Saturday, May 28, 2011

Terrorist Infiltration of the US: Are We Looking at the Wrong Border?

By: Sylvia Longmire

In January 2005, the FBI was on the lookout for four Chinese men and two Iraqis who were thought to have access to a dirty bomb bound for the US that was being smuggled through Mexico.

In November 2005, Zapata County, Texas Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said it's not a matter of "if," but "when," a terrorist will enter the United States through Mexico with a dirty bomb or some other weapon of mass destruction (WMD).

Around the same time, Adnan Shukrijumah – an important Al Qaeda operations member, according to US intelligence officials - was suspected of hatching a plot to smuggle a dirty bomb - or materials to manufacture one - across the US-Mexico border. Fortunately, there is no indication that Shukrijumah’s purported dirty-bomb plot ever got very far.

According to the CIA report, “Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al Qaeda,” “[redacted sentence or sentences] Within months of his arrest, Abu Zubaydah [an operations planner as well as senior facilitator for Al Qaeda operatives captured by the CIA and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques] provided details about Al Qaeda’s organizational structure, key operatives and modus operandi. It also was Abu Zubaydah who first brought Al Qaeda operative “Ja’far Al Tayyar … to the FBI’s attention when Abu Zubaydah named him as one of the most likely individuals to be used by Al Qaeda for operations in the United States or Europe. [Mostly redacted paragraph] … that was key to uncovering Ja’far’s true name.

His “true name” is Adnan G. el Shukrijumah, and on March 26, 2003 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a Material Witness Warrant for his arrest. The FBI has a $5 million reward for his capture “in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States.”

At the time of his arrest warrant, the federal government had launched a massive global manhunt to find Shukrijumah, who is believed by counterterrorism officials to be an "imminent threat to US citizens and interests [who is] suspected of planning terrorist activities."

According to declassified CIA reports, Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks - provided detailed intelligence indicating Shukrijumah may be involved in plotting another 9/11-syle attack on US soil. He remains at large.

According to reports, Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested in September 2009 on charges that he planned a suicide bombing of the New York subway system, had met with Shukrijumah in a camp in Pakistan.

While we know that individuals associated with terrorist groups like Hezbollah have entered the United States through Mexico, there is no evidence that any of those individuals were “operational”—meaning they came across the border with plans to blow something up.

While media reports of dirty bombs potentially coming across our southwest border have died down considerably since 2005, that doesn’t mean that concern over such a scenario isn’t there anymore.

But are homeland security officials looking for that threat in the wrong direction?

One has to wonder why any terrorist in his right mind would pick our southwest border as the best option for entering the United States surreptitiously. While there’s much that needs to be done before that border can be called “secure,” there are more agents, police, and electronic devices monitoring the US-Mexico border than any time in history.

It’s also very important to understand how human smuggling networks in Mexico operate. There are groups who specialize in smuggling Special Interest Aliens (individuals from countries associated with terrorism; see, “What Can We Learn from Trends in 'Special Interest Alien' Migration into the US?”) and charge exorbitant fees for the extra trouble. These groups - as well as regular human smuggling organizations - often use the same routes to and across the border that drug traffickers use. The cartels, more formally known as transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), own these “plazas.” And not only do they impose a piso, or a passage fee, on human smugglers, but they know about all activity that occurs along these routes.

Association with terrorist groups is very bad for business, for drug smugglers and human smugglers alike. It’s one thing for the US government to know that it’s only catching a small percentage of illegal drugs entering the country, but allowing even one operational terrorist to sneak across the border is completely unacceptable. And the discovery of such an alliance between smugglers and terrorists would bring the wrath of the US government down on the TCOs and their illicit border activities like never before.

Neither the TCOs nor the Mexican government want this kind of negative impact on their finances, so it’s in both of their best interests to make sure that doesn’t happen.

By the very nature of the terrorism business, terrorists look for the path of least resistance: times when there’s less on-site security; buildings that are easy to get into; highly populated areas with public access; etc. Looking at the process that an operational member of Al Qaeda would have to go through to get into the United States via the southwest border, it’s not as easy as one might think. Enter the highly porous, lightly patrolled and barely scrutinized northern border with Canada.

Of course, comparing the southwest and northern borders is like comparing apples and oranges. There’s no drug war going on in Canada that might spill over into the United States, and there aren’t millions of Canadians trying to cross the border illegally every year. Resource allocation for the northern border is determined based on the threat and necessity, and there just hasn’t been a need to fortify the northern border with a fence or thousands of Border Patrol agents.

Unfortunately, that’s the strategy that makes the United States more vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists entering from Canada.

The ease of smuggling drugs south from Canada is one example of the border’s porous nature. A recent Associate Press article told the story of a tiny airport in Sandusky, Michigan, where small airplanes loaded with illegal drugs can more or less come and go as they please. The airport isn’t staffed at night, and the planes come in flying low with their transponders off. All the Border Patrol could do was put up two signs asking people to call and report any suspicious activity.

Cross-border travel by boat is another example. There’s no way that law enforcement agencies can patrol every square mile of the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, much less the miles and miles of lakeshore. Individuals arriving in more remote parts of the Great Lakes from Canada on pleasure boats are merely directed to declare their arrival by using videophones operated by Customs and Border Protection.

Terrorists who want to enter the United States for nefarious reasons don’t need to resort to stealthy means if they have time on their side. Canada has relatively lax immigration requirements; individuals only have to live there for two years (legally) before they’re eligible for permanent residency.

By contrast, the Mexican government requires that individuals live in Mexico for five years before applying for residency, and the process can take years. This means that terrorists can evade a significant amount of scrutiny by spending only two years in Canada and coming across the border as permanent residents, rather than tourists or students.

There’s no doubt that it’s impossible to monitor every square mile of border on either side of the country. The bottom line is that homeland security agencies need to rely on good, solid intelligence to point them in the right direction.

But obtaining credible sources of information – and especially actionable intelligence - inside both extremist groups and TCOs has historically been exceedingly difficult.

But never has it been more necessary. Otherwise, our government is merely putting its figurative finger in the dyke - securing a few spots on the vast northern border, just to leave others open and vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.

14 comments:

  1. IT HAS BEEN SPECULATED FOR A LONG TIME NOW THAT DRUG CARTELS HAVE A SORT OF ALLIANCE WITH TERRORIST LIKE AL QAEDA AND THE TALIBAN. THE TERRORISTS SEE THE MEXICAN BORDER AS THE EASY ENTRANCE BUT THEN THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE CARTELS SO THEY CAN GET PERMISSION. THE CARTELS HELP THEM SMUGGLE THIER STUFF IN FOR THE RETURN OF MONEY. ITS JUST BUISSNESS. DUE TO THE CARTELS HUNGER FOR U.S. MONEY AND IF THEY HAVE ANY ALLIANCE WITH ANY TERRORIST, I THINK THAT THE TERRORIST WOULD NEVER BOMB A U.S. BORDER STATE WITH MEXICO. IT WOULD SURE GET THESE CARTELS VERY UPSET. THIS IS JUST MY OPINION...

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  2. there has not been a case of a terror suspect passing through the southern border, there has been a incident on the U.S. Canada border though.
    sneaking across from Canada is more easier than sneaking across the southern border.

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  3. no cartel in their right mind would ever let a terrorist cross especialy with a dirty bomb or nuculear suitcase. cause if it gets traced back to Mexico then its game over for cartels and USA will invade Mexico and put and end to all the silliness. then there is no cash flow for cartels. USA would probably even legalize all drugs if a stunt like that was ever pulled

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  4. i agree if one of the cartels ever was stupid to aid in launching an attack on the usa...yeap ..game over ...failed state ..invade ...

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  5. NO CARTEL WOULD EVER ATTACK THE U.S. CARTELS SIMPLY HELP THE TERRORISTS SMUGGLE THEIR SHIT THROUGH AND THATS IT. CARTELS HAVE TUNNLES, JETS , BOATS, AND SUBMARINES TO DO IT AND WONT EVEN GET CAUGHT. I AM GOING TO TELL YOU RIGHT NOW, THE CARTELS ARE WELL CONNECTED WITHIN THE OPIUM TRADE WITH AFGHANISTAN. THATS THE ONLY REASON THE TALIBAN HAS THE MONEY TO SUPPORT ITSELF IN THE WAR AGAINST THE U.S.

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  6. Not a single terrorist has EVER, repeat EVER, entered the US from Canada. The US and Canada have complete cooperation on perimeter border security.

    In the case of Ahmed Ressam, here was a guy with a national arrest warrant, a sophisticated series of fake IDs and the world's largest country to hide in - and he was still caught.

    Remember, every one of the 9/11 terrorists came in directly to the US. None came from Canada.

    Canada works hard to stop criminality, in a similar fashion to the US, with rule of law and agencies that are effective and uncorrupted. The same cannot be said of Mexico, who have actually published a guide to aid illegal border crossers.

    The resources go where the threat is.

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  7. cartels aren't afraid of usa.. usa can't beat some militants with minimal training with weapons that have been buried for decades. usa gives them money and weapons, cartels give drugs, looks like they work together just well.

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  8. This is all about fear.
    theres money to be made in keeping people scared.

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  9. A while ago I remember getting briefed about a person who killed his girlfriend in Canada, then crossed to the U.S., when BP. opened the trunk to inspect the vehicle they found a bloody machete and assumed it was a Halloween prop... yes ASSUMED... that's the Northern border for you

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  10. Texcoco Mex said.

    "Well, some of the 9-11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know," McCain, last year's Republican presidential candidate, said on Fox News on Friday.
    The Arizona senator's remarks prompted the Canadian embassy to immediately reissue remarks made earlier this week by Ambassador Michael Wilson, who reminded Americans once again that no 9-11 perpetrators came to the U.S. via Canada.
    "Unfortunately, misconceptions arise on something as fundamental as where the 9-11 terrorists came from," Wilson said.
    "As the 9-11 Commission reported in July 2004, all of the 9-11 terrorists arrived in the U.S. from outside North America. They flew to major U.S. airports. They entered the U.S. with documents issued to them by the U.S. government. No 9-11 terrorists came from Canada."

    I don't know if terrorist did or did not come through Canada, but I know Cartels don't want anyone to heat up their plaza or to kill their customers. I don't think any Arabic terrorist will come trough Mexico. Narcos make more money with the drugs 12 to 35 billions a year, they don't need Arabic terrorist to make money.

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  11. "effective and uncorrupted"

    Are you 100% sure of this?

    Corruption an-affective can hit anyone and everywhere.

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  12. so you are the big authority now texcaca..so we just don't need to worry about nothing and depend on the cartels to guard our borders....jajajajaja....

    so give up our weapons ...let down our guard ...

    throw a gun out in your yard ..and take the door off you house

    the more you say ..the stupider you sound pendejo

    you might have a career in politics ...jajjaja

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  13. Texcoco Mex said.

    lito'brito caca is what you have in your head using phrases like "the gun is only as good as the man behind it" and when you outlaw guns...only outlaws will have guns MF please. Were or why will I say give up our weapons ...let down our guard ... I once said you are full of shit and now I know you really are. Here's an other phrase for you Aompanehuac cepan cepancuitlatl and Yolli calaqui.

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  14. hey there tex ..we supposed to be having a truce...this was written before the truce ..but was posted after ..

    so i am gonna overlook this ..because i am sure you thought i had broke the peace ...i am gonna give you this as an honest mistake

    pero no mas hablando caca..tabien?

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