ANNAPOLIS – The terrorists who hijacked four planes, flying them into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and a field outside Pittsburgh on Sept. 11, may have lived undetected among Americans for a long time before completing their mission, and that scares some Maryland business owners.
The manager of a Laurel motel where five suspects stayed, doesn’t want to take the chance that a terrorist might show up at his door asking for a job.
Valencia Motel and Efficiencies will require all employees undergo criminal background checks.
“You don’t know who you’re getting anymore,” said the manager, who declined to give his name.
Employers can run criminal background checks on all their employees, but that won’t help them root out terrorists, said Ann Harrison, principal of Criminal USA, a private investigating company based in Denver.
Even so, Harrison expects the number of employer requests for criminal background checks to increase dramatically soon because of last week’s attacks.
She already completes thousands of requests each month.
“There’s this panic reaction to do something,” said Harrison, however, “the problem with terrorists is that they’re elusive.”
The business at McCook Associates Investigations in White Plains, Md., hasn’t increased, but investigator Cindy Baumann, said, “If there was an increase . . . I’m going to say that people are just plain cautious. I think people are very protective and unsure of others.”
An increase in background investigation requests might suggest that employers want to know where people live and who their relatives are to see if there’s any connection with known terrorists, said Baumann.
PeopleSearch.com, another investigating company based in West Hartford, Conn., received some unusual requests concerning foreigners after the hijackings, said president Guy Fimonian.
“There’s a general feeling of a lack of security,” said Fimonian, who saw a slight decline in business last week, which he attributed to people being preoccupied with the attacks. However, he expects business to pick up.
A criminal background check will not reveal if a person is a crime suspect or if the person is on the National Crime Information Center’s terrorist list. This information is not public record.
Such a records check will reveal criminal charges or convictions and arrest dates.
If an agency or the police ran a criminal background check on Osama bin Laden, for example, most likely a clean record would turn up because he has never been convicted of a crime in the United States, said Harrison.
The terrorists who hijacked the planes probably did not have a U.S. criminal history either, Harrison added.
“Most likely these people would have slipped through the cracks,” she said.
The only way a background check might raise a red flag is if the person was using a false Social Security number, one that had never been issued or one already issued to someone else, said Lloyd Davis, owner of Davis Investigative Services in Waldorf.
All employers should conduct criminal background checks as a safety precaution to make sure they are hiring who they think they are, said Sgt. T. O. Rouse, public affairs officer for the Maryland State Police.
To run a background check, the person’s name, address, birth date, Social Security number, official photo identification and fingerprints are needed. In Maryland, the requestor must appear in person to ask for a background check. State police charge $23 for this service. While Rouse agreed background checks won’t expose terrorists, he added: “It’s a good policy period . . . Let’s not forget about the rapists and murderers.” So far, state police have not noticed an increase in criminal background requests.
– 30 – CNS 09-20-01