The first waves of western “evacuees” from Lebanon have begun arriving in the United States and Europe, raising serious–and legitimate–questions about how many Hizballah operatives might be in their midst.

As Diana West and Debbie Schlussel have noted, while the returnees carry U.S. or European passports, many have lived in Lebanon or the Middle East for much of their lives. And, their allegiances are clearly with Hizballah. As Ms. West observed in today’s Washington Times, the large Shia community in the Dearborn, Michigan area celebrates Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon as a “liberation day,” and support for the terrorist organization runs deep. Never mind the fact that Hizballah was responsible for murdering more Americans than any other terrorist group before 9-11. And never mind (as the Counterterrorism blog reminds us) that Hizballah has long history of illict activities in this country, designed to facilitate their murderous goals.

Against this backdrop, thousands of American expats are returning to this country, yet no one has publicly asked the most essential question: what–if anything–is being done to identify potential terrorist operatives and facilitators that may be among them. The MSM carefully focuses its coverage on evacuees that were apparently trapped by sudden events–such as the young mother who went to Lebanon to adopt a son, only to find herself in the middle of a war zone. We hear nothing about Americans who have elected to live in Hizballah enclaves, may have “joined the cause,” and are willing to further the jihad upon reaching their homeland. Thanks to Ms. West, we know that the British Home Office is screening evacuees en route to the U.K., but (to my knowledge) the Bush Administration hasn’t said a word about our own security precautions. In a post-9-11 world, we have the right to know what being done (or, perhaps what isn’t being done) to protect our safety.

Most of us are familiar with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but few have heard that thousands of German-Americans and Italian-Americans suffered a similar fate, highlighting the fact that the program was much more extensive, and not restricted to a single ethnic group. Of course, the internment is now viewed as a dark chapter in U.S. history; American citizens, being denied basic rights because of their ancestry. But while many–particulary Japanese-Americans–were treated unfairly, the passage of time (and revisionist history) ignores the valid security concerns which provided the foundation for the policy.

At this point, I’m not proposing the prolonged internment of American evacuees returning from Lebanon. But profiling techniques should be used on the returnees, to help identify those which might pose the greatest risk. And, those evacuees should be placed in some sort of detention facility until they can be fully screened and carefully vetted. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration shows no sign (at least publicly) of taking such an aggressive stand. While profiling works, political correctness has made it a dirty word. And the ACLU would file suit at the mere suggestion that high-risk returnees might be detained.

The administration’s timidity in such matters was on display earlier this week. When the evacuation from Lebanon began, the State Department suggested that returnees pay the equivalent of an airline ticket from Beirut to Cyprus (roughly $150), to help offset the massive costs of the air and sealift operations. When the evacuees and civil liberties groups objected, the administration quickly backed down. If the White House and Foggy Bottom are willing to retreat on such a trivial matter as the “return fee,” how can we expect them to make the really hard choices in screening–and if necessary, detaining–evacuees who may pose a genuine security threat.