A Palestinian woman, who became a naturalized American citizen, concealed her conviction in Israel for her role in perpetrating two terrorist bombings resulting in her being charged with immigration fraud, said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade in Detroit, Mich., on Tuesday.
Federal law enforcement agents arrested Rasmieh Yousef Odeh at her Evergreen Park residence in Chicago after the unsealing of an indictment filed in federal court in Detroit. The indictment charges her with unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship.
The federal indictment alleges that the 66-year-old Odeh had been imprisoned in Israel for her role in the 1969 terrorist bombing of a supermarket and the subsequent bombing of the British Consulate in Jerusalem, both of which she helped perpetrate for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization by both the U.S. State and Treasury Departments.
According to the indictment, Odeh and others placed multiple bombs in a supermarket and at the British Consulate. One of the bombs placed at the supermarket detonated, killing two and wounding several others. The bomb placed at the United Kingdom Consulate while causing structural damage to the facility, resulted in no casualties.
Odeh was sentenced by an Israeli military court to life imprisonment but was released after serving only 10 years in 1980 as part of a prisoner exchange. Upon release she then returned to the Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
The federal indictment alleges that in 1995, she immigrated to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 2004. Odeh's immigration documents filed in the United States omitted her arrest, conviction, and imprisonment overseas, which were material facts for the U.S. government in determining whether to allow to become a citizen.
“The United States will never be a safe haven for individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts,” said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit. “When individuals lie on immigration documents, the system is severely undermined and the security of our nation is put at risk.”
But this case causes many security experts to question the effectiveness of the nation's system for weeding out perspective citizenship applicants who may have terrorist or criminal backgrounds. "One can only wonder how many other people who achieved U.S. citizenship have committed terrorist or criminal acts in their countries of origin," notes former police detective and intelligence officer Mike Snopes.
If convicted of the charge, Odeh will be stripped of her American citizenship and may be sentenced to serve a prison term of up to 10 years, according to law enforcement officials.