A Look at America’s Covert Border War
By Leah Barkoukas, features editor, as originally published March 12, 2021 by TownHall
While former President Trump had a knack for whipping the press into a frenzy no matter what he seemed to say, one issue he touched on in 2018 brought about a tsunami of criticism unlike most others.
What had he dared bring attention to this time? He suggested, based on “very good information,” that it’s not just Central and South American migrants making their way into the U.S. through the southern border, but that dangerous Islamic terrorists were possibly amid the massive caravans. One tweet about Muslim prayer rugs reportedly being found at the border really sent the press over the edge. The media panned his claims as “unfounded,” “baseless,” an “old, far-right meme” and “bogus.”
But for Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies and Townhall columnist, there was truth to Trump’s claim, and he had witnessed it firsthand in the many years he spent as a reporter covering migrant trails and as a senior intelligence analyst for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.
In his new book, “America’s Covert Border War: The Untold Story of The Nation’s Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration,” Bensman delivers an accurate and nonpartisan look at the threat, details what the American counterterrorism effort has done behind the scenes to address it, and how the counterterrorism project can be strengthened as the threat of terrorist infiltration intensifies.
Bensman takes both Republicans and Democrats to task over cases of the former overstating the threat and the latter completely understating it. And while the reality is that it’s somewhere in the middle, the U.S. learned on 9/11 that it doesn’t take many bad actors to inflict not only great initial harm but to also trigger a domino of financial and human costs.
As he details in the book, Europe also learned this lesson the hard way after its 2015 migrant crisis, resulting in many European leaders laying down the welcome mat, which terrorist border infiltrators happily walked over too. In the months and years that followed, Germany, France, and other nations learned the catastrophic consequences, which forced major changes in political landscapes and agreements, to security apparatuses, and on privacy and civil liberties.
Meanwhile in the U.S., law enforcement and intelligence officials had been working tirelessly and under the radar on what Bensman calls a “covert border war,” dealing with the threat of Special Interest Aliens at the southern border—“the Near War”—and battling a “Far War” in Mexico, Central America, and South America to hunt down SIA smugglers.
Whether it’s through their efforts, or luck—likely a combination of both—Bensman warns “all dice eventually roll up sevens.”
While federal agents have had their heads down working on the threat, politicians seem to have had their heads in the sand, especially concerning valuable lessons that could’ve been learned from Europe. The result was seen in the recent open-borders-loving field of Democratic presidential candidates, which the rest of the world heard loud and clear, culminating in President Biden’s current border crisis.
“Honestly, I don’t even understand it,” Bensman told Townhall about the Biden administration’s immigration position. “They don’t acknowledge any need for border security or any sort of danger of any sort from anybody, even MS-13, they won’t acknowledge it. At least the Obama administration had some sensitivity to all of that.”
And on the threat from SIAs? Forget it, he said. “It doesn’t look promising at all that they would be concerned about this.”
But the reality is, on the issue of reforming the asylum system as it relates to SIAs, Republican administrations have historically been no better than Democratic ones, President Trump included.
Yes, the 45th president was often credited with being an immigration hawk, but on the issue of SIAs, Bensman gave him a D+.
“He was the only sitting U.S. president who’s ever talked about this, so you got to give them that,” he said. “But in the practice of governing, his people really exempted Special Interest Alien migration from all of the policies that he put in.”
And now, the border war is on the verge of being compromised, if it hasn’t already been.
“It gets very perilous when you have so many people coming in that your normal controls go off, everything goes offline,” Bensman said about the current immigration crisis.
Still, the point of his book isn’t to frighten the American public about the threat of terrorist infiltration—it’s intended to normalize the issue and serve as a “reference guide.”
“Every time [the threat of jihadist infiltration at the border] gets raised … it starts up this big fight about what’s true and what’s not,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s going to end anytime soon, it’s going to keep coming up. And so, what I really hope is that the book just stands as the ultimate reference guide on this issue.”
For those paying attention now, it is. And in the event an attack takes place in the future, it will be equally valuable for those wondering how it could’ve happened and what to do next.