Todd Bensman is the San Antonio Express-News reporter who conducted his own investigation into American border security over the course of a four-part series for the paper. Published this past May, the four installments of the series are accessible here, here, here, and here.
Bensman discovered the existence of a pipeline of illegals from “Countries of Special Interest” — mostly in the Middle East, almost all Muslim — that runs through Latin American into the United States. It is a remarkable series. Yet apart from our friend Hugh Hewitt, who immediately highlighted the series on his site and invited Bensman on his show to discuss it, the silence has been deafening. Why? You can answer that question as well as I can.
Tomorrow Bensman will be the keynote speaker presenting his findings at a conference of some 120 Assistant United States Attorneys whose jurisdiction covers the Texas/Mexico border. Bensman has kindly summarized his findings for us:
— More than 5,700 illegal migrants from 43 Islamic countries, including State Sponsors of Terror, have been caught while traveling over the Canadian and Mexican borders along well-established underground smuggling routes since 9-11, a traffic that continues daily. People caught coming from these countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa are labeled by our federal law enforcement agencies as “Special Interest Aliens.”
— I have estimated that between 20,000 and 60,000 have gotten through without getting caught since 9/11. Most are probably economic or politically persecuted migrants but all of those who evaded border patrol also did not undergo terror watch list screening and are walking around the country anonymous. This evasion constitutes the primary national security vulnerability of our unguarded borders.
— These migrants, though relatively small in total numbers, are high risk because they hail from countries where American troops are actively battling Islamic insurgents such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Philippines. They come from nations where radical Islamic organizations have bombed U.S. interests or murdered
Americans, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Lebanon. And they come from State Sponsors of Terrorism such as Syria, Iran and Sudan. And lastly, they come from Saudi Arabia.
— Unguarded U.S. borders are most certainly in terrorist playbooks as a means of entering the country. Since the late 1990s, at least a dozen confirmed terrorists have sneaked over U.S. borders, including operatives from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers and one Al Qaida terrorist once No. 27 on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list.
— The general flow of routes across the world almost always head toward South America and Central America first because it puts them within easy striking distance of the Mexican border. Corrupt customs and government officials, as well as Arab settler populations in those countries help keep this this traffic moving northward, providing safe haven, jobs and smuggling connections.
— Latin American consulates based in the Middle East are selling tourist visas outright for bribes or simply issuing them to local travelers in places like Damascus, Beirut and Amman Jordan without regard to U.S. security interests.
— Large numbers eventually pass through Guatemala, which issues visas regularly from its foreign consulate offices in places like Jordan and Egypt, making illegal border crossings through Texas possible.
— Since 9/11, Mexico has fielded a surprisingly robust effort to interdict Special Interest Migrants. Mexican intelligence officers interrogate and often deport special interest aliens in partnership with American FBI and CIA agents. Often, the Mexicans allow American agents inside their detention facilities. But severe shortages of manpower and interpreters result in the release of many onto the streets of Mexico — without thorough threat assessements — to continue on toward the U.S. border.
— On the U.S. side of the border, the FBI is supposed to interrogate and conduct a threat assessment and interrogations on every captured special interest alien. But the process is severely flawed and open to error. Often, the FBI signs off on captured SIAs (allowing them access to the political asylum process) without conclusively knowing whether they are or are not terrorists.
— Furthermore, border patrol agents are simply using a process called “expedited removal” to kick SIAs back into Mexico, where they will certainly try to cross again, with no investigation or FBI referral whatsoever.