As DHS withholds border report, wonkish plan for SIAs presented in House hearing

Rep. Michael McCaul

Rep. Michael McCaul chairs the House Homeland Security Committee (snip: McCaul at US House)

The Dept. of Homeland Security is making news today because a key report on border security is being withheld from the public. The report is not classified.

Meanwhile, in a US House hearing on homeland security, a Plan of Action created by DHS raises concerns about meaningful steps to stop illegal migration by what the government refers to as ‘Special Interest Aliens’ (SIAs) from countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

If you read various reports, you’ll wonder what we aren’t being told about migrants from countries harboring populations hostile to US interests. Media aren’t asking.

As early as 2010, the US Dept. of Justice released a report from the National Drug Intelligence Center. President Barack Obama closed the center in June, 2012, but website content remains online. A report from NDIC issued in 2010 drew far less attention than it deserved.

DHS chief Johnson

In 2015 DHS chief Jeh Johnson went blank when a congressman asked about another murder of an American by a foreign national in the US illegally. (Snip: Congressional hearing via Fox News)

The report deals with Alien Smuggling Organizations (ASOs) and their role “in moving special-interest aliens into the United States.” The same report noted these SIAs at that time “constitute a very small fraction of annual border apprehensions at the US-Mexico border by law enforcement.” NDIC also cautioned that in “at least the past five years, none documented to be a known or suspected terrorist has been known to be assisted by a DTO [Drug Trafficking Organization].”

Key words in that statement are “known to be assisted.” It is very difficult to successfully document and vet people who break federal laws to enter the US.

Border Marker San Ysidro

Border marker at the demarcation line, U.S.-Mexico Border at San Ysidro, Calif. (photo by Josh Denmark, US CBP)

In 2011, the magazine Homeland Security Today quoted “a federal counter-cartel intelligence official” who said “the southwest border region is on fire.” The magazine cited an intelligence bulletin issued by NDIC revealing troubling data:

“NDIC [has] assessed that Mexican drug trafficking organizations [are] operating in the US in at least 1,286 cities spanning nine regions. Moreover, NDIC assesses with high confidence that Mexican DTO’s in at least 143 of these US cities [are] linked to a specific Mexican cartel or DTO based in Mexico.”

Did the Obama administration fear political fallout from the information NDIC was disclosing?

Watchdog group Judicial Watch raised questions about closing NDIC, an agency formed under the administration of Democrat president Bill Clinton. In a release, JW asked, “Why on earth would Obama kill the agency created in 1993 to provide crucial strategic intelligence on trafficking of illegal drugs and related crimes that pose a threat to the national security of the United States?”

By 2016, SIA numbers had increased at the southwest border. Breitbart News obtained government documents that should raise concerns about the number of SIAs attempting to enter the US illegally:

“ The number of illegals from terror-linked countries, officially known as Special Interest Aliens (SIAs), arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border has nearly doubled to 462 in 2015 alone, from 255 in 2011, the last year for which the government released data without a FOIA request.”

BN also said the documents showed “less than half of the nearly 2,000-mile long Southwest border” is secure.

Despite concerns about SIAs as well as more cartel members setting up shop in the US, the wonkish plan DHS presented in the US House hearing bears more resemblance to an academic paper than a real plan to deal with the issues. Here’s what Obama’s DHS believes will make the US safer:

“(1) Build an integrated screening solution with partner countries along illicit migration routes; (2) Strengthen those countries’ investigative capabilities; (3) Improve their detention and repatriation capacity; (4) Enhance DHS intelligence integration and coordination; and (5) More efficiently and effectively collect information from SIAs who arrive at our borders.”

Aren’t we already doing most of this? Does this plan imply US taxpayers are going to help pay for detention centers in other countries? And how do we “more effectively collect information” from SIAs who are not only migrating from countries hostile to the US but who are committing an illegal act and breaking US federal laws?

On the heels of the hearing, media began to release stories about the Obama administration’s decision to withhold a DHS report about migration, with emphasis on numbers. Cooking the books is a time honored federal tradition, so it’s possible the administration wants to tinker with whatever metrics are being used to gauge actual numbers on the border.

As the House hearing opened on Sept. 14, chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) made a statement urging action on the topic of  ‘Shutting Down Terrorist Pathways into America’:

“We still don’t have a national strategy to combat terrorist travel. Our refugee program is not as secure as it needs to be. And we are struggling to bring our security checks into the social-media age. Our allies are in worse shape, especially in Europe. I’ve seen it firsthand: their borders are not secure, they are not sharing intelligence quickly enough, and they are failing to screen travelers against terrorism databases. We cannot afford to wait.”

The US has been warned about vulnerability because of border and immigration policies since the post-9/11 era when a special commission asserted visa overstays went unaddressed, enabling hijackers in the US to freely plan their attacks on America. Later reports indicated the original visas almost every hijacker applied for lacked complete information.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 15, 2016)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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