• U.S.

Lexicon: Clean-skin terrorist

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DEFINITION clean-skin ter•ror•ist n. A potential attacker with a spotless record whose documents don’t arouse suspicion

CONTEXT U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a British newspaper that the U.S. fears its next major terrorist attack could be carried out by “clean-skin terrorists” in Europe who feel they are treated as second-class citizens. He warned that the visa-waiver program, which allows citizens from some European countries to enter the U.S. without a visa, could be an open door for the terrorists.

USAGE The term clean-skin, once used to describe drug traffickers without a record, morphed in the late 1990s to characterize potential terrorists who weren’t on any watch lists. But several have already proved their deadly capabilities: the British government classified the four July 2005 London train bombers as clean-skins. Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber, was a clean-skin as well. Following the London transit attacks, Britain began to crack down on the threat by doubling its élite police antiterrorist squad and stepping up efforts to recruit spies within Muslim communities.

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