Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Strategic Implications of Government Mistrust

          Last summer I spoke at a conference of law enforcement officials from both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. One of the other speakers was a senior representative of Customs and Border Protection, the DHS agency that houses the U.S. Border Patrol. He repeated a statement that the Secretary of Homeland Security began using more than two years ago, and has used as a consistent theme in her most recent appearances: “Our southern border is the safest it has ever been.”
            A wave of laughter rippled across the room. A senior official from the US government was repeating as the government’s official position, a statement that experts in the subject knew to be untrue.  Ironic laughter was the only response anyone could think of.
              That ironic distance between ground truth and fiction masquerading as policy has been on full display recently, and especially during the budget debates. The point of this article is not to support one side or the other in the budget battles, or the battle over immigration, or the arguments over Benghazi, or the mud-slinging match over the sequester. My point is that the broad political response by the public to this habitual campaigning is a growing tendency not to believe anybody. And that can be a national threat in a national emergency.
              I (part of the point of a blog is that you can use the first person) am not suggesting that we have drifted away from some golden age of the past where citizens and their representatives spoke in measured tones of their honorable opponents.  Republicanism (or democracy if you prefer) has always been a rough and tumble sport where opponents play fast and loose with the facts. But from a strategic perspective, it seems to me that the United States has arrived at a particularly dangerous moment when a large part of the populace simply does not believe the US government and its agents -- to include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State – on a day-to-day basis. The implications for our ability to mount a unified national response to a crisis are not good.
              The reasons we have arrived at this nexus of distrust are many – some technological, some ideological, some just a matter of how bureaucracies work. I will cite but a few.
              Changing technology allows attackers to quickly turn charges into broadly accepted “truths” that stick, destroying the opposition by destroying their reputation. The Romney primary campaign is a good example. Nixon suffered a major political defeat and came back to be President. So did Reagan. So did Bush (41). And Romney was defeated in a presidential primary, only to come back and win in the next cycle.  But Romney’s own negative campaign against Republican primary opponents one after another didn’t just defeat them. It delegitimized them – probably knocking them out of future contention. Then Obama did the same to him. The result on both sides was a sense that the opponent was not just wrong on policy issues, but morally defective and not to be trusted.
              An associated catalyst is the growing polarization of America into two camps, so opposed in their beliefs that only one can survive. It is now clear that Progressives have no intention of reducing the National Deficit or Debt, and instead plan to tax or otherwise confiscate wealth for social redistribution, under the theory that whoever has wealth has it unfairly. Conservatives for their part increasingly see Progressives as a band of lawless looters, using bureaucracy and executive orders in a politically and economically oppressive way, and relying on “rule of law” only when it is to their advantage. The result is a climate of fundamental distrust on every issue.
              A third factor in national alienation from our political leaders is the growing conviction that officials everywhere are “cooking the books” to advance their policy prescriptions. Arguing with the opponent’s statistics is nothing new, nor is releasing questionable numbers that support your side of an argument.  Candidate Kennedy argued that the Republicans had allowed a “missile gap” to develop, even though he knew that was not the case. But this did not prevent the two parties from working together during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or supporting the national interest in other crises that followed. Dishonesty about Vietnam and Cambodia and Iran ended the presidencies of Johnson, and Nixon and (nearly) Reagan. But none of that ended the American government or American system.
              But I have a sense (as do others) that something is different today.  Dishonesty (or poor judgment - take your pick) over the presence of WMD in Iraq left a significant part of the citizenry distrustful of the entire war with terrorists.  The terrorists attacked us by the way, which all the world could see, but our government’s behavior has left some people trusting the enemy’s communiques more than our own.
              On the other hand, warrantless wire-tapping, born in a Republican administration, has now become proof to some of the nefarious intent of a Democratic administration – leaving people on both sides distrustful. By the way, in a great example of bipartisan distrust, Tea Party members have been most vocal about their concern over government surveillance, but it was the ACLU which brought suit to end the wire-tapping program. And it was the conservative side of the Supreme Court which affirmed the Obama administration’s program of massive monitoring and copying of conversations, while the liberal minority strongly dissented.
              How many examples of RECENT government half-truths or lack of transparency can you think of in 60 seconds?  Here is my list.
·         The Sequester. Benghazi.  The Fed. The Fiscal Cliff.  1.8 Billion bullets purchased by DHS. Counterinsurgency success in Afghanistan. Drones. Domestic Drones. The security of the US border. The claim that we can solve the debt problem “if the rich will pay just a little more.” The claim that we can solve the debt problem “if we just cut corporate taxes and reduce regulations.” The idea that we can destroy private health care with a huge government program “but you can keep your own doctor and program if you want.” The protection of Green Jobs. The protection of Defense Contractors. Printing our way to economic stability. The claim from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that we can put women in combat jobs without reducing physical standards. The structuring of budgetary cuts to inflict the maximum possible pain on the American people so they will call their congressman and demand a change. The bank bail outs. TSA scanners. Government conferences. Education standards. Cyber security. Katrina response. Sandy response. The Drug War. FEMA camps. Money to Brazil to drill for oil. Tanks to the Muslim Brotherhood. The failure to pass a federal budget – for 4 years. The GSA. The Secret Service.
That only took 60 seconds.  I could go on and on.  So could you.
              At this point, if you are trying to figure out whether I am criticizing Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, you have missed the point.  Here it is: Our political differences and the dishonest way they have played out leaves a significant part of the US population skeptical about anything anybody on any side of government says. People are worried that any crisis could be used to further some unrelated agenda – gun control, internet censorship, property confiscation, raising taxes, cutting taxes, illegal immigration, environmental restrictions, welfare expansion – there seems no end to way the people paid to look out for us are ready to manipulate us at the drop of a hat.  And that could be very dangerous in a national emergency in the future.
              We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. After his conviction, the mastermind of the attack flew over the site on his way to jail. Gesturing to the WTC, an FBI agent said: “It’s still standing.”  “We’re not done,” the terrorist replied.
              They will be back. And when a bad thing happens we need to be worrying about our enemies and not our government. A bit more honesty a bit less demonization of political opponents would help us prepare for that moment. As would an active and professional media which would hold people accountable for what they say.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Border Security – Put Up or Shut Up (part 1)

            For about a decade now I have been telling anyone who would listen that one of our greatest national security concerns should be international corruption in general, and drug money corruption along our southern border in particular. Massive illegal money corrupts every public institution it touches. Because once a judge or policeman or fire inspector or construction permit bureaucrat takes one bribe from one illegal source, that agent of the government is open to blackmail and additional corruption forever. Ask honest citizens of Chicago how long it took to rid the city of the corrupting influences of organized crime after Prohibition. Some would argue that corruption remains strong there eighty years later.
            In the last several years, corruption along our border has become much worse as Mexican drug cartels have come to control the crossing points and the terrain from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The days of a poor person desperate for work sneaking across the Rio Grande by himself are over. The cartels control everybody and everything that crosses everywhere. So illegal immigration, drug running, smuggling, money laundering, fire arms trade, and the trafficking of women and children for sex are all run by the same people. And on our side, they all pass through the same distribution network of national, regional, state, and local gangs, right down to individual pimps, gangsters and distributors on our local streets. We cannot solve one problem without solving them all; we cannot ignore one problem without ignoring them all.
            Danny Stewart of The Wall Street Shuffle (AM 1190 in Dallas-Ft. Worth ) heard my sermon recently, and challenged me go beyond talking about problems, and offer some solutions -- focused primarily on controlling the southern border. I am not sure I can solve with my blog  a problem that has eluded the Federal government for 90 years. And I am NOT laying out an argument for what SHOULD be done. I was asked what COULD be done to promote security. Here are some ideas.

1) Put our finger in the chest of the 1% south of our border. People don’t come here just for jobs. They come because even our poorest residents have lights, heat, running water, basic health care, schools, and honest law enforcement. Illegal immigrants coming here have none of that at home. President Obama is fond of castigating productive Americans for not paying “their fair share.” How about sharing that concept with the 1% of 1% living in spender to our south?

2) Bring the law down hard on people paying illegal immigrants to work here illegally. That act is against the law – a law put into place in the 1980’s when we were last told that if we just make those here illegally into citizens, the illegal crossings would stop. The Bush Administration increased workplace raids and prosecuted illegal employers. That approach was effective. The Obama Administration has stopped such efforts almost entirely.

3) Prosecute illegal employers who mistreat their illegal workers. Those who hire illegal workers do so because they can pay them less and treat them poorly, and thus get an advantage over their more honest competitors. Stop that illegal advantage.

4) Close down the system by which illegal workers send money to their home country. Money earned illegally may not be legally transferred between nations. You can’t rob a bank here and send it legally to a bank in Mexico or China. The same should be true of anyone who washes cars illegally. We stopped Osama Bin Laden from moving money internationally. We could stop this illegal movement, too – if we wanted to.

© Dave McIntyre
Continued as part 2 – next . . .

Border Security – Put Up or Shut Up (part 2)

          The actions in 1) - 4) above just address illegal immigration. But remember that the same cartels that move illegal immigrants, also move drugs, and fake merchandise, and children for sex. So let’s open the aperture a bit and see what else we can do.

5) We could demand improvements to local cooperation with law enforcement on immigration and other legal issues. As a minimum, every criminal jurisdiction in the US that processes an arrestee should cross check the names, finger prints and facial features against every other jurisdiction for “wants and warrants” as technology allows. And those identified for the violation of any federal crime should be remanded to the federal authorities. Local jurisdictions that refuse to participate should be denied federal law enforcement funds. And federal officials who will not support this enforcement of law should be removed from office.

6) We could further integrate law enforcement efforts focused on all the different parts of these criminal enterprises (not just immigration). If federal agencies will not cooperate, dissolve those agencies.
        Today, if the cartels send drugs across the border, that is a DEA issue. If they send explosives, that belongs to ATF (&E). If they smuggle people, that is a BCP (Border and Customs Protection) issue at the border, and an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issue inside the borders. That is, unless the people are smuggled for sex – human trafficking belongs to the FBI. One police chief of a 21 square mile area on the Texas border told me he had 32 law enforcement agencies working in his area. And here’s the trick – the current incentive system punishes them for working together.
        That’s right. Whoever gets credit for the bust gets to keep part of the take and can argue for more people and budget next year. Those who provide critical information but don’t make the arrest get . . . a warm feeling and nothing else.
        This is not a complaint against our law enforcement officials.  They are good people trapped in a bad paradigm. It is up to the President and Congress and Governors and State Legislatures and local officials to change this dysfunctional system.  Everybody on our team must work together enthusiastically, or work somewhere else.

7) An even bigger step would be to give this effort at integrating criminal intelligence the focus and resources it deserves. The “drone program” that has been so successful at dismantling Al Qaeda leadership overseas is only partly about drones.  Its best results come from an integrated intelligence effort that collects phone calls, emails, info from spies, banking transactions, and so forth . . . and tracks the bad guys relentlessly using thousands of people and systems. Surely if we could do that worldwide to find Bin Laden and his cronies, we could turn the same skills and technologies loose on the drug cartels, and the gangs that do their bidding and deliver their goods inside the US.   Domestic Fusion Centers do some of this work, but without adequate training, personnel, standardization, integration, funding, or controls. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is winding down. We need to transfer some of the effort and lessons learned to confront the bad guys who insist on violating our borders.

8) Twelve years after 9/11 we still have no system to track people who enter this country legally and overstay their visas – thereby becoming illegal immigrants. The President who wants to build a system to track 100 million American gun owners and know every time one of them sells a shotgun to his brother, seems disinterested in tracking the much smaller number of people who come in through our ports and airports, and just don’t go home. This can and must be fixed as a top priority.

©Dave McIntyre 2013

Continued as part 3 – next . . .

Border Security – Put Up or Shut Up (part 3)

     Ok. Now the big one. Everything up until now has been largely a matter of doing better at something we already know how to do. But really securing the southern border will require making a big change to the ways we think about, operate and resource  border security. Customs and Border Protection has about 46,000 employees. About 20,000 of them reside in the Border Patrol. They protect about 7,000 miles of border (both Canadian and Mexican), 370 ports of entry, and thousands of miles of coastline. Most agents are honest, dedicated, hardworking people. In the past 15 years, the Border Patrol has tripled in size, and changed strategies for protecting the border three times.  But more than 10 million people and perhaps a trillion dollars worth of “product” has gotten past them. Something needs to change. On a big scale. What?
PLEASE READ WHAT FOLLOWS CAREFULLY. I am NOT calling for militarizing the border.  I am suggesting that we think more like the military in terms of the scope and scale of CBP operations.
9) If a half million people and $100 billion in smuggled goods got through General George Patton’s lines each year, he would be asking ‘HOW”? And he would be demanding resources and adjusting tactics to prevent that invasion.
But all we see concerning crossings of our southern border is anecdotal. A tunnel on the news here. Pictures of people carrying back packs full of drugs there. Now a car or truck smuggling people or contraband at a check point. We are never offered an overall picture.  But the Border Patrol has it – they know where the smuggling is taking place.  They just don’t have the resources to cover the entire border all at the same time.  SO GIVE THEM THE RESOURCES!  It is not impossible. And it is not impossibly expensive.
Here is an example.  Suppose we wanted to put a network of 4-person observation teams, each with two cars, within two miles of each other, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.  That would require about 1000 teams or about 4,000 additional individual agents. Call it 20,000 to account for three shifts, time off, sick, on vacation, or training.  That’s a lot of people.  But it is smaller than the number of troops we are pulling out of Afghanistan this year alone.
      Suppose we wanted to use helicopters as a quick response to reinforce those teams. I don’t mean a few surveillance aircraft as we are flying now. I am talking about armed response units ready to arrest border violators.  A Blackhawk helicopter can cover 25 miles in 15 min. From a central point, it could move east or west about 50 miles along the border in a quarter hour. Each deployed helicopter could cover 25 of our teams. That’s about 40 helicopters at $8 million each or $160 million to cover the entire southern border. Add in aircraft for maintenance and training, and crews (maybe 500 people), and you are still below $500 million. Add a three person “strike team” (to arrest and fly out those they find) on each helicopter, and figure three shifts, spare people, etc. – you have another 500 people.  Add communications, training facilities, weapons . . . it all comes in at less than half of the $5 billion we are giving the hostile government of Egypt each year just to agree not to attack Israel. That’s less than 1% of what we were spending each year in the Iraq War.
Is this a plan? No. Is it a budget? No. But it is a rough, back of the envelope estimation of what it would take to adequately resource the Border Patrol (or the National Guard, or some other agency) to further secure our southern flank.
            The numbers are not impossible to imagine or impossible to fund. We just have to decide that the problem is big enough to provide the resources required.
      And now a final point we must pursue (and fund) if we are to be serious about security along our southern border.
10) We need a counter intelligence effort at least as intensive as during the Cold War. The violence in Mexico is not randomly distributed, It is concentrated in the areas across from the border crossing points into the US. And the reason should be obvious. Bad guys and their products are getting through our checkpoints in massive numbers. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that we have intelligence breeches in many parts of our system.  We need an integrated, concerted effort to find those breeches, flip the people, and prosecute all concerned. No doubt Inspectors General and internal affairs are working hard to plug the leaks. . But $100 billion buys a lot of friends.  And way too many of our bureaucrats and law enforcement officers spend their entire careers in one place. We need one agency to take the lead with this, just as the FBI did during the Cold War.
I could go on and on with this analysis. Border security is a big, complex subject.  For example, I have consciously stayed away from the subject of technology because so much has already been written on this issue.  But surely you get the point by now. We know how to go after the cartels, their supporters and their operatives, inside this country and out.  We know how to secure the border. We know how to keep most drugs and illegal immigrants and purveyors of human trafficking out.  We just refuse to do it in an integrated manner. And we refuse to pay for it.  Instead we keep up the same old fight with the same old organization and same old resources, while pretending it will work differently today from yesterday.
© Dave McIntyre 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Droning on about Drones

           I REALLY do not want to write about drones. The Administration wants to change the subject, and having scored all the political points they can, most opponents are ready to move on as well. The media needs some big new fight to increase ratings and sell more toilet paper. And the public prefers to hear more about Kay Middleton’s baby bump anyway. So, hey – it’s yesterday’s news.
            Except this issue really matters to the future of America, and the frightful display of ignorance by talking heads on all sides of the argument was appalling. And so – sigh – here goes. With this subject, it is easy to get dragged off target. I will try to keep this short and focused on the use of drones to kill those waging war against the US from overseas. Associated subjects will be addressed in later blog entries.

     1.  America really is at war. By “war,” I mean the sustained use of force to impose one’s will on an external enemy. We have lots of opponents around the world, but only a handful are enemies willing to use force (and the death of Americans) to impose their will. They declared war on us, and they are committed to a long, deadly struggle. They continue to mount lethal operations on Americans whenever they can. If they could cause 10 million American deaths, there is no doubt they would do so. So we are at war, the stakes are high, and the outcome remains in doubt.
     2.  The ways our enemies are prosecuting their war and the means they are using (attacks on civilians, attacks on embassies, operations in civilian clothes, etc.) are illegal. We call this illegal war “terrorism.” The issue of definitions may seem a small point.  It is not. Not only do cheaters have a huge advantage, but their successes make the rule-abiding side begin to doubt its own players, leaders and institutions. The type of illegal war that we call “terrorism” is not just a sneaky way to kill people. It is an attempt to destroy the opponent’s institutions and legitimacy. This is why terrorists must be treated as a security threat, and not a public safety threat (like bank robbers). Counterterrorism is by design of the terrorists more like war than law enforcement. Wanting it to be otherwise will not make it so.
     3.  With a handful of possible exceptions, the relatively small number of terrorists waging war against us worldwide share some important characteristics. Most claim to some extent a religious motivation. And they have none of the assets of a modern state. This means there is little reward we can offer them for cooperating. And there is little we can hold at risk for either deterrence or retaliation.
     4.  So we face a dangerous enemy actively trying to kill citizens and harm the nation, who cannot be deterred or bought off. This severely restricts our options.
a. We can seek international cooperation in using intelligence and law enforcement to capture and jail these enemies when possible. Think of our successes in restricting money laundering by Al Qaeda.
b. We and our allies can apply large scale forces to fix and destroy large groups when they emerge. Think Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali
c. We can target and kill strategic, operational, and tactical leaders when we can find them and capture is impractical. That’s what the Targeted Killing/ drone program does.
d. We can do all three as the situation allows.
Well, surprise – this combination of approaches is exactly what we have been doing for twelve years, with significant success. (That’s if you measure success by lack of attacks on US soil. And I do.)
In our current post-Global-War-On-Terror, post-Iraq, post-Gitmo, post-Abugrab, and almost-post-Afghanistan situation, Targeted Killing (matched with much improved intelligence) is about the only tool available . . . and it has been working very well. Even opponents agree that the increase in strikes has produced increased effectiveness and decreased collateral damage at the same time.

So – our self-declared enemies are dying, the cost and military footprint are minimal, and our nation is safer.  What’s not to like?     
Opposition seems to be generated by six issues.
a)      Killing works.
The right wants to point out hypocrisy when candidate Obama  railed against Guantanamo and targeted killing by President Bush, only to find such operations useful once in office. Agree. Got it. Move on.
      The left wishes for a different world where stern, blue helmeted Bobbies could remove the ne’er-do-wells for a speedy trial. Noted. Not going to happen. Would put the nation at risk. Sorry this success bothers you. Move on.
b)     The killing is by “drone.”
This is where I see so much ignorant, annoying, nonsense talk. Look – I have no access to inside, classified information. I am just reading the paper like you. But I really don’t see what difference it makes whether a confirmed, dangerous, self-declared enemy who is trying to kill my children is in turn killed by a sniper, a tank, an artillery piece, a drone or an exploding apple. Is killing from an aircraft with a pilot inside somehow more moral than from a drone whose pilot is 10,000 miles away? This whole discussion is ridiculous.
Beyond that, after 30 years in the military I do have some feel for the realities of geography, physics and bureaucratic infighting. Drones are not magic. They don’t fly around at 50,000 feet over the entire continent of Africa until they sniff the DNA of a wanted person on the wind. What we call the “Drone Program” is most likely part of a large intelligence operation involving many sources and lethal means. I continue to be amazed that people who do not believe employment statistics from the Department of Labor believe stories about drone strikes from a Pakistani newspaper in the tribal territories. If a really bad person is killed by his cousin who took a bribe, and the paper reports it as a drone strike, do we really care about the difference?  Drone-schmone . . . just get the job done.
c)      The President is directly involved
Well I should hope so. The argument arises primarily from the left who fears it will sully the Transformational Figure who was going to bring peace to the world. And the right wants to drive home again the hypocrisy of a Noble Prizewinner ordering lethal attacks. Right you both are. So what? Using targeted killing is a strategic decision. This is one of the primary ways our President and his staff have decided to wage a low-profile war and keep our deadly enemies at bay. The program must be technically correct, and politically balanced. I’m glad the President sees it as his duty to be engaged. If anything, I would like to see more attacks ordered by the President, and not by some “knowledgeable senior official.” From where?  The Department of Justice?  The EPA?  Certainly not by leaders in the intelligence community.  Secret killing in a secret war overseen by the Intelligence Community without the President’s involvement?  Been there, done that.  No thanks.
d)     There are no “checks and balances”
Now here is an area that does need work – but not for the reasons most critics claim.  Critics on the left and right seem to want a judge or committee to review the President’s decisions to see if the target really needs killing (as we would say in Texas). As with any military  decision, this call  rightfully belongs with the President (or perhaps the Secretary of Defense, as part of the National Command Authority). I am quite sure that before a “package” arrives on the President’s desk a huge number of intelligence analysts, supervisors and committees have reviewed it in depth. The correct question for outside examination is not whether the intelligence is right, but whether the decision was made within a legal framework written into law by Congress and confirmed by a judge.  This area does require Congressional and Judicial action. Clever reasoning by White House lawyers in a 16 page memo is not enough.
e)      The Targeted Killing of a US citizen overseas needs special attention
True -- because of the implications from the extrajudicial killing of a citizen. But clearly, in some cases targeting an American who has joined the enemy in attacking us is warranted.  If a citizen defected and piloted an aircraft or ship against the US military, we would not hesitate to shoot the aircraft down or sink the ship. The situation is a little different when that traitor is recruiting or training others to attack us – but not much. Yes we do need new laws from Congress, and expedited reviews from the Judiciary, not just an interpretation by White House lawyers. But within such new laws and reviews, the Targeted Killing/drone program could and should stay in business.
f)       And finally, the whole drone program has implications for law enforcement within the US.
Yes, this is a huge issue.  It must be faced head on. But it is only an issue because some in the current Administration insists on thinking of illegal acts of war as legal matters for law enforcement instead of military matters for DOD and the Intelligence Community. That thinking then spills over into homeland security.  We should not apply military solutions to run-of-the-mill lawbreakers within the borders of the United States. If current prohibitions are not clear enough for all concerned, then Congress can create new laws and courts can review those standards.

            So will the President ever stop creating and approving a Kill List? Yes – IF Congress so directs.  After all, Congress created this system in the aftermath of 9/11 when they granted the President the legal authority to kill people determined to have played a role in that attack, or in ongoing Al Qaeda operations worldwide. They could rescind that authority – but they would have to explain their alternative vision for our security while dangerous people continue to wage war on us. I don’t think that is likely to happen any time soon.
            Sorry this is so long. I told you the subject was complex. And the issue of drone use inside the US really does deserve separate analysis. But the bottom line concerning the Targeted Killing/drone program overseas is that it is working. If critics are concerned about implications for the future, then they need to spell out their reservations and solutions in laws to be passed by Congress and adjudicated by the courts.
But please, keep the focus on the matter of defending the nation, and don’t use this issue as a lever for your unrelated political arguments and concerns. That sort of droning on does not serve the security of the nation at all.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Security and Immigration Reform

(This blog is focused on objective strategic analysis, not personal or political opinion. For that, I refer you to my other blog, . So the following questions are designed to advance a rational security discussion, not support or detract from a particular position on the immigration debate.)
 A number of solutions have been proposed for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” Here are several questions with strategic and security implications that I would like to see answered before our representatives hurry to pass a bill, in order to see what is in it.
1)      To whom do the immigration reforms apply?  Who will be allowed to stay because they are already in the country illegally?  Just Hispanics? Just Mexicans? Or everyone here illegally? Russians? Chinese? Iranians? Stateless people ejected from their countries as radicals, criminals or terrorists?
2)      What sort of security checks will be conducted on applicants?  Obviously, no one granted citizenship under these new laws will have an automatic security clearance – but they will be eligible for US passports, travel under more liberal rules, access to US-only programs, etc. And their subsequent children will be American citizens, no matter where they are born.  Do we really want to grant citizenship to members of the Russian Mafia, Chinese intelligence service, or Central American drug cartels, and their family members? If not, who will conduct security checks, and how will they handle 12 million people at once? Must the investigator of a Russian applicant speak Russian? Conduct an investigation in Russia? (This is one reason we take visa applications at embassies overseas, by the way -- to make it easier to conduct such background checks.)
3)      What would disqualify an applicant for citizenship on security grounds? Membership in a radical mosque overseas? A brother who makes car bombs? A cousin involved in the drug trade? The commission of a crime back home? This is not a question to be taken lightly. Foreign organizations are already known to target American citizens for participation in terrorist and criminal schemes, since this complicates the task of law enforcement. Would not infiltrating agents onto the path to citizenship be even more desirable?
4)      How long would a person have to be in the US illegally to apply for citizenship? The central argument for reform is that if a person has been working and acting like a responsible citizens, he or she should be able to stay as a citizen. How long a stay would be required to demonstrate responsibility? A month? A year? A decade? And how would they prove their stay? Many of the people we are talking about live their lives in the shadows. No driver’s license. No electrical bill. No income tax receipt.  Will employers rush to verify that this person has been working for them illegally for years? How will we know ground truth? (And by the way, what do we do with people who are here illegally but have not been here long enough to qualify? Deport them? Let them stay until they do qualify?)
5)      Would that qualification have to be continuous time in the US, or is it cumulative time for those who come and go? For example, what about agricultural workers here illegally four months at a time for fifteen years in a row. Does that count as five years residency? How is it established – by statement of the worker?  (The Department of State already accepts statements in Spanish from midwives verifying live birth in the US, as adequate proof to issue a US passport.)  Before you dismiss this question as nitpicking, consider that it really matters to students and children.
6)      Concerning students who desire a special waiver because they came here as a child, would they have to arrive before some particular age . . . and stay? The argument is that it is unfair to send home a child who has known only the US and may speak only English.  But certainly that does not apply to those who first arrive here (illegally) as teen agers. They know their home culture and language – frequently well enough to demand they be taught in that language. And how about those who traveled across the border many times, becoming comfortable with two languages and two cultures. Do they still go the front of the line?
7)      Generally people applying for citizenship must show some sort of self sufficiency – they can’t just take an oath, then go directly to the unemployment and welfare rolls. Will this be true for those on the new path to citizenship, despite the fact that illegal immigrants “coming out” will likely lose their jobs?   (This is an unfortunate reality. Immigrants “take jobs Americans don’t want” because they have no choice other than artificially low (in fact illegally low) wages. And they don’t qualify for the benefits that allow picky Americans to stay home.  But as soon as immigrants become citizens, they no longer offer the advantage of cheap labor to unscrupulous employers – especially if the border remains open (which is what President Obama has suggested with his plan) and new waves of cheap illegal labor can be expected.  Also, as the new citizens become eligible for the same benefits as Americans who pass up unpleasant jobs for government assistance, we should expect immigrants to do the same. ) 
8)      Obamacare was advertised as cost neutral while providing coverage to 30 million more Americans. As Comprehensive Immigration Reform adds 12+ million citizens, it will add  12+ million claimants to the system. Has anyone calculated this cost? (The national debt, remember, is a major security issue.)
9)      What about people who satisfied the criteria for the path to citizenship in the past, but were deported under the old rules – do they get to come back?  If not, is that fair?
10)  When they become citizens, will the applicants be forgiven for other crimes they have committed? This question refers not so much to violent criminal behavior (which does not apply to most immigrants), as to identify theft, use of another’s social security number or driver’s license, etc. Many current citizens have been the victims of such behavior. Should they simply forget about justice?

And here is a Bonus Question:  Do any other countries allow for a “path to citizenship” like that proposed for the US? Does Mexico, Russia, China, Iran, India, or any other nation in the world provide a path to citizenship based on the fact that a person enters the country illegally or overstays a visa? If not, why not? And if so, what has been their experience?

Every American wants a fair and honest solution to our immigration dilemma. Proponents of the new approach to Comprehensive Immigration Reform are calling for an honest dialogue.  That’s a good idea. These security questions would seem a good place to start.