry, he “established a fictitious business using a false name and stolen Social Security number, fraudulently obtaining a number of credit cards and opening several business accounts.” During this time, he corresponded with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about his travels. He explored purchasing various cyanide compounds and sulfuric acid to make cyanide gas and researched locations to conduct an attack. In December 2001, he was arrested. In April 2009, he pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist organization.
- Pre-entry activities: From 1998 to 2001, al-Marri attended various terrorist training camps. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed recruited him to assist al Qaeda in the United States and instructed him to enter the United States no later than September 10, 2001. He lied about his prior travels to the United States on his visa application.
32. Dhiren Barot (Issa Al-Britani) was born in India, moved to the United Kingdom as a baby, became a UK citizen, and first entered the United States in August 2000 on a student visa at the age of 29. He stayed in the United States until November 2000 and then returned in March 2001 with Qaisar Shaffi conducting surveillance on potential terrorism targets in New York and Washington, D.C. In 2004, he was charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and to provide material support to terrorists. In 2006, he pleaded guilty in the UK for these and other crimes.
- Pre-entry activities: In the UK in the 1990s, he converted from Hinduism to Islam, and in 1995, he traveled to terrorist training camps in Pakistan. He became a high-ranking al Qaeda operative. In 1998, he served as a “lead instructor” at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
33. Nadeem Tarmohamed was born in the United Kingdom and first entered the United States on August 17, 2000 at the age of under the Visa Waiver Program. He scouted locations for terrorist attacks in New York and then Washington, D.C. He left in September. He returned again on April 4, 2001 and stayed until April 8. In 2004, he was charged in the United Kingdom where he ultimately pleaded guilty.
- Tarmohamed entered the United States with Dhiren Barot, an al Qaeda operative
34. Qaisar Shaffi was born in the United Kingdom and first entered the United States on March 11, 2001 under the Visa Waiver Program at the age of 22. During this time, he along with Dhiren Barot, al Qaeda operative, conducted video surveillance of various locations in New York City for terrorist attacks. He became ill and left on April 3, 2001. In 2004, he was charged and became the only Barot associate to refuse a plea deal, claiming that he only came to the United States to seek drugs and because Barot paid for his “vacation.” He was convicted.
- Pre-entry activities: Barot was a customer of Shaffi at the cell phone shop where he worked. Barot promised to fly him to New York for the al Qaeda mission, and Shaffi agreed.
35. Adnan Babar Mirza was born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents, is a Pakistani national, and came to the United States on a student visa in August 2001 at the age of 24. He moved to Houston to live with his aunt and uncle. He worked for an oil company consolidating data and volunteered at Muslim charities. In November 2001, he met U.S.-born citizens Kobie Diallo Williams and James Coates of one of these charities. In July 2004, a park ranger in Big Bend National Park stopped Williams and Coates for speeding, finding them armed and dressed in “Muslim attire.” He called Border Patrol, and Border Patrol called the FBI. In February 2005, Coates approached the FBI to tell them that he had heard Williams state that he intended to travel to Iraq to fight against the U.S. soldiers. Coates and another government informant organized camping trips in which Mirza, Williams, and Coates used guns in preparation for a trip overseas. Mirza collected payments intended for the Taliban and, in November 2006, was charged with material support for terrorism. He was convicted. The judge considered his charity work and said that he imposed a “more lenient” sentence because he believed that Mirza never wanted to hurt anyone.
- Pre-entry activities: Before his entry, Mirza moved from Kuwait to Cyprus for college in 1995. He briefly returned to Kuwait with his family until 2000 when he moved to the United States.
36. Mohamud Abdi Yusuf was born in Somalia and immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 2001 at the age of 21. He later received lawful permanent residency, and in 2006, he applied for citizenship but never received an approval, ultimately being denied in 2010. As a result, he never managed to bring his wife to the United States and saw her once in nine years. He originally lived in Kansas City where he worked at a loading dock and a car wash, but moved to St. Louis to work as a cab driver in 2002. In January 2008, he started fundraising for al-Shabaab, which the U.S. then designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in February 2008. In October 2010, he was charged with material support for an FTO. He pleaded guilty in May 2012.
- Pre-entry activities: Prior to his entry, Yusuf lived in Somalia until age 11. His father died of an illness. In 1991, a mob killed his mother, so he fled to a Kenyan refugee camp where he married a woman. During this time, he met Duane Diriye, another Somali refugee. Diriye and Yusuf stayed in touch, and in 2008, Diriye requested funds for a vehicle to transport al-Shabaab fighters. Yusuf obliged stating that he wanted to support al-Shabaab to cause the most “pain.”
37. Zacarias Moussaoui was born in France and first entered the United States in February 2001 under the Visa Waiver Program. The same month, he illegally enrolled in a flight school in Oklahoma but dropped out. In August, he again enrolled in another flight school in Minneapolis, and the flight school contacted the FBI to report him as suspicious because he had paid in cash, had asked only to learn takeoff and landing of 747s, and said he was only interested in “joy-riding.” On August 16, the FBI and INS arrested Moussaoui for overstaying his status. He later stated that he intended to carry out a 9/11-style plot after the 9/11 attacks and was not a participant in the 9/11 conspiracy, a statement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed supported. In December 2001, he was indicted for conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism by hijacking and destroying airplanes and in April 2005, he pleaded guilty.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he arrived, he received a master’s degree in international business from a university in London in 1995. His mother said that he radicalized during this period. In 1998, Moussaoui trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, and he met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who, in 2000, told him to go to Malaysia for flight training. He instead worked on terrorism plots of his own, and Mohammed then sent him to America.
38. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was born in Pakistan, first came to the United States from 1983 to December 1986 on a student visa, and then received a tourist visa in July 2001 but never used it. He applied for the 2001 tourist visa under an alias and received it without an interview. He planned the 9/11 attacks. In March 2003, the CIA captured him and transferred him to Guantanamo Bay where he has remained every since.
- Pre-entry activities: Immediately after leaving the United States in 1986, he joined up with Afghan mujahidin in Pakistan. After receiving military training in Pakistan, he went to Bosnia to fight and support the effort with financial donations in 1992. The same year, Mohammed sent $660 to his nephew Ramzi Yousef’s to help fund Yousef’s plan to bomb the World Trade Center. In 1994, Mohammed helped plan with Yousef a plot to bomb U.S. airlines in Manila, but Yousef was arrested. In 1996, he met with Osama bin Laden to discuss a plot to hijack airlines in the United States. The same year, the State Department included him in its terrorist watchlist since 1996.
39. Mohammed al-Qahtani (al Kahtani) was born in Saudi Arabia and landed in the United States on a tourist in August 2001 at the age of 26. He flew from Dubai to Orlando where an INS inspection officer denied him entry because he believed he intended to overstay his visa. Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, was waiting to pick him up at the airport. He returned to Afghanistan where he met up with bin Laden. The U.S. military captured him in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001. He was sent to Guantanamo Bay where he has remained ever since.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he met with Osama bin Laden who assigned him to the 9/11 attacks, and he trained at al Qaeda training camps. Bin Laden personally chose him for the attacks.
40. Abdulaziz al-Omari (Umari) was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 29, 2001 at the age of 22. He entered in New York using a doctored Saudi passport and with Salem al Hazmi, another 9/11 hijacker. They were likely picked up by Hazmi’s brother Nawaf and went to stay in an apartment in Paterson, New Jersey with Hani Hanjour. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Mohamed Atta hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he was born in the region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen. He studied in Oman and then graduated from Imam University in Yemen whose director was later identified an al Qaeda member. He was described as a “conservative and devoutly religious young man who often served as an imam for his mosque.” He was married with a daughter. He was believed to have been a student of a radical Saudi cleric Sulayman al Alwan, and he met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during his time as a security guard in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and was named military trainer of a camp there. Bin Laden personally chose him for the attacks.
41. Wail al Shehri was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 8, 2001 at the age of 27. He traveled with Ahmad al Haznawi, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Mohamed Atta hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims. He was the brother of fellow hijacker Waleed al Shehri.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he was born in the region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen. He graduated from college in 1999 and became a physical education teacher at a Saudi air base. His father was a wealthy business friend of the father of Osama bin Laden. He was raised in a strict Wahhabi Muslim family, but was not a strict adherent himself, using the Internet, smoking cigarettes, and listening to pop music. He was radicalized at a mosque there, pledging his support to Osama bin Laden in 2000. He then trained in Afghan al Qaeda camps. Before he applied for his tourist visa, he obtained a new passport without a record of his travels to Afghanistan. He filmed a martyrdom video before traveling to the United States. Bin Laden personally chose him for the attacks.
42. Waleed al Shehri was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on April 23, 2001. He entered with Satam al Suqami, another 9/11 hijacker. He traveled with al Suqami to the Bahamas once in May 2001 in an attempt to extend Suqami’s one-month status, but the Bahamas denied them entry. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Mohamed Atta hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims. He was the brother of fellow hijacker Wail al Shehri.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he was born in the region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen. His father was a wealthy business friend of the father of Osama bin Laden. He was a college dropout. He was raised in a strict Wahhabi Muslim family, but was not a strict adherent himself, using the Internet, smoking cigarettes, and listening to pop music. He was radicalized at a mosque there, pledging his support to Osama bin Laden in 2000. He then trained in Afghan al Qaeda camps. Before he applied for his tourist visa, he obtained a new passport without a record of his travels to Afghanistan. Bin Laden personally chose him for the attacks.
43. Satam al Suqami was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on April 23, 2001 at the age of 23. He entered using a passport containing fraudulent travel stamps and traveled with Waleed al Shehri, another 9/11 hijacker. He traveled with al Shehri to the Bahamas once in May 2001 in an attempt to extend Suqami’s one-month status, but the Bahamas denied them entry. He overstayed his status. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Mohamed Atta and three others to hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he worked as a security guard at a hospital and had a problem with alcohol and possibly drugs. Prior to 1999, he was “unconcerned with religion.” From 1999 to 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan at least twice to meet with al Qaeda leaders. He trained in Khaldan near Kabul, and bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
44. Salem al Hazmi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 29, 2001 at the age of 20. He entered using a passport with an “indicator of possible terrorist affiliation” and traveled with Abdul Aziz al Omari, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Hazmi helped Hani Hanjour and three others to hijack and fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: As a teenager, he drank alcohol and committed petty theft, but in late 1999, he stopped drinking and became religious. He went to Afghanistan to al Qaeda camps and volunteered to carry out a suicide attack, and bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
45. Majed Moqed was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 2, 2001 at the age of 24. His visa application was incomplete, and he was never interviewed. He traveled with Ahmed al Ghamdi, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, Moqed helped Hani Hanjour and three others to hijack and fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: He was the son of a village elder, and his desire for jihad was well known locally. In 1999, he dropped out of college and moved to Afghanistan to train in al Qaeda camps. He trained in Khaldan near Kabul, and bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
46. Ahmed al Ghamdi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 2, 2001 at the age of 22. He carried more than $10,000 in cash with him and was traveling with Majed Moqed, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Marwan al Shehhi and three others to hijack United Airlines Flight 175 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: In the 1990s, he obtained a nursing degree. The CIA described him as a “devout” Muslim who attended regular prayer services. He appears to have hooked up with the other hijackers in 1999. In 1998 or 1999, he traveled to Chechnya where other Islamists were fighting. In 2000, he was in Afghanistan where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
47. Mohand al Shehri was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 28, 2001 at the age of 22. His visa application was incomplete, and his passport—later destroyed—was possibly manipulated. He traveled with Hamza al Ghamdi and Ahmed al Nami, two other 9/11 hijackers. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Marwan al Shehhi and three others to hijack United Airlines Flight 175 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he grew up in the region of Saudi Arabia closest to Yemen. In 1999, he left home claiming to have traveled to Chenya but went to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
48. Fayez Banihammad was born in United Arab Emirates and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 27, 2001 at the age of 24. He had obtained a new passport to apply for his visa to hide his travel. His visa application was incomplete, and he was not interviewed. He traveled to the United States with Saeed al Ghamdi, and when he arrived, he handed in customs and immigration forms with different names on them, but each form was reviewed by separate inspectors and went unnoticed. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Marwan al Shehhi and three others to hijack United Airlines Flight 175 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,749 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: In the 1990s, he married and had a child. In 2000, he went to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
49. Hamza al Ghamdi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 28, 2001 at the age of 21. His visa application was incomplete, and he may have used a passport with fraudulent travel stamps associated with al Qaeda. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Marwan al Shehhi and three others to hijack United Airlines Flight 175 and fly it into the World Trade Center, killing 2,755 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: The CIA described him as a “devout” Muslim who attended regular prayer services before he entered. He probably came into contact with three other hijackers from his region of Saudi Arabia by 1999 and then traveled to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
50. Ahmed al Nami was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on May 28, 2001 at the age of 24. His first visa application submitted in October 2000 was incomplete, and he may have used a passport with fraudulent travel stamps associated with al Qaeda, but it was approved. After his application, he reapplied for another visa without using the first and replaced his passport to conceal travel from the INS inspectors at the U.S. airport. He traveled with Hamza al Ghamdi and Mohand al Shehri, two other 9/11 hijackers. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Ziad Jarrah and two others to hijack United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he grew up in a region of Saudi Arabia near Yemen. He radicalized at a local mosque in 1999 and dedicated himself to jihad in the spring of 2000. He promptly dropped out of college in the Spring of 2000 to go to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
51. Saeed al Ghamdi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 27, 2001 at the age of 21. His visa application was incomplete, and he was never interviewed. He used a “clean” passport to hide his earlier travels, which may have had fraudulent travel stamp. He traveled to the United States with Fayez Banihammad, another 9/11 hijacker. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Ziad Jarrah and two others to hijack United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: The CIA described him as a “devout” Muslim who attended regular prayer services. He radicalized at a local mosque in 1999 and dedicated himself to jihad in the spring of 2000. He promptly dropped out of college and traveled to Chechnya, but in the Spring of 2000 went to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
52. Ahmad al Haznawi was born in Saudi Arabia and entered the United States on a tourist visa on June 8, 2001. His visa application was incomplete, and he was not interviewed. He traveled with Wail al Shehri, another 9/11 hijacker. He may have used a passport with fraudulent travel stamps. As part of the 9/11 attacks, he helped Ziad Jarrah and two others to hijack United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 victims.
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, he grew up in the same region in Saudi Arabia as three other hijackers who he appears to have met in 1999. In March 2000, he left Saudi Arabia and went to Afghanistan where he volunteered for a suicide mission and where bin Laden personally chose him for the 9/11 attacks.
53. Richard Reid was born in the United Kingdom boarded a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001 at age 34 without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program using his British passport. When he first attempted to board a flight to Miami, French authorities caused him to miss the flight by questioning him after an airport employee became suspicious when he paid for his ticket in cash without luggage. They ultimately allowed him to board the next day. He attempted to set off an explosive hidden in his shoe, but his perspiration had damped the chemicals to such an extent that it would not light. Other passengers and crew apprehended him. In October 2002, he plead guilty to eight counts, including attempting to deploy a weapon of mass destruction (8 U.S.C. 2332a).
- Pre-entry activities: In 1992, Reid converted to Islam in a U.K. prison serving time for theft. In 1997, he associated with Zacarias Moussaoui, a French 9/11 conspirator. In 1998, London Muslims warned him about his extremist ideas. In 1999 and 2000, he traveled to terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan and had obtained multiple passports to hide his travels. During this time, he trained with Midhat Mursi, an al Qaeda bomb maker.
54. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was born in Jordan on June 5, 1990 and entered the United States on a tourist visa in 2007 at the age of 16. He overstayed his visa and moved away from his family in California to Texas. In June 2008, he married a U.S. citizen but apparently never applied for or received a green card. When he arrived in Texas, he told his friends that he had come to America because Jordan was “really strict,” and he smoked marijuana and drank alcohol. His father and friends noticed personality changes about a year before his arrest and said he became more interested in politics. In January 2009, the FBI began tracking his posts on an extremist website where he stated his desire to attack Americans. The FBI targeted him for a sting, and in September 2009, arrested him for attempting to set off a fake bomb in Dallas. He pleaded guilty in March 2010 to attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction (18 U.S.C. 2332a).
- Pre-entry activities: While in Jordan, his father, a government engineer, sent him to live with a family friend in California. In 2004, at the age of 13 or 14, Jordanian authorities jailed him briefly for “begging and theft.” In 2009, he told undercover FBI agents that he came to the United States to commit terrorism. He had no connections to terrorists or terrorist groups overseas.
55. Jubair Ahmad was born in Pakistan on July 4, 1988 and immigrated in February 2007 at the age of 19 as a legal permanent resident. He received an immigrant visa in October 2006 as a derivative of his father who received a family-based visa after 16 years waiting. He lived in Woodbridge, Virginia with his father, mother, and two brothers and worked as an electrician. In September 2010, he created a propaganda Youtube video at the request of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), the U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that carried out the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008. In the United States, he repeatedly referenced a desire to join them. The FBI identified him and arrested him in September 2011.In December 2011, he pleaded guilty to material support for terrorism (18 U.S.C. 2339B).
- Pre-entry activities: Before he immigrated, he trained with LET as a teenager in 2004 and attended their religious camps, and was denied the opportunity to complete those courses only because he was “too young and skinny.”
56. Abdinasir Mohamud Ibrahim was born in Somalia in 1975 and entered the United States as a refugee in 2007 the age of 36. In 2007, he sent $100 to his friend (“Hamza”) who was a member of al-Shabaab said he needed it to support his wife. In 2009, he received permanent residency, and in 2012, he applied for naturalization, but did not receive it. In February 2014, he was arrested to material support for a foreign terrorist organization and immigration fraud. In July 2014, he pleaded guilty.
- Pre-entry activities: In his visa application, he fraudulently claimed that he was persecuted as a member of the minority Awer clan in Somalia when, in fact, he was a member of the majority Hawiya clan that was persecuting the other clans. His family was “famous,” and his father worked for the Somali government. He was related to known Somali terrorists, including the former leader of al-Shabaab. In 1993, he had to flee Mogadishu due to U.S. airstrikes, and in 1994, he went to Kenya. In order to gain admission to the refugee camp, he lied about his clan affiliation. He befriended Hamza since 1996, and in about 2006, Hamza joined al Shabaab. Almost immediately after Ibrahim’s arrival in the United States in 2007, Hamza asked him for support.
57. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed was born in Kuwait in 1982 to Egyptian parents and entered in January 2007 at the age of 24 on a student visa. He “reflected a virulent anti-American attitude on repeated occasions” throughout his time in the United States. His landlady reported that he expressed hatred for “stupid Americans” and U.S. law. In August 2007, he uploaded a video to Youtube showing how to deconstruct a remote control car to create a device to detonate a bomb. He was arrested in August 2007 during a traffic stop by South Carolina police. He had materials to make a bomb in his trunk and intended to produce videos depicting how to attach bombs to remote controlled cars. He had attempted to purchase a .22 rifle from Walmart but was denied because he had no evidence of permanent residency. He pleaded guilty to material support for terrorists (18 U.S.C. 2339A). At sentencing, the government stated that he “used his admission to the United States in order to focus his attention on gathering information about explosives and acquiring components in this country to construct explosives to cause harm within this country.”
- Pre-entry activities: On his visa application, he admitted to having been “arrested or convicted”—an incident later identified to be an arrest in 2003 in Egypt when he was held in custody for four months supposedly on “terrorism-related charges.” His laptop contained dozens of violent images and statements against the United States. He had admitted to firing guns overseas. The government said, “We know little of the defendant’s contacts with law enforcement prior to his entry into the United States other than what he has reported.”
58. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was born in Saudi Arabia in April 1990 and entered the United States in September 2008 at the age of 18 on a student visa. He attended an English as a second language program from October 2008 to August 2009 and then attended Texas Tech University from August 2009 to January 2011 majoring in chemical engineering. He then moved to South Plains College. In March 2010, Aldawsari posted a blog post stating that he wanted “martyrdom” and asked God to “make Jihad easy for me.” In December 2010, he ordered 30 liters of nitric acid and three gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid from a chemical company, which reported the suspicious purchase to the FBI. He researched how to construct bombs and locations to target, including hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. He considered using a baby doll to conceal the bomb. In 2011, the FBI arrested him, and he was convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (8 U.S.C. 2332a).
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, Aldawsari received a scholarship to study in the United States from a Saudi company. He wrote in his journal that “I excelled in my studies in high school in order to take advantage of the opportunity for a scholarship in America… providing me with the support I need for Jihad. And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target Americans, it is time for jihad.” He said that 9/11 inspired him.
59. Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab was born in Nigeria in 1986 and entered the United States on a multi-entry tourist visa in August 2008. In 2004, he also received a U.S. visa, but it’s unclear if he used it. In 2008, he attended a two-week Islamic seminar in Houston and then left the country. In May 2009, Britain denied him a visa to study at a fictitious university and placed him on watch list, but did not tell any U.S. agency. In October 2009, he travelled to Yemen supposedly to study, but instead, he dropped out of school, overstayed his student visa, and met with Anwar al-Awlaki, a major al-Qaeda leader, who helped him find a bomb. In November 2009, father reported his son as a suspected extremist to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, and the State Department watchlisted him, but another intelligence agency told it not to revoke his visa because they thought he would lead them to a larger conspiracy. On December 25, 2009, he boarded a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit and proceeded to attempt to light an explosive hidden in his underwear, but it failed to ignite, and he was apprehended. In October 2011, he pleaded guilty to all charges.
- Pre-entry activities: His father who reported him is a Nigerian banker, one of the wealthiest men in Africa. As a teenager in 2001, he defended 9/11 and the Taliban. In 2005, he attended lectures from Awlaki in person while studying Arabic in Yemen. From 2005 to 2008, he attended college in London and earned a master’s degree. During this time, he routinely posted musing online under pseudonym about jihad, and he was in conversations with “known extremists” in London. When he applied for his U.S. visa in London in 2008, the embassy found “no derogatory information.”
60. Waad Ramadan Alwan was born in Iraq in 1979 and immigrated to Kentucky as a refugee in April 2009 at the age of 30. In 2009, the FBI investigated him due to an “intelligence tip” and reran his fingerprints, discovering that the Defense Department entered them into the Iraqi fingerprint database after U.S. soldiers found them on an unexploded IED in 2005. In 2009, the FBI targeted Alwan and another Iraqi Mohanad Hammadi with a sting operation in which he agreed to send money and weapons to Iraqi insurgents. The FBI then arrested Alwan. He pleaded guilty to, among other things, acquiring missile systems designed to destroy aircraft and using a weapon of mass destruction, international.
- Pre-entry activities: From 2003 to 2006, Alwan participated in the insurgency in Iraq. The Iraqi forces had arrested Alwan in 2006 and confessed on video to being an insurgent. He said that he had conducted hundreds of IED attacks. In 2007, he fled to Syria.
61. Mohanad Shareef Hammadi was born in Iraq in 1989 and entered the United States in July 2009 as a refugee through a UN referral at the age of 20. He originally lived in Nevada but then moved to Kentucky to work at Perdue plant. He adjusted to permanent residency in December 2011. In January 2011, Waad Alwan who also lived in Kentucky recruited Hammadi to aid him in smuggling money and weapons from the United States to Iraq as part of an FBI sting operation. Hammadi contributed money to the purchase of weapons that he believed would go to terrorist in Iraq, and during conversations with the FBI informant, he stated a desire to conduct attacks inside the United States, including against an army captain. In 2011, the FBI arrested him, and he pleaded guilty to material support for a terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. 2339B).
- Pre-entry activities: In Iraq, Hammadi was an insurgent who had placed roadside bombs. He was arrested in Iraq, bribed his way out of jail, and then fled the country to Syria, receiving refugee status from the United States.
62. Fazliddin Kurbanov was born in Uzbekistan in 1982 and entered the United States as a refugee in 2009 at the age of 27. He came with spouse and children and lived in Idaho, working as a truck driver. In early 2012, he wrote online of his support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a foreign terrorist organization. Starting in July 2012, he conspired to send software and money to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a foreign terrorist organization. His communications revealed that he knew many people in common with his IMU contacts, including schools and neighborhoods, and that he had sought the overthrow of the Uzbek government. He bought bullets to acquire gunpowder to build an explosive for U.S. targets and made instructional videos on how to build bombs. In May 2013, the FBI arrested him, and a jury convicted him of providing material support for a designated foreign terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. 2339B).
- Pre-entry activities: Before he entered, his parents and sister converted to Christianity in Uzbekistan, which resulted in persecution. He fled the country with them, receiving refugee status by virtue of his relationship to them. During his time in the United States, he said that 9/11 “was great then!” He also claimed that he radicalized in response to a rape of a Muslim girl by a U.S. soldier, the only such case to make headlines occurred in 2006 in Iraq. The prosecutions occurred from 2006 to May 2009, the year that Kurbanov entered. Not much else is available on his pre-entry activities, but his various contacts with IMU after entry suggests pre-entry contacts.
63. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was born in Bangladesh in 1991 and entered the United States in January 2012 on a student visa at the age of 20. He went to Southeast Missouri State University but flunked out in one semester and moved to Albany, New York to live with his uncle and work. He then moved to Queens, New York. After seeking out help online with a plot to attack the United States in July 2012, he encountered an undercover FBI agent who asked him about his plans. The agent agreed to help him obtain materials for a bomb, and Nafis assembled the fake materials and attempted to detonate them in front of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. In October 2012, the FBI arrested him, and he pleaded guilty to attempting use a weapon of mass destruction.
- Pre-entry activities: Nafis is the son of a banker in Bangladesh. He said he came with the intent of carrying out an attack, stating that “jihad” is the only reason other than preaching to travel to America—something he now contests—but he still admits that in October 2011, just months before he entered, he began studying al Qaeda teachings after the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. He specifically read Awlaki’s “44 Ways of Supporting Jihad.”
64. Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan was born in Sudan in 1990 and entered the United States as a legal permanent resident on June 1, 2012 at the age of 22. His mother who had lived in the United States since 2009 sponsored him for a green card. She died soon after his arrival. While in Virginia, Elhassan attended Northern Virginia Community College and worked as a cab driver and at Starbucks. In the summer of 2014, he started a friendship with an ISIS supporter. At one point, he expressed a desire to be a sleeper cell. In January 2016, he drove this friend in his cab to the airport so that he could fly to Jordan and join ISIS. In May 2016, the FBI arrested him, and he pleaded guilty to material support for a terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. 2339B).
- Pre-entry activities: Growing up, his father was a goldsmith. In 1999, he moved with his family to Egypt. The government concluded that he “was radicalized towards violent jihad either before he arrived or shortly after arriving in the United States,” but on Facebook in 2013, Elhassan stated that in 2009, he “wanted to work for Sami Osmacak,” an U.S.-based extremist convicted of a terrorism offense in 2014.
Tashfeen Malik, born in Pakistan in 1986, immigrated to California on a K-1 temporary visa for spouses and fiancés in July 2014 at the age of 28 and then became a lawful permanent resident a year later. Syed Rizwan Farook, a U.S. citizen, had married her the year before. She gave birth to a child in the United States in the spring of 2015. On December 2, 2015, she and Farook drove to his workplace in San Bernardino, California, shooting and killing 14 people. Later that day, police killed both of them in a shootout.
- Pre-entry activities: Malik lived in Saudi Arabia for most of her life, but attended college in Pakistan from 2007 to 2014. In 2013, after meeting her online, U.S.-born citizen Syed Rizwan Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet her in person, and they were married a year later in Saudi Arabia. As far back as 2012, she sent private Facebook messages to Pakistani friends expressing support for ISIS. She also exchanged private messages with Farook about their mutual support for terrorism. Farook considered terrorist attacks before meeting Malik as well. Passport stamps were submitted as proof that the couple met in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, and while the Malik’s exit date was illegible, the administration insisted that Saudi Arabia confirmed that she was in the country at the same time with Farook. Despite claims that she submitted a false address, the State Department determined that she was truthful. The administration stated that she met “all the requirements” to receive a visa, and “background checks did not reveal any derogatory information.”
"Vague laws invite arbitrary power."
That's the opening line and general theme of Justice Neil Gorsuch's concurring opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, announced today. In this case, Justice Gorsuch joined the Court's four "liberals" in a 5-4 decision holding unconstitutional a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which renders deportable any alien convicted of an "aggravated felony." This statutory phrase is defined to include a "crime of violence," which itself is defined to include both crimes where use or threat of force is an element, as well as "any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense." It was this last provision -- the "residual clause" of the statute -- that was at issue in the case. The majority held that this abstract definition was "impermissibly vague," and thus a violation of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause.
In his separate opinion, Justice Gorsuch gave a detailed analysis of the history and legal foundations of the void-for-vagueness doctrine (largely in response to Justice Thomas, who questioned the propriety of this constitutional doctrine both here and in a similar prior case, Johnson v. United States). His concurrence argues that courts must review and strike down unconstitutionally vague statutes, not just to ensure fair notice to potential defendants, but also to enforce the separation of powers between the branches of government:
Under the Constitution, the adoption of new laws restricting liberty is supposed to be a hard business, the product of an open and public debate among a large and diverse number of elected representatives. Allowing the legislature to hand off the job of lawmaking risks substituting this design for one where legislation is made easy, with a mere handful of unelected judges and prosecutors free to “condem[n] all that [they] personally disapprove and for no better reason than [they] disapprove it.”
Justice Gorsuch also made clear that subjecting vague statutes to meaningful judicial review is equally important in civil cases, where penalties are often at least as harsh as they are under the criminal law:
[I]f the severity of the consequences counts when deciding the standard of review, shouldn’t we also take account of the fact that today’s civil laws regularly impose penalties far more severe than those found in many criminal statutes? Ours is a world filled with more and more civil laws bearing more and more extravagant punishments. Today’s “civil” penalties include confiscatory rather than compensatory fines, forfeiture provisions that allow homes to be taken, remedies that strip persons of their professional licenses and livelihoods, and the power to commit persons against their will indefinitely. Some of these penalties are routinely imposed and are routinely graver than those associated with misdemeanor crimes—and often harsher than the punishment for felonies.
This analysis obviously has implications reaching far beyond the immigration context, and is encouraging for those concerned with overcriminalization and arbitrary law enforcement in general. Justice Gorsuch correctly notes that "[p]erhaps the most basic of due process's customary protections is the demand of fair notice." But today, we have so many criminal laws that it's impossible to even count them all: at the federal level alone, we estimate that there are about 4500 criminal statutes, and around 300,000 regulatory crimes -- many of which do not involve inherently wrongful conduct and lack any "mens rea" requirement (that is, you can be found guilty even if you had no idea you were acting unlawfully). Who could possibly claim that such a system gives the ordinary citizen "fair notice" of the conduct for which they can be punished?
This degree of overcriminalization also places enormous unchecked power in the hands of law enforcement and prosecutors. As Justice Gorsuch recognized, vague and expansive laws "invite the exercise of arbitrary power . . . by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up." The staggering breadth of substantive criminalization today means that almost everyone is a criminal, whether they know it or not. If police and prosecutors are inclined to go after you, there's almost certainly something they can find -- whether or not that conduct is genuinely wrongful or harmful.
On the whole, Justice Gorsuch's opinion in this case is an encouraging sign that he's aware of and attuned to this set of concerns. Hopefully the newest member of the Court will continue to apply this level of exacting review to vague and arbitrary statutes across the board.