Spain dismantles jihadist passport theft ring

December 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Your stolen passport may be a jihadi’s ticket into a Western country. “Spain Dismantles Passport Ring For Islamic Cells Abroad,” by David Roman for Dow Jones Newswires, December 1 (thanks to Twostellas):

MADRID -(Dow Jones)- Spanish police arrested seven men in Barcelona, suspected of stealing passports for radical Islamic cells in Thailand and Pakistan, and collaborating with the group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the country’s Interior ministry said Wednesday.

The suspects, six Pakistanis and one Nigerian, are believed to be part of a European network that allegedly obtained passports to be forged in Thailand. The passports were later distributed to cells including Al Qaeda, Pakistan’s Lashkar e Taiba-which carried out the Mumbai attacks, killing 175-and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, the ministry said in a statement….

According to Spanish police, the group allegedly stole large amounts of foreign passports from tourists in Spain-practically all in or around Barcelona-over the 18-month period during which the group was under surveillance. The thefts were allegedly requested by the Thailand-based head of the group, who asked for passports with specific nationalities and age brackets.

Jihad Watch

Passport Snobbery

December 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Glenn Reynolds points this quote from James Lileks in National Review captured by Michael Greenspan (presumably from the print edition, as it’s not currently showing in the search engines elsewhere):

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, leader of the Bloomberg faction of the Bloomberg party, was interviewed en route to China, where he was seeking to open diplomatic ties between Cathay and the colorful principality he governs. A quote: “If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate — they can’t read. I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports.”

Brace yourselves! We’re about to be governed by provincial illiterates. For folk like Mike, the Magic Passport possesses liberating qualities; running your fingers over its stiff blue cover makes you think of stepping off a plane, shorn of the thick sopping wool of America, ready for an experience that will add depthless wisdom to your perception of the world. They drive on the other side of the road! They have tiny cups of coffee! Salad comes after the main meal! These globe hoppers believe that someone who’s been to all 50 states is less informed than someone who lives on the Upper East Side all year except for a trip to Cannes. If a passport were required to go west of the Hudson, these people would be proud they didn’t have one.

I’ve had my own passport since graduating college and was on my mother’s passport from the time I was in diapers.  Because my dad was in the Army and I followed suit, I’ve lived abroad many times, for stretches of years at a time.  And I go overseas now and again on business and for pleasure.   So, I’m actually rather sympathetic to Bloomberg’s snide remark here.   I’m rather suspicious of people who have the means to travel, as most people who can get elected to national office do, who don’t avail themselves of the opportunity.

It’s not because there’s something magical about exposure to the quirks and customs of other cultures that transforms you into a better, wiser person.   It’s just that there’s a certain provincialism that surrounds populist politicians and those who are attracted to them.   And traveling widely — whether on the great continental landmass that Americans live on our across national borders and oceans — tends to not only break down said provincialism but demonstrates a curiosity about the world around you that is a vital characteristic for national leaders.

But Lileks’ snide retort to Bloomberg’s snide remark contains an important corollary:  Jetting between New York, Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona and keeping company with people just like you can reinforce provincialism rather than breaking it down.

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