Mosab Hassan Yousef is a best-selling author who wrote “Son of Hamas” about his life as a Palestinian who became an informant for Israeli intelligence. He’s probably near the top of every Islamist terror hit list, yet, incredibly enough, the U.S. may soon deport him as a terror threat.
In 2007, Mr. Yousef came to the United States, where he converted to Christianity from Islam and applied for political asylum. The request was denied in February 2009, Mr. Yousef says, on grounds that he was potentially “a danger to the security of the United States” and had “engaged in terrorist activity.” His case has automatically proceeded to the deportation stage, and on June 30 at 8 a.m. he will appear before Judge Rico Bartolomei in Homeland Security Immigration Court in San Diego.
Homeland Security is well aware of the author’s history, and in fact is using it against him. According to Mr. Yousef, a letter from Homeland Security attorney Kerri Calcador cites passages in “Son of Hamas” as evidence of his connection to terrorist leaders and suggests that the work he did for Hamas while spying for Israel provided aid to terrorists. “At a bare minimum, evidence of the respondent’s transport of Hamas members to safe houses . . . indicates that the respondent provided material support to a terrorist organization,” the U.S. lawyer wrote.
But unless Ms. Calcador knows more than she’s saying, this is bizarre. As a spy for Israel, Mr. Yousef had to make his colleagues believe he was a loyal member of Hamas. He used that trust to gain information that he provided to Israeli intelligence, which used it to prevent terror attacks and save lives. One of Mr. Yousef’s handlers at Shin Bet confirmed his book’s account to the Israeli daily Haaretz, and his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has disowned him from the Israeli prison he has occupied since 2005. (See our Weekend Interview with the younger Yousef, “They Need to Be Liberated From Their God,” March 6, 2010.)
The problem seems to be that, under a provision of U.S. immigration law, anyone who is shown to have provided “material support” for terrorist organizations is automatically denied asylum. In the relentless way that bureaucracy works, this is being interpreted as leaving little discretion for deserving exceptions like the case of Mr. Yousef. In some cases Homeland Security does have the power to issue a waiver of this “no admission” rule—an option that was not exercised before Mr. Yousef’s asylum was denied.
If Mr. Yousef were a security threat, you’d expect that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would have found reason to detain him. Yet he remains free to travel and even to hit the book-selling circuit. A senior government official tells us that Homeland Security will “not be mounting a stiff defense” of the 2009 decision to deny him asylum, which is at least one burst of common sense.
Mr. Yousef is a native of the West Bank, which is where he would presumably return if he is deported and where Hamas would immediately seek to kill him. Under the Convention Against Torture, the U.S. has an international treaty obligation not to return people to countries where their lives would be at risk. That concern stopped the return to China of the Uighers at Guantanamo, and rightly so. It would dishonor the U.S. to deport a convert in the war on terror because our immigration bureaucracy is too obtuse to make even life and death distinctions.