Recently I was asked on a TV interview to comment on the threat posed by ISIS crossing the southern border of the US (specifically in Texas). If you have not ever done such an interview (I have done more than 1000 since 9/11), you usually get 3-4 questions and 3-4 sentences to answer each one. Prep time, travel time, return time – all together it usually takes 4-6 hours to do a 9-16 sentence interview. If the interview is taped, they may use a single sentence. Which is what happened to my recently taped comments about ISIS and the border.
So just for the record – and before knowing what ISIS might have in store for the anniversary of 9/11 – here are my thoughts on the subject.
1) ISIS is really dangerous. They are vicious killers, driven by religious fervor, who see innocents as the enemies of God, and especially hope to hurt America and Americans. They will kill a lot of us in this country if they get a chance.
2) Our open southern border is really dangerous. Despite efforts by dedicated Border Patrol agents (frequently working under the handicap of senior officials hostile to the idea of US security), and extensive assistance from the governor of Texas, the Department of Public Safety, and other agencies ranging from the Texas National Guard to local police and sheriffs – the efforts (and especially the federal efforts) to close and protect our border are totally inadequate. The border is constantly penetrated by thousands of illegals, led by professional human smugglers.
3) The danger that ISIS might cross illegally and enter the US to murder and destroy is serious.
4) BUT – if I were ISIS, I would not risk sending agents through US border defenses, in the hands of cartel guides. I would take the easier route of sending radicals with US or European passports through regular ports of entry (by air or sea). Less dangerous, less chance of discovery, greater chance of success.
That’s my answer in ten sentences.
And now a brief explanation. The cartels own every inch of the US border to the south. Nothing crosses without their permission and participation. So if you were trying to get terrorists into the country, would you
· Option A – put your operatives, who do not know the language, culture or geography, into the hands of cartel smugglers for transport? Or . . .
· Option B – send operatives who know the language and culture, through safe crossings with legal documentation?
Well, I pick “B”.
Of course I think those who guard the borders should be on tiptoe as we approach 9/11. An unsecure border is inherently dangerous, and we can’t afford to ignore any possibility. But I would focus priority on the air ports and sea ports in the weeks leading up to 9/11.
Today I would focus most of all on safe houses, and radicals who might be harboring attackers within the US – as well as venues where they might attack (business sites, shopping malls, etc.). If international or homegrown terrorists are here, they have been present, training and conducting surveillance for weeks.
Those who attacked us on the original 9/11 entered the country legally. I think that is still the most likely way for bad guys to breech our defenses today.