As Donald Trump prepares for his 8-minute "The Wall" remarks, which will be televised live by all major U.S. networks, read Nicholas Rasmussen's take in Just Security on the so-called terrorism crisis at the southern border. Spoiler. There is none.
"Bottom line," says Rasmussen, a career defense professional who was the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2014 to 2017:
"There is no crisis, and anyone who says there is probably trying to mislead or scare the American people."
Taken at face value, rhetoric from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would lead Americans to believe that the United States is facing a terrorism crisis at our southern border. The picture being painted is one in which thousands of terrorists have been stopped crossing our southern border to infiltrate the Homeland. If that were true, that would indeed be a crisis.
In reality, no such crisis exists.
Our federal courthouses and prisons are not filled with terrorists we've captured at the border. There is no wave of terrorist operatives waiting to cross overland into the United States. It simply isn't true. Anyone in authority using this argument to bolster support for building the wall or any other physical barrier along the southern border is most likely guilty of fear mongering and willfully misleading the American people.
Why do I know this? As Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) from December 2014 until December 2017, it was my job to lead the government's efforts to collect and analyze all available information about terrorist threats to the Homeland. It was my responsibility on behalf of the Intelligence Community to synthesize and present that terrorism picture to our most senior decision makers – up to and including the President of the United States — so that sound decisions could be made about how to protect the Homeland from terrorist attack.
Here is ground truth on this issue. Terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida and ISIS spend time talking about, brainstorming and even fantasizing about ways in which they can do harm to the United State. At times, those conversations have certainly included discussion of ways in which terrorist operatives might be inserted into the Homeland. But we also knew from intelligence reporting that terrorist groups have very high regard for our Homeland Security capabilities, including our border security. They know we had become a much "harder" target than at the time of 9/11 and that getting their operatives into the United States is an extremely challenging proposition.
In part, that's why terrorist groups pivoted in recent years to a different business model. Rather than focusing on trying to insert a terrorist operative from abroad, it has proven to be far easier for an organization like ISIS or al-Qa'ida to inspire or motivate an individual already inside the United States to act on their behalf. That change has left us with the threat condition that prevails today, in which the greatest terrorism threat we face is from what we call Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) – in most cases individuals who were either born here or have lived here for most of their adult lives.
Read the rest at Just Security.