Are Terrorists Coming Through the Southern Border—or Not?

 

It’s nearly impossible to get a straight story about whether terrorists are coming through the southern border. I thought I’d explain the reasons for the difficulty, and why the lack of transparency might be a serious problem for our country.

Part of the problem in getting accurate information, as described in The Federalist, is due to our government’s unwillingness to publicize anything that assists the terrorists, so they label the information classified or “in line with standard practice to protect ongoing investigations and operations.”

According to Todd Bensman who works for the Center for Immigration Studies, there actually is some coordination in catching suspects:

American, Panamanian, and Costa Rican law enforcement and intelligence officials are engaged in actual programs here to hunt, investigate, and deport real terrorist suspects who are, in fact, discovered among the thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and South Asia funneling through this section of Latin America—as President Trump said and as I saw and heard on the ground.

Please note, however, that these “terrorist suspects” are deported, because they haven’t committed a crime. Also, CIS reported that 100 migrants were caught either in the US or en route, because they were on the US terror watch lists.

Unfortunately, Costa Rica and Panama have a catch, rest, and release policy called “Controlled Flow”; that’s correct—they can stay in camps to rest, before they are released. Many of those coming into Panama make their goals clear: they’re on their way to the US. That suits Panama just fine.

Efforts are made by Panama to shut down information leaking out about the presence of terrorists. After six terrorists were deported, the reasons weren’t publicized:

But Juan Carlos, political editor for La Prensa newspaper in Panama City, said his paper was told the Pakistanis were arrested on suspicions that they were associated with al Qaeda and after they were seen taking photos of sensitive sites around the city, including the Panama Canal.

‘The government closed out all information about that news,’ the journalist said, adding that this wasn’t the only such case. ‘Other (terrorism suspect) cases were shut down too. So officially, we have no news to report.’

The US continues to implement programs, such as “Bitmap” which trains Panamanians and Costa Ricans to collect retinal scans, fingerprints and facial photographs, and submit it to the US. The information is run against international terrorism databases.

We can add this to our list of “other border protection strategies.”

Senator Ron DeSantis ran on a platform that included terrorism as a growing threat, but no data was supplied. A report from the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2015 was cited in an article from the Houston Chronicle (which they supposedly had obtained improperly) and provided some alarming numbers:

Along with human traffickers, drug-cartel and gang members, law enforcement personnel in recent years had several run-ins with so-called “special interest aliens.” These are people coming into the United States from 35 Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries associated with terrorist groups.

Texas reported 439 cases of people from these countries — including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan and Syria — either caught crossing the border or presenting themselves at ports of entry without permission to enter.

Since this information wasn’t willingly provided to the public, skeptics abound regarding the seriousness of the terror threat.

Here’s how I see the problem about the potential for terrorist acts by dangerous players crossing the border:

  • The public has no ready access to information about terrorists trying to come through the border illegally, so there is no sense of urgency to protect the border.
  • As long as “potential terrorists” are identified through the watch lists, but have not committed crimes (since they are often sent home before they cross the border), they can’t be arrested.
  • If a terrorist is not on a watch list and has no identification, he will likely not be apprehended.
  • The vitriol towards Trump discourages many from the Left and Right from helping his cause for the wall.

Since there’s been no terrorist attack recently in this country, the Democrats in particular see this as a political fight, not one of national security.

When Kirstjen Nielsen tried to present the latest Homeland Security information on the border at a briefing session, she was shouted down by Nancy Pelosi. Clearly Ms. Pelosi has no sense of urgency.

The safety and security of this country, particularly regarding terrorist acts, are in a precarious state.

There are 18 comments.

  1. Jager Member

    Great piece. You have a lot of good information.

    My problem is that what we can discuss is limited to what we know. How many people of what political or criminal bent sneak in that we don’t know about. Anything and any one could be here because we don’t have full control of the border.

    • #1
    • January 3, 2019, at 4:51 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jager (View Comment):

    Great piece. You have a lot of good information.

    My problem is that what we can discuss is limited to what we know. How many people of what political or criminal bent sneak in that we don’t know about. Anything and any one could be here because we don’t have full control of the border.

    Precisely my point, @jager. At least a wall would provide some assurance. Otherwise, we’re in the dark, and people don’t believe what Trump has been saying. 

    • #2
    • January 3, 2019, at 5:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Quietpi Member

    I think we have a much too narrow image of a terrorist. True, we haven’t had a mass murder – type Islamist terror attack in some time. But MS-13 moves in and out at will. And they’re a big deal. They’re just one. So are the drug traffickers and their enforcers.

    • #3
    • January 3, 2019, at 5:18 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    I think we have a much too narrow image of a terrorist. True, we haven’t had a mass murder – type Islamist terror attack in some time. But MS-13 moves in and out at will. And they’re a big deal. They’re just one. So are the drug traffickers and their enforcers.

    You’re absolutely right, @quietpi. They all can seriously hurt this country and damage security. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what in the world the Dems are thinking; can this all really be about politics?? I heard someone the other night who said that drones aren’t going to stop a caravan–no kidding. And I get especially angry when they say, “Walls are 19th century, and they don’t work!” Tell that to Israel.

    • #4
    • January 3, 2019, at 5:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. WI Con Member

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    I think we have a much too narrow image of a terrorist. True, we haven’t had a mass murder – type Islamist terror attack in some time. But MS-13 moves in and out at will. And they’re a big deal. They’re just one. So are the drug traffickers and their enforcers.

    I worry about both groups inevitably working together and sharing networks/safe-houses, weapons suppliers, money launderers, etc.

    That we’re even still having this conversation with this amount of uncertainty after the trillions spent and thousand of lives lost after 9/11 is disgusting.

    • #5
    • January 3, 2019, at 5:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    WI Con (View Comment):

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    I think we have a much too narrow image of a terrorist. True, we haven’t had a mass murder – type Islamist terror attack in some time. But MS-13 moves in and out at will. And they’re a big deal. They’re just one. So are the drug traffickers and their enforcers.

    I worry about both groups inevitably working together and sharing networks/safe-houses, weapons suppliers, money launderers, etc.

    That we’re even still having this conversation with this amount of uncertainty after the trillions spent and thousand of lives lost after 9/11 is disgusting.

    I worry, too. How quickly we forget .

    • #6
    • January 3, 2019, at 5:58 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Franco Member

    All great points. I simply do not understand why we shouldn’t be spending billions for a wall, a moat, and whatever else needed. We spend 700 billion on defense, much of which are for bases overseas in foreign lands. How much do we spend on the TSA? How much productivity is lost because of the extra hours we all have to spend holding our pants up barefoot? And we have no real border security? 

    We are in a media war. Trump works hard at making news, and the press works hard at covering it up, but I’m beginning to believe this issue will come to dominate the cycle, and then the American people will start to ‘get it’ and the Dems will have to cave on the wall funding.

    Our foreign aid alone is over 50 billion! These are yearly expenditures. A wall is a one-time investment with some maintenance costs.

    • #7
    • January 3, 2019, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Rodin Member

    When Democrats opposed the wall because “it is a waste of money on something that will not be effective” I either spit my coffee or choke. When did Democrats want to be financially responsible? When did Democrats worry about whether any expenditure was effective?

    • #8
    • January 3, 2019, at 7:16 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. wilber forge Member

    To address this topic, simply look to the current events in the UK and the rest of Europe and consider their Open Minded approach to migration under the not so Velvet Fist of EU demands. The simple body counts belie the State Media propoganda we find on our daily plates server up by those that refuse to take responsibility for their Noble Intentions.

    Common Sense has become the real enemy, we are and will be advised under penalty.

    Also not Terrorists do not appear to target those in power here, for that never was or is the intention, Patience here is not virtue here.

     

    • #9
    • January 3, 2019, at 9:29 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    President Trump has been especially good at lifting the curtain, letting the American people see the players as they really are. This paragraph is an excellent example:

    When Kirstjen Nielsen tried to present the latest Homeland Security information on the border at a briefing session, she was shouted down by Nancy Pelosi. Clearly Ms. Pelosi has no sense of urgency.

    • #10
    • January 3, 2019, at 10:58 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Franco (View Comment):

    All great points. I simply do not understand why we shouldn’t be spending billions for a wall, a moat, and whatever else needed. We spend 700 billion on defense, much of which are for bases overseas in foreign lands. How much do we spend on the TSA? How much productivity is lost because of the extra hours we all have to spend holding our pants up barefoot? And we have no real border security?

    We are in a media war. Trump works hard at making news, and the press works hard at covering it up, but I’m beginning to believe this issue will come to dominate the cycle, and then the American people will start to ‘get it’ and the Dems will have to cave on the wall funding.

    Our foreign aid alone is over 50 billion! These are yearly expenditures. A wall is a one-time investment with some maintenance costs.

    Yes. Call it a “drug-prevention wall,” Call it a “child protection wall.” Say yes to protecting our children from drugs, say yes to preventing Latin American children from dying in the desert!

    • #11
    • January 3, 2019, at 11:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. I Walton Member

    Susan. You’re becoming one of the best journalists out there. Great piece. Thanks.

     Regarding the wall itself. It’s more important as a symbol than as a barrier, that is why the Democrats oppose it. It can’t stop drugs and we shouldn’t use that argument, but it will slow down the mobs of illegals which will always include some really bad dudes, some of whom will be part or become part of the drug economy. The wall mostly tells the world we’re back in charge of our border, but it must be accompanied by a national id system and seriousness. Our politicians aren’t serious that’s why we can’t fix this problem that has always existed but has gotten much worse since we killed seasonal worker visas. If our neighboring countries believe that we’re serious there will be fewer people going to them whose ultimate objective is the US and they will slow down the flow as well. They are everywhere and include Chinese, Indians, middle easterners some of whom finally settle in South America but even these become conduits for family and people from their local villages. Is there data? Probably not. You see them when you live there, go to Chinese or Indian restaurants and shops, and talk to them. I don’t think we should give up on the wall nor let the Democrats off the hook. I think the President has the rhetoric about Democrats wanting open borders, and not valuing the rule of law correct because it’s true.

    • #12
    • January 4, 2019, at 4:03 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    All great points. I simply do not understand why we shouldn’t be spending billions for a wall, a moat, and whatever else needed. We spend 700 billion on defense, much of which are for bases overseas in foreign lands. How much do we spend on the TSA? How much productivity is lost because of the extra hours we all have to spend holding our pants up barefoot? And we have no real border security?

    We are in a media war. Trump works hard at making news, and the press works hard at covering it up, but I’m beginning to believe this issue will come to dominate the cycle, and then the American people will start to ‘get it’ and the Dems will have to cave on the wall funding.

    Our foreign aid alone is over 50 billion! These are yearly expenditures. A wall is a one-time investment with some maintenance costs.

    I hope you’re right, @Franco. I’m concerned that the media so dominate that the public will be blinded by the lies. (Good to see you! )

    • #13
    • January 4, 2019, at 4:41 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Rodin (View Comment):

    When Democrats opposed the wall because “it is a waste of money on something that will not be effective” I either spit my coffee or choke. When did Democrats want to be financially responsible? When did Democrats worry about whether any expenditure was effective?

    Even better, what proof do they have that it won’t work? ?

    • #14
    • January 4, 2019, at 4:43 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    President Trump has been especially good at lifting the curtain, letting the American people see the players as they really are. This paragraph is an excellent example:

    When Kirstjen Nielsen tried to present the latest Homeland Security information on the border at a briefing session, she was shouted down by Nancy Pelosi. Clearly Ms. Pelosi has no sense of urgency.

    Excellent point! We need more of those moments !

    • #15
    • January 4, 2019, at 4:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Franco Member

    It’s pretty obvious to me that the Democrats want to deprive Trump of a key campaign promise to better position themselves for 2020.

    Even a lot of pundits on the right believe that not getting “a wall” might sink Trump’s chances. I’m not so sure this is true.

    As long as he fights hard, how can he be blamed? Wouldn’t Trump be the best candidate to get “a wall” in 2020 also? 

    The terms are softening too. Democrats are fixated on the term wall, because I suspect they think Trump supporters only want a 2000 mile wall and nothing else. Now using other terms, (barrier, fence etc) the administration is giving them an ‘out’ as it were, while keeping the issue about border security. How many Trump voters are going to say, “I wanted a damn wall and all I got was a fence, I’m staying home. Trump lied to me”?

     For Democrats to not take this rhetorical offering is dangerous for them, because now they are saying essentially they are rejecting border security.

    I think about 70% of Americans want better border security, so what will happen is the government shutdown will either stop being news, or to the extent that it is news, will be tied to the issue of border security. Trump is betting on more people demanding border security than being affected by the government shutdown. I think this is a winner.

     

    • #16
    • January 4, 2019, at 5:10 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Franco (View Comment):
    The terms are softening too. Democrats are fixated on the term wall, because I suspect they think Trump supporters only want a 2000 mile wall and nothing else.

    @franco, do we actually know how much needs to be built? I know some barriers are up in some places, and not all border sections need walls. It sure would put the whole thing in perspective if people knew how much had to be built.

    • #17
    • January 4, 2019, at 6:05 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Franco Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    The terms are softening too. Democrats are fixated on the term wall, because I suspect they think Trump supporters only want a 2000 mile wall and nothing else.

    @franco, do we actually know how much needs to be built? I know some barriers are up in some places, and not all border sections need walls. It sure would put the whole thing in perspective if people knew how much had to be built.

    II don’t think that’s so important , what matters is having people we trust make those decisions and I’m sure they will come up with a fine plan.

    The perspective for me is the money. It’s not that much compared to the budget and our need for it, as well as the savings in many dimensions coming from keeping whatever number of illegal entrants down. 

     

    • #18
    • January 4, 2019, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes