Back in April 2021, Todd Bensman talked with me about the nexus between immigration and national security in his book America’s Covert Border War: the Untold Story of the Nation’s Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration. Todd is an award-winning journalist who transitioned to a career as a national security intelligence professional for the Texas Department of Public Safety and then returned to writing and publishing.
We talk about the threat of muslim extremists crossing and the varied and circuitous international routes they may take - how some, like some Haitians now, can cross from Panama through the storied Darien Gap and across Mexico to seek asylum after crossing into the U.S. Todd currently serves as the Texas-based Senior National Security Fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington, D.C. immigration policy institute. While we talk around the politics of the border, his book is a story of the ambitious and intrigue-laden covert American counterterrorism programs built after 9/11 from the U.S. border to the tip of South America. Todd raises the question: have we become a victim of our own counterterrorism success?
Recorded earlier this year, on April 16th, 2021
More on the author and recent articles can be found at:
Todd Bensmen - Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)
Abid Ali Khan Indicted and Sanctioned
**Edited by Pete Turner
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Recorded Friday, April, 16h • 53:10
The Trump people went to the Ecuador government and said, Hey, you know that $20 million in federal aid we give you every year it's gone. If you don't slap restrictions on Pakistanis, and Iraqis and Syrians and here's a list of others to we'd like you to do, and they did it.
Welcome back to the live drop. Here's your mad minute for Todd Benson talks about the nexus between immigration and national security in his book America's covered border war, the untold story of the nation's battle to prevent jihadist infiltration. We talked about the threat of Muslim extremists crossing the varied, circuitous international routes they may take how some like the large group of patients now can cross from Panama through the story Darien gap and across Mexico seek asylum at the crossing the US currently serves as the Texas based senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies cis Washington, DC immigration policy institute. While we talk around the politics of the border, his book is an insider's story of the ambitious American counterterrorism programs built after 911 Todd raises the question have you become a victim of our own counterterrorism success? And I asked him, what's the border red? Begin transmission now?
Yeah, so how are you doing? Where are you right now? I'm in Austin, Texas. I'm at home, I work out of my house here. A couple of days, I'll head down to the border for the week. So I'll be on the road all next week. Right? And what will you be doing just sort of assess what's going on in that on that part of the border? Nobody ever goes over there. Most everybody, you know, the media is all going very there in El Paso. Or in the southern tip of Texas. This is what's called the Big Bend sector. Think Big Sky West Texas wilderness. Mostly, it's usually the slowest part of the border, because people, you know, migrants don't like to have to backpack through there. Right now, the numbers are up like 400%. So well, I'm gonna go over and try to figure out why. And I'll go to the Mexico side and actually interview the immigrants. They're supposedly supposed to be a whole bunch of them all mashed up over there on the other side and there. So I should be able to get to him there. And I'll write a few stories and come home. Sure. Have they been? Are they being held in Mexican detention centers? I mean, they were caught by the Mexicans before they cross the border. The Mexicans are fine with them, as long as they keep going.
It's turtles fly die. Yeah, they're not going to spend any money on doing anything that they don't have to. You know, Trump would say, you bet you're going to you're stuck with them. They're your problem, right? And when that was happening, the Mexicans were deporting them. And spending a lot of money doing that. I think maybe within an hour or two of Biden actually taking during the inauguration, all that ended, and they just started, the Mexicans announced we're not taking any of them back from you anymore. Right? Are your national senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies experienced and awarded national security journalists? I mean, you grew up in Texas, raised in Phoenix, Arizona, I was just, I just want to want to go way back like I was born in a border town in the north, but I was just wondering what it was like for you like what your first experience or exposure was to the border and what it meant to you. I mean, really, it wasn't my interest was never very academic about the border, you know, in high school friends, and I would go down to Puerto penasco and no galus for you know, recreation as you know, the big Bay there, the Choya Bay, it was a really laid back kind of a nice Mexican town on the border and you could drive down and a couple hours and it wasn't for any anything academic at that time.
So I definitely enjoyed the Mexico and didn't never feared going to Mexico maybe because of that. But much later, after I became a journalist and went lived in San Antonio close to the border, I realized that the hottest story in town was that border 2006 there was all kinds of murder and mayhem and civil drug war going on over there. I wanted to a piece of that. So I started going to the border and doing stories. That's when I really kind of cut my teeth on border reporting. There. I would say from 2006 to 2009. I went every chance I could and came back with all kinds of you can't throw a rock very far without hitting a really good story down there. Yeah, do you speak Spanish? No, you know, it's funny, I did a Western in 1999. I'm from New York State. So it's kind of a big deal to do a Western right to get down there and see like a Northeastern guy and a horse was pretty funny for the first time. But, um, the Wranglers were, you know, these kind of hard boiled east. Maybe freeze dried is probably a better word. Just East Texan ranch.
You know, we shut down in Bracketville which is which was near Del Rio. And one of the places we shot was this really large ranch which was right on the Rio Grande. And there were probably at least two or three different times while we were shooting, someone would just sort of come through the bush or from a long distance away at the curb, but they were just walking with an empty plastic water gallon container and you know, they'd come up to craft service and we give them something to eat. And then they, you know, have to call like Border Patrol, I guess, sir, but it seemed to be a pretty regular occurrence. That was 1999. Yeah, well, I was just in Brackettville a couple of weeks ago, and it's still going on, isn't it? Yeah. all over town. Anyway, how did all this lead to you kind of interviewing migrants at detention facilities or along the border, that's a longer story. I don't know how much time you got for that. But uh, when I was in San Antonio working for Hearst newspapers, I got interested in tips and information that my federal sources were giving me that Arabs were coming over the border, particularly a Rockies, eventually, I found one, and did a series of stories about how that a rocky got over the Texas border. Right? It took me all over the world I was in, I just traced his route from Syria and Jordan, through Guatemala, and Mexico and all the way to Detroit, which is where he ultimately ended up and I did a series of stories about how our Rockies could get through and the whole system of smuggling and document fraud that was necessary. And that led to the series of stories. And eventually I was through those stories was recruited to join the Texas Department of Public Safety.
to work on this as an intelligence matter. I was in the intelligence, counterterrorism division of the Department of Public Safety, which had an interest in that kind of migration over the southern border of Texas, and eventually came to learn that there were too many of those kinds of migrants coming from those kinds of countries to be for, for the FBI, and the other intelligence agencies to interview all of them before they bonded out and got into the interior. So So I started a program where I trained my analysts to go down into the detention centers, and interview them for the federal course. And I did a lot of the interviewing myself, and my team did a lot of the interviews and then we would produce intelligence reporting, just hand it all over to the Fed so that they could use it and do something with it. But bonded out. You mean, kind of jumped jumped bail on there? No, no, most of those migrants are called special interest. Aliens are from Middle Eastern countries, right? places where there's terrorist organizations, when they cross they, they claim asylum.
Once you claim asylum, and you go through the original, the initial screening judge will let you bond out post a bond, usually not excessive, and then you get out with a court date. And you're into the interior, you can qualify for a social security card and work authorization and you're here pretty much I mean, that it seems like that bond fee is part of the whole smuggling package, or do you have like a little Venmo account somewhere that you're spending as you make your way along, you know, that's, that's a whole other novel, too, you know, most of these smuggling fees to go from a place like, you know, Somalia, or recently, I wrote a big piece about Pakistani smuggling network that just got dinged by the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice, they don't have the guys in custody, but they're going after their money, which is almost as good. And those guys charged $20,000 ahead, to get from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the southern border.
Sometimes they'll charge 50,000, I've seen 60,000 those people are either using, they're borrowing the money from friends, relatives, or selling property, it seems like everybody's got an uncle who's got a plot parcel of land somewhere in Bangladesh. I'm amazed at how much land gets sold for these things. So before we jump into a little more, I mean, you just even mentioned even some more players. And this what really caught my eye was the covert border war. I thought, Wait a second. Anything with covert war kind of grabs my attention. And so I saw your book and gobbled it up and read it really enjoyed it. You know, to find out more Yeah, just want to say I really enjoyed the book, but who are the who are the major players down there on the border? I mean, you mentioned DPS, the Department of Public Safety for the state of Texas, who else is involved, and I think you've also broke it down into the near war. And the far war maybe you could divide it up. Yeah, the biggest player in all of this would be have to be ice, Homeland Security, investing.
HSI, right? They have the most resources and in the most knowledge and the widest farthest reach those guys are stationed in American embassies and allied embassies all over Latin America, Latin these smugglers down. The Pakistani guy that I just wrote about the Abdi Ali Khan. That was a big HSI case. Every time there's one of these cases that happens, it's going to be HSI however, they're just the ones whose names get put on here on the press releases when that happens that never get covered, by the way. But there is also a major role that the FBI plays the Joint Terrorism Task Forces along the borders, when Yemenis get caught, like they did recently in Calexico, California, crossing the border from Mexico who are on the terror watch list. It's going to be FBI all the way on those, they're going to take possession of those, those detainees, and interview the heck out of them for days on end and dump their pocket trash and so but then you've got a wider array of intelligence services that are involved. For example, South calm us Southern Command and North calm, who have intelligence groups that are dedicated to studying these kind of migrants and these kinds of smuggling organizations, because they have assets in the countries and are able to, let's just say collect for HSI for the FBI, they're all working together. So you got the military services. When there are operations, you'll see a CIA can be involved there, over time satellites were used to you know, spy into certain areas. The US Coast Guard has been involved with their assets. So really, there's a wide array of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agencies agency.
I just wrote a piece for Spy Talk that is based on certain chapter of my book where, you know, I recall how I would go into the detention facilities usually, or not, usually, but sometimes with the DA here on our side, and we would interview migrants together. The reason why I call it covert border war a is it's a great title, and it's eye catching. But it's also accurate, because most of what happens in this in these operations is classified the reporting the information about who's on the terror watch list about that person, those are going to be at the high classified level. And the general public may never know about it can't ever really know about these cases, success stories, there are a lot of success stories that will never be known. I try to put some of those in, for the most part, it's classified, and therefore that's a synonym for cover.
Right. So I think it's accurate. But there are all around the fringes of this covert border war, very public information that they exist, it seems, you know, at least up north, it seems when there's a criminal case involved, then everybody wants to get their acronym into that salad somehow, because I think that might mean, like, I don't really know what's going on down in the border. I'm just kind of speculating from someone who just reads the news. But you're saying it's probably a little different with some of these other organizations that want to maintain a kind of clandestine role? Yeah, I mean, typically, when when they break into public view, it'll be in a court case. And you can see which agencies were involved and how they brought the case together, how the case came together. It's more like an after action for somebody like me, because by the time it gets into a court system, all the covert ness is is over all of the investigative the way they did it is over. But very often, you can see what they did. And you can see that the main agencies that did the cases will be throughout will be in there, but there's no reason to put the supporting in there the supporting roles of an outfit like Southcom, or the CIA, which never wants to be named and anything like that. You'll see HSI in the for example, the Khan case that just came out a week ago, that's HSI all the way there all over it, the Treasury Department got involved in that one, the first time I've ever seen that happen. The other thing is that a lot of these cases would not happen, the smuggling prosecutions and investigations can't happen without allied governments. So there's this whole other aspect to why these operations need to be covert because we're dealing with foreign intelligence services that are doing things for us.
With us all the time and that has to be protected as well, I guess as journalists you described to going to Amman, Jordan to the Guatemalan consulate slash antique furniture store doing a little bit of investigating yourself Can you talk a little bit about the the market for visas in South America? And why is the Mexican visa passport the most valuable?
I you know, I guess you read I have a whole chapter dedicated to the wall that Latin American embassies and consular offices in other countries across the pond in the Middle East lay in enabling the traffic to the southern border and it's really a it's not rocket science. I mean, people don't know about it. Those embassies and consulate offices are a fount of illegal passports and visas and legal visas to you can't cross the Atlantic unless you fly usually. And in order to fly you need to have a passport and a visa so that when you land you can show it to the inspection guys so there's this whole market in that and those visas become very valuable especially for countries that are closest to the United States border and Mexico is the as the their visa their passports are the most valuable if you can get your hands on one of those because it prevents it short circuits your journey you can get a Brazilian passport, but then you got to travel 10 days through the Darien gap jungle, braving bandits and mosquitoes and snakes and it's horrible rapists and all of that. But if you can fly to Mexico City, then you're practically here at the border.
So an Iraqi that I initially interviewed back in 2007 telling me that they got they paid $700 for a Guatemala visa in Amman, Jordan. And I was like huh, okay, but they never went to the embassy they paid somebody else to go do it, which is illegal. Nobody does that. It was on its face from a fascia illegal away they got the their Guatemalan documents. So when I went to Syria, to interview immigrants, or would be aspiring immigrants heading for the US border, I went over to the to Oman and just asked around like where is there an Amman embassy around here. And I was very close to it there. It was just down the street. And there was a flagpole. In the middle of the downtown business district. In 2007, was when I was there that was flapping have a Guatemalan flag, there was an honorary console woman who was Manning her furniture store. And upstairs, she had an embassy office for people who wanted to go to Guatemala. And she said, You know, I never ever give visas to anybody who I haven't fully investigated and met in person and have signed the papers right here in front of me.
And then I said, well, I've just interviewed five Iraqis who said that they paid, you know, $700 through somebody else to get their visas. And she said, Get out right now, that out of my office was sort of my answer right there. But Mexican embassies are in consulate offices are all over the Middle East. And they're very frequently implicated in selling passports, Mexican passports to these travelers, which I find is a serious national security threat and a breach. And I opine throughout the book that you know, there's something needs to be done about those embassies over there to shut that down. You can buy a Mexican passport for 10 Grand in Singapore, or Mumbai, India, places you would never imagine. It just seems like a lot of intelligence work. I mean, all these of us that all these you, you listed in your book, some countries where these embassies, we are really regulated there. They're kind of flourishing with selling these, I think you mentioned, you know, Russia, I found you know, there are there are nations that are obviously hostile to the United States think Cuba and Venezuela. Right. And so I stopped by both of those embassies when I was in Syria that year, and found a line of Syrians half a block long, waiting to get their nine different kinds of visas to Venezuela. And you know, big Hugo Chavez poster on the wall at that time, and they were just handing them out and it costs you know, 50 bucks or something to get a visa to Venezuela, which then is right on the migrant trails to the United States. And I paid a visit to the Cuban embassy to because a lot of these migrants flying from the Middle East, on their way to the southern border. fly through Havana first and
Then from Havana to Nicaragua or Costa Rica, or Mexico or something like that. And the Cuban embassy official that I interview, sat down in an interview and says, I asked him, what's the take? And he says 70 bucks, and we don't care. If you're a terrorist or anything we don't ask, we don't care. In fact, we kind of hope they are because bush started this war, and they'll come back home to him to finish it. So there's a hostility, they like it, some of these countries are very happy to give visas to potential terrorists, that they should just send you to every embassy consulate used to go there to ask for a visa to I mean, I think they also realize that people aren't going to Cuba. That's not their final destination.
Oh, and I said, you know, that you realize that the Syrians are not coming on their tourist visit visa to come hang out here in Havana, and the guys like, yeah, we don't care where they go, or whether they stay. But you know, even worse is Ecuador. I talk about Ecuador, the book, which does eliminated all Visa requirements. There's no illegal humans and that kind of thing. All right, they just simply have everybody, anybody who wants to fly into Ecuador can fly in and there's no Visa requirements. So of course, all the human smugglers, you know, moved to Ecuador, their operations to Ecuador that that's a problem to this day, even though Donald Trump tried to put restrictions on those for like the Pakistanis, and Somalis and some of the other ones are Iraqis, maybe a year or two ago, they the Trump administration did that, but I'm sure by now, those are now not being enforced. How would he do that? In Ecuador? I mean, what kind of policy would could dictate, you know, Ecuadorian? ISIS, it was easy.
The Trump people went to the Ecuador government and said, Hey, you know that $20 million in federal aid we give you every year, it's gone. If you don't slap restrictions on Pakistanis, and Iraqis and Syrians and here's a list of others to we'd like you to do. And they did it. They did. Wow. Yeah. I went to Ecuador. Once mountain climbing. I didn't need a visa. You talked about some of these other pretty colorful and resourceful smuggling operators. I mean, con is one of them, that you wrote about recently was in your book. Is there any others that you remember, is particularly notorious. These are very specialized, smart, human smugglers.
These are not like the coyotes at the Mexican border. Right? These are businessmen and women who are usually multilingual, educated, have residences in multiple countries and have houses and connections and they can speak the language in Pakistan and Spanish. And they're very unique individuals. And they make a lot of money doing these intercontinental travel journeys for people. They're not particularly dangerous. They're not particularly ideological, like not purposefully dangerous, but they're so profit motivated. They don't really care who, who they're bringing in. And quite a few of these guys knew that the people that were suspected that the people that they were bringing in, were terrorists, and one of them in particular comes to mind. His last name was Al Haq. And he was a Pakistani smuggler busted a few years ago by HSI. What was interesting about that case is that the HSI agents decided to test whether he would wittingly move a terrorist so they slipped some informants into his organization and said hey, we need you to move some Pakistani Taliban guys who the government's after dangerous guys.
They offered a money and we're waiting to see if he would say no, I don't do that sort of thing. I would never move a terrorist. And he was like, yeah, of course I'll take the cash. And added that he wouldn't care if they got to the United States, whether they mop floors or blew up or blew themselves up. What was interesting also about that case, is that the slapped a terrorism enhancement on him and got a much bigger prison sentence on all Hawk for being so willing to move terrorists in. But some of these guys were terrorists themselves. Decani of Somali comes to mind. He was operating our smuggling ring in Brazil out of Brazil bringing Somalis in and then eventually decided to come over the border himself. He got caught up in a detention center FBI sting the FBI had a an undercover informant in the detention center who was a Somali and befriended the Decani told the informant everything about his Al Shabaab position he was an official with Al Shabaab had all the training had procured weapons for the terrorist organization and knew a whole bunch of them some of those that he moved when he was smuggling war.
Terrorist operatives. And when he told the feds about this, that this launched this crazy frantic nationwide manhunt for these Somalis that he had smuggled in, and they, they never could find them. They never could catch these guys. But there was all sorts of drama out of that. And he was a terrorist himself and was ultimately prosecuted not for that, but for immigration fraud, and went to prison and served his time. And then they deported him. There was another smuggler, I call them kingpins, right, this one a female named Nancy Siai, what was interesting about her is when she got caught that she was caught twice, the first time, ice busted her. I think she got a year in prison and then got out and went back to the to the business, tried to kill the assassinate the ice agent who did this. And they found that out in the second investigation when they laid hands on the manuscript of a book that she had written, describing how she had gone in, surveil the officer’s home, laid eyes on the wife on him, got his whole was trying to get a weapon, and was going to murder them in their homes and ultimately hit the eject button on that. So that's the those are the kind of characters you know, there was a golf pro, who is an SI a smuggler who went all around playing, you know, professional golf tournaments. And he would use those to make connections to help his business moving aliens, so from Middle Eastern countries. So there's a whole chapter on the essay, kingpins and how we, who they are and how we caught them, how they try to invade us that the American public knows nothing of how it's been going on for years. It's fascinating. It's fascinating, and I didn't realize that they'd had their own. I mean, these aren't nation states that you're kind of working against. I mean, sometimes you are they're usually just turning a blind eye. But for the most part, these are private organizations. And I didn't realize that had that kind of counterintelligence I mean that she was actually following the US surveilling the HSI agent, I full disclosure, I did play an ice agent who was stationed in Santiago, Chile. It was a comedy show. I'm not an ice agent, but I had played one in ionic late one in a movie that kind of went straight to video. But yeah,
Not on TV, but straight to video. Yeah. And essays are special, special interest aliens. I mean, I guess, I guess, you know, you were interviewing people at the border. And it just seems like there's a big difference in intentions. I mean, let's go back a little bit to the SAA like special interest alien, you said in your in your book that this kind of this term sort of came out? Or it kind of came into use so we can little more popular during the, during the Obama administration with the memo that came out around that time? Like by focusing attention on essays at the border, did that get his Why did they get as much attention as say, you know, Trump's travel ban for those 10 those 10 countries? Yeah, because if you cover the essay issue that like a straight coverage of the essay issue, then you have to acknowledge that there are SIA's. And most people in the media don't ever want to do that they for I don't know why they don't want to say that there are that there is this migration. I think it's political bias myself, I'd say that in the book, I don't mind saying it here. And so you know, that sort of thing gets no coverage to cover it means that you have to say they exist, and nobody wants to do that. But you know, just backtracking a little bit.
The term SIA special interest alien actually came out in about 2003 2004, shortly after 911 in those first crazy years after 911 when the emergent new homeland security establishment DHS, Department of Homeland Security, and everybody was wondering where the next strike was going to happen. And logically, they said, Well, of course the border, the southern border, it's wide open, they could just come crossing in they, there's traffic has been coming in for years, we've always known about it and not cared about it. Now all of a sudden, we care about it. And so we're going to, we're going to set up a whole protocol for caring about that. And part of that was to identify the migrants from certain countries and for special treatment for special security vetting at the border when we catch them, and there's a whole complexity about that, but the quick version of it is that the intelligence community, the agencies, like think CIA and military agents
He's assessed Which country's populations might be of higher risk just because of the inculcation of Islamic extremist ideologies in all the institutions and the presence of actual terrorist organizations. So, Afghanistan, obviously, in Iraq, obviously would be on that list. So any a rocky from a country on that list or from Iraq would be stamped special interest aliens as soon as we caught them, or they had a stamp, SCA is an official term, there have been other terms right now the new one, the Biden administration came in and changed it again a month or two ago. And now it's called special interest, not undocumented persons as up, sweep the soup. Yeah. And it's because they don't like the word alien they're trying to remove, remove the word alien from all government vernacular, but it doesn't matter, it's still the same thing.
There are people when they get caught from one of those and the number of countries on the list changes it, it ebbs and flows, it's been as high as 50. Right now it's at about 25. It's usually right in about the 35 range. That's where the special interest alien term comes from. All the way back in 2003 2004, the intelligence community came up with it, Customs and Border Protection, adopted it, sent it out in memorandum to all of the frontline troops and have this whole protocol. So when I look for you asked, you know, how do you tell, what do you look for? And the answer is that, you know, the majority of essays are not going to be terrorist, they're not going to be any, they may be a victim of terrorism, actually, fleeing terrorist organizations, you know, Christians in in in those countries, the purpose of the interviews, and the what I call the near war, is to just make sure that we can rule out that they're not the bad guys before we let them in. If they're lying and covering up if they can't describe the hometown that they say they're from in any way, or they describe it in the wrong way. That's going to be a problem. That means how you guys?
Yeah, that's how you do it. Right? Yeah. So there's a lot of the that kind of thing that happens if we feel like they're lying, but sometimes they come right out. And like, we had one guy Somali, who said, You know, I was a bad guy, I trained what all last year to be a suicide bomber. We were gonna there was a group of us, we were all going to go bomb us targets over there. But I had a change of heart. And I blew the whistle on the whole operation. I'm just telling you that to just so that you'll love me more. But, you know, the act of acknowledging that you had suicide bombing training last year means that you're not getting into this country. That's a big problem.
But did he have like some sort of, I guess, biometrics or some kind of right. I know a lot of countries don't even keep those kinds of records. But there's more you said there's more cooperation with Yeah, I guess biometrics fingerprints, retinas?
Yeah, there. There is a lot of that happening, a lot more of that happening where biometrics are being collected. But the problem is, and we do have quite a few watch listed who are already on the terror watchlist cross the border. CBP if you're reading my work, about a week and a half ago, CBP issued of really bizarre because they just never do this. a press release about two Yemenis who got caught in Calexico, California just after crossing from Mexico who were already on the FBI terrorism watch list. Now that happens all the time. I wouldn't say it happens every day but like probably monthly set two separate incidents they they one came in in January and the other one came in in March. And for whatever reason CBP put a press release together with both of them in there by the way the press release didn't didn't survive long they took it down within 24 hours because people like me were tweeting it out going wow, oh my god, look at this. You know, it's a public record of Watch List of guys.
Well, my book is, you know, you read my book is infused with cases of people who cross the border who are already on the terror watch list. That means that somebody, somewhere down the range in the pipeline in another country, could have been asked could have been an allied Intelligence Service, noticed him or her and put them on the watch list because they regarded that person as potentially dangerous, terror watch list. Those are the lucky ones where we
run their fingerprints through a database and we paying, we get a ping Oh, the sky is dangerous. But there are a whole bunch of other ones that are not on any watch list. But most Somalis, you know there is no government there for 25 years. They don't even have birth certificates or marriage or driver's licenses are anything in a place like Somalia or Libya right now. Or Yemen in the tribal areas or Waziristan. There's all kinds of places where you can live your whole life as a terrorist and never get on a terror watchlist anywhere. We have to rule out first, that they're not a dangerous terrorist, you know, we're down in the facilities trying to you know, the FBI, with the Yemenis, no doubt are probably still interrogating them now, two weeks later, dumping their cell phones, they found a SIM card hidden inside the insole of one of the shoes of these Yemenis. No regular migrant takes the trouble to pull a SIM card out and hide it like that. So you know, whatever's on the SIM card is going to be going to be very interesting. I will Republic will never know about that. They took the press release down.
Yeah. You know, it's interesting, you know, your book I didn't. Like I said, I wanted to mention, the border, like is sort of a it's kind of a political seesaw. I mean, there, there's Right. I mean, it's even more than I see sites like lightning rod for in some ways, right? You know, it seems like what you bring attention to has a lot to do with, you know, the policy that you want, or what it is that you actually, you actually fear in reading your book, I felt I felt it was fairly nonpartisan. You know, it's it seems like a, you know, this is a journalistic investigation into what's going on, at the, you know, because you can kind of you can kind of sense that when people have otter maybe a little more eagerness behind their, their intentions for but like I said, if it felt nonpartisan, and you mentioned that, you know, the travel ban, or the Trump administration did have negative effect. I mean, what was that?
Well, the travel ban, that's a different kind of issue, that's not a border issue, it could be a travel, it could be a border issue, because when Trump tried to limit travel from a place like Yemen, and Somalia, through like issuing visas, where people can fly from their airport to our airport, and present their visa, Trump shut all that down. But what he didn't do is apply that in any way meaningful way to the border traffic by nationals from those same countries. So what would happen is, you know, Yemenis would be like, Oh, well, I can't apply for a visa, I'll just come over the border and get the very same benefit. I'm in I'll get asylum, I can claim asylum at the border. All I do is point out in the book that, you know, there was all this talk about the travel ban. And I'm sure the intentions behind that were honorable, I believe they were had to do with whether we could vet people from those countries, before we gave them a student visa. You can't vet anybody from Somalia, because they don't even have driver's licenses there. let alone a criminal database that would log somebody as a rapist who spent five years and in a tribal jail or something, you know, people on the on the liberal side of the spectrum, get all verklempt about isolating immigrants by religion and nationality. And there's stories and investigations about it and all this attention applied to it. But never once has any of that attention or critique been applied to the nationality and religious profiling that we've been doing for 15 years straight down at the border. I go back to the reason for that is to write stories and investigative pieces about that means that you have to say that that migration is happening. Yeah, just personally, just the number of children that are coming across. I mean, most of them are, you know, as young as five years old, but most are teenagers. I just makes me think like, you know, to send a 13 year old kid, how desperate how desperate, you must be to send your, your unaccompanied minor, you know, to the border and hope for the best. I was just wondering what your thoughts on that are?
Yeah, I mean, the world is a vast population of really poor people. Most of the world's population lives in, you know, some degree of poverty in with terrible governments, corrupt governments, and nobody wants to live in places like that I get it. The problem is, is that it's a big world with a lot of billions of people. And so at some point, you know, countries that are more fortunate have to apply restrictions, you can't just flood the zone willy nilly like that. Now you I spent a lot of time with migrants on
I look them into the eye right with them. I hear their stories and all the rest of that. And I get it on a personal level, I get it. But from a policy level, I mean, you can't just open the borders wide and let everybody and anybody flood your country just because they want to. And so it's a it's an issue of sovereignty. I'm not aware of any countries other than United States right now, that just don't care how many millions of people just flow right over their borders, like Who does that? Nobody? No country does that anywhere. Name one. That just says everybody can come in who wants to come in? And so we don't say that. Definitely. Everybody who wants to come in, come on. You know, I heard the press the last president presidential press conference, Joe Biden said we will leave no child in Mexico, no child gets left in Mexico. Well, if you're the parent of a child, and you hear that, you know, you live in a poor country, like Honduras or something, guess what you're going to do? First thing you can do is you're going to get while the getting's good. Yeah. And a lot of these kids, are they are they moving up on these just like field trips? Or everybody gets on a bus? And they travels? Or are there organized smugglers that are moving children up as well? Or do you know?
Yeah, I mean, a lot of them can self-propel, as I call it, you know, you get on the bus and you get, you get to within striking distance. You hear their social media, everybody's got cell phones, they're on WhatsApp, and they're saying where to go and where the best places are to get across and there's lifetime intelligence, then when they get to the area, then they'll have to hire it depends on the area. But typically, they'll have to hire the local drug smuggling organization that also has a branch that does human smuggling, not to pay them and get them across the river. But that's more like the coyote level. Yeah, that's the coyote level. Lots of money being made with that right now. Yeah. So because, you know, if you're occupying the White House, and you're messaging, so the whole world is, we're going to expand our capacity to help you come in in an orderly way. That's, that's a very different thing, then we are going to do everything we can to keep you out. So 10s, of 1000s upon 1000s are, are just poring over the border to take advantage of that they get legal documents within a day or two days, and then they can board a bus to anywhere in the country they want to go. So 10s of 1000s a day are coming into the United States. Well, let me put it this way.
In the month of March, Border Patrol encountered 170,000 in a four week period, so do the math. In February, the number was 100,000. So they encountered them or they or they let them in, they let them in different things happen. They didn't let all of them in. They probably what they're doing right now is they're returning the single adults under the pandemic push back rule that Trump put in place. So if you come in as a family, you get put put right through the turnstile, given documents in there, you're boarding the buses, these are the ones that are claiming asylum. Well, not right away, they will eventually claim asylum. Almost none of them are eligible for asylum, but it doesn't matter. They'll never be removed. Because the other thing that Biden did was he eliminated all deportations. So there, there simply is no more deportations have happening even for most criminal aliens won't be deported. And they know that. So once they get in when loser draw on the asylum they're in Plus, there's this prospect out there where we're going to offer a path to citizenship for all these people. And so there's citizenship in the wings now, so even more are trying to come want to come in.
Now the single males and females that get pushed back, there's no consequence to their being caught once, twice, three times, four times, five times. And so they just keep trying over and over and over again, probably driving the numbers up a little bit. But the reason why they keep trying over and over again, is because eventually they get past the Border Patrol and into the interior where nobody will ever deport them. So they just keep trying and trying and trying. The way it was before is you could get you would get prosecuted the first time. The second time might mean jail time, the third time for sure jail, plus a lifetime ban or a 10 year ban, whatever and during the consequences, Biden took away all the consequences so they keep just trying and trying again five 610 times until they get in and then all the while many, many more from around the world are coming including from special interest countries.
This is interesting stuff and a complicated issue. But one thing we haven't talked about much was the northern border. I mean, I think you're right in your book that they, you know, had an increase in essays across the Canadian points of entry increased from 15 120 13, to almost 20 320 18 mentioned, you know, some nationalities that seem to be appearing at the northern border. I guess my question is, what's, what's the difference? And why does it what isn't it get as much attention. I mean, there's a couple there are a couple of key differences. One is that those essays, typically who are crossing in from Canada, remember that you Canada doesn't have any contiguous countries, like the United States has 26. It's connected to, you know, Latin America, which is just nothing but porous borders, and airports, into them. If you want to come into Canada unknown, you have to parachute in with a dog sled team or something you can't like in the Yukon or something. I mean, you're just you have to fly into an airport, into Canada, from any of those countries. And in usually it's going to be, you're going to be a refugee, or somebody who's already been granted asylum of some sort. They're in the home country.
So the Canadians are going to have a book on you already. And so the programs that I that I reveal in the Americas cover border war, are tailored to a border where most of the people coming from those countries are complete strangers. And in fact, they show up with no identification, most of the time, whereas the ones coming into Canada, there's something known about them. So these programs wouldn't apply. wouldn't work on the northern border as well. And why the America's covert war border war doesn't really apply to the Canadians as much. That's not to say that homegrown born the second generation, terrorists from whose parents came over originally, and they're the children and the children's children radicalized couldn't come over and do something, but they haven't much so far. But they have attacked in Canada, Canada doesn't has a Jihad problem there. And there have been quite a lot of attacks in Canada and thwarted plots. You mentioned also in your book that our border protection programs have a victim of its own success. I mean, the question that people always think about is, well, how many terrorist operations were stopped, you know, 25, or 26, over a period of a decade? I'm just wondering if you have any figures or any way of quantifying that?
Well, the Unfortunately, the answer, the definitive answer to that is classified. Those governments never want to release the information on that. It invites more questions, and how did you get this? How do you know and nobody's ever going how we know. So that's the problem. But I do, I do manage to provide a pretty good idea of it in certain data points. For example, we know from the Mexicans
that they have apprehended 19 people that they believe were terrorists in the last couple of years. And that would be almost certainly with the American foreign war collaboration with the American foreign war that that's described in the book. And they've been deported. All 19 of them were deported. They were from places like Yemen, Somalia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Syria, so there's 19 that didn't make it to the border. And the presumption then is that whatever plots, that our intentions that they had, went with them, and we can't know what those plots and intentions are, could be even the intelligence agencies that dealt with them don't know, the Panamanians told a group of traveling Arizona State University journalism students the year before last, who I helped set up and get get down there that they had apprehended. They had had 49 terror alerts in recent years, I want to say since 2011, on their territory, and so things like that are happening in Costa Rica and Mexico, long before they ever even get to the border. And then at the border, we have had our share of
migrants who had terror connections who ended up deported also, very quietly, furtively, sent home sent back to Mogadishu sent to Pakistan deported and the ones that get prosecuted the records are amazing and very detailed about their terrorism associations and activities.
It's just nobody ever likes to report about them because then you have to say that they came and they came over the border. And nobody ever wants to say that.
I'll give you a great example if I just have a minute but I wrote a piece the day before yesterday it published on the cis.org site, about this Pakistani si a smuggler, that HSI just took down.
But he's not arrested yet. He's a fugitive still, but they indicted him in a in a federal court in out of Virginia. And that guy was moving for at least six years Afghanis from the war zones, and Pakistanis from a region of Pakistan that is well known as a haven for Milan, the SWAT, SWAT area. Yeah, and the the DOJ put a press release out, the Treasury Department put a press release out. And you can google this and find that nobody reported any of their government press releases. The CBP press release about the two Yemenis that got caught in California. Nada, nada, not a word.
Man, I really enjoyed your book. It's really great to finally talk to somebody to kind of make some sense about what's what's going down there. I mean, you hear so much and a lot of it's, you know, it's it's anecdotal. It's somebody who went down there for a TV appearance. It's someone with, you know, political agenda. So it could be the president of the United States who says terrorists are crossing and everybody calls him a flat outlier. Or in he didn't even go that far. Some of the time he just said, immigrants from the Middle East are crossing the border. And everybody said, That is a lie. Right? I'm talking to Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, all of them. Keep saying that it's a lie. Well, I would just urge them to pick up my book, I will do. And another time, I'll ask you what a border rat is. But
anyway, somebody has a lot of time down there, loves and loves it. Well be safe when you go back down there. Anyway, Todd, thanks for being on the live drop. Thank you. Appreciate you having me.
That was my talk with Todd Benson is more on this author and his recent articles can be found at Todd benson.com. He's also on Twitter at advancement. Todd, I would like to thank Pete Turner, creator of the break it down show a wonderful podcast with I think that's like 1000 episodes, so very interesting guests. But anyway, Pete did a masterful job of editing the bulk of this episode, and I just would like to thank him and I am just putting out season three, I want to hold out my hat a little bit and ask for some help. I try to put these episodes with all these episodes together without any advertising breaks or, or pitches, and as a result, it can become kind of time consuming. So I'm just asking for a little bit of help. I have a one time Pay Pal and also a Patreon which you can find links for in the show notes. Really appreciate everybody out there. I would love if some people can help out. If you can't, no worries, just keep listening.
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