Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
An extremely disturbing fact about attempts of Islamic State (ISIS) of entering the US soil and create economic chaos has been recently exposed by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci in the Homeland Security Today, on June 3, 2019.
In this report they wrote, “The vulnerability of the U.S. borders to possible exploitation by terrorists – particularly in light of the heavy migration flow toward our southern border, either by those claiming asylum or relying on smugglers to cross into the country undetected – has been a border enforcement and policy concern since at least 9/11. While the administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Obama took a series of executive immigration and border enforcement actions to respond to the flaws of our immigration and border enforcement system, such as placing emphasis on deporting individuals considered national security risks, gang members, and other dangerous felons, a huge controversy erupted, especially among Democrats, in response to the Trump administration introducing a number of more restrictive immigration measures, namely the prospect of building a wall along the border with Mexico and instituting a travel ban against countries from which terrorists might arrive”.
Regarding attempt of ISIS and other jihadist forces of entering Europe, the writers said, “In the past, terrorists have managed to infiltrate Europe through irregular immigration routes, such as in the case of the November 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels airport and metro attacks. The nature and the extent of such threats in the United States, including measures put in place to address them, remains a point of contention for many. For instance, in January, the White House said 4,000 “known or suspected terrorists” were prevented from crossing into the United States via the U.S.-Mexican border in 2018. A later report disputed such claims, noting that they were based on 2017 data, that the number refers to the total security stops made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and that these were primarily made at airports versus at the southern U.S. border. While figures remain speculative, we have learned in our in-depth research interviews with over 160 ISIS defectors, returnees and imprisoned ISIS cadres to date about multiple individuals who knew of, or were themselves offered, or pressured by the ISIS emni (intelligence) to return to Europe to mount attacks at home. We have not, however, found in our research interviews, until now, any instance of ISIS cadres who were prepared to be sent by ISIS to attack inside the U.S. This may be because there were so few Americans who made it all the way to Syria and Iraq, many being stopped by the FBI before departing the country, or because we simply had not run across those with such knowledge”.
Commenting on this very important scoop, Todd Bensman, who is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies and who had previously led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division (ICD) for nearly a decade said, “As I have often documented, too, (also here and here), the capacity for ISIS operatives to travel from Syria to the southern border is well-established. Smuggling organizations routinely bridge the Atlantic Ocean to link Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq to the U.S. southern border through as many as a dozen Latin America countries. Numerous reputed Islamist terrorists have made the journey, such as a Somali who crossed into California and went on to conduct a 2017 vehicle-ramming attack in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada”.
Mr. Bensman further said, “Whatever becomes of the inevitable investigation or Abu Henricki, the published report about what he said should serve as a wake-up call to American decision-makers and voters, regardless of partisan sentiment, to look at the border crisis as about much more than Central Americans with children”.
This revelation is extremely crucial as the United States is going to go into electing the next president as well as members of the Congress, especially when all of us are aware of disturbing activities of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who openly are making frantic bids in compelling the US administration in opening borders to the immigrants. We also are aware of similar attempts by the members of the Democratic Party and of course Nancy Pelosi.
It may be mentioned here that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even has crossed all the limits by condemning President Donald Trump’s actions against Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro or even her extreme attraction towards the illegal immigrants.
It is beyond my understanding as to how these elected representatives are openly voicing in favor of the illegal immigrants, who pose a grave threat to the national security of the US. Such statements certainly cannot be accepted simply as the right to freedom of expression. Rather, these are clear cases of sedition and high treason. In the name of applying their right under the 10th Amendment clearly is an abuse of this privilege. In today’s world, no one has the right to doing anything that would ultimately go in favor of ISIS and other jihadist outfits or place lives of the American people vulnerable to these notorious outfits.
With my understanding of the jihadist entities as well as activities of terror-patron nations like Iran and Qatar and billions of Qatari money flowing into the media outlets, politicians and thinktanks, I would definitely question whether these American politicians are under the payroll of Iran or Qatar.
According to the article published in the Homeland Security Today, a captured ISIS operative still in Rojava, Syria, told American researchers with the nonpartisan International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) that ISIS recruited him and others to penetrate the U.S. southern border by infiltrating migration routes through Latin America and Mexico.
ICSVE Director and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine Anne Speckhard and ICSVE Research Director Ardian Shajkovci interviewed the operative on May 12 in Syria as part of a four-year ongoing project for which ICSVE has already recorded conversations with 169 ISIS defectors, returnees, and imprisoned cadres. They paused long enough from their work to write the article.
Among intelligence community agencies, ICSVE’s reporting would fall under a category known as “raw information”, meaning it is by nature unevaluated and uncorroborated when presented just as it was heard. But make no mistake: Raw information is highly coveted. That’s because professional intelligence practitioners, through the collection and investigative techniques over time, can develop raw unevaluated leads to learn about real threats and to thwart real plots. It’s doubtful that enough time has elapsed for Speckhard’s raw information to be verified and that its relative validity would ever be made public once it was since intelligence is rarely used to publicly corroborate research findings as suggested in an editor’s note only a couple of weeks later. Therefore, the observation that the report should be disregarded because it is “uncorroborated by intelligence sources” is invalid on its face.
In an analysis of the Homeland Security Today report, Todd Bensman wrote, “Speckhard acknowledged that she is not an expert on the issues of terrorist border infiltration threats and, in any case, did not have time to ask Abu Henricki during the interview about the methods and tactics involved in any alleged infiltration plot. She also acknowledged that all participants were exhausted at the end of a long day and not able, due to time constraints, to keep digging once they had a few nuggets.
“But Abu Henricki’s claims and timeline fit neatly with the fact that, by 2016, ISIS had already successfully deployed dozens of its fighters into long migrant caravans moving into the heart of Europe. The most recent National Strategy for Counterterrorism cites the fact that ISIS sent terrorist squads into Europe along the migrant trails from Syria and Iraq as a warning about U.S. southern border vulnerabilities to the same.
“Author Sam Mullins of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, who has documented the border infiltration phenomenon in Europe, recently wrote that “It has now been clearly demonstrated that dozens of terrorists jumped at the opportunity to infiltrate recent irregular migration routes to Europe, directly resulting in numerous, bloody attacks — most notably the marauding jihadist assault on Paris in November 2015.”
“An external attacks division of ISIS sent them starting in about 2014, organizing their departures with logistical support that involved false passports and transportation as also described by Abu Henricki.
“The idea that ISIS would contemplate putting a team together for the U.S. border is more than plausible; it would be surprising if it had it not happened.
“As I have often documented, too, (also here and here), the capacity for ISIS operatives to travel from Syria to the southern border is well-established. Smuggling organizations routinely bridge the Atlantic Ocean to link Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq to the U.S. southern border through as many as a dozen Latin America countries. Numerous reputed Islamist terrorists have made the journey, such as a Somali who crossed into California and went on to conduct a 2017 vehicle-ramming attack in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“There’s no question at all that ISIS operatives living in Syria, including Trinidadians and Canadians, could have been smuggled through Mexico had they been sent.
“That ISIS found plenty of Trinidad and Tobago citizens in its ranks is not surprising, and it is logical to initially assume that ISIS commanders might have thought of them as useful for border infiltration because they are familiar with western hemisphere route nations and might blend in well as Spanish-speaking workers and as English-speaking U.S. residents later.
“As I have recently written, at least 130 of Trinidad and Tobago’s 1.2 million citizens, including entire families, joined ISIS in Syria and pose an infiltration threat upon return because the islands are close to known smuggling lanes to the border. The U.S. Army’s Southern Command has participated in anti-terror raids to capture high-value targets plotting attacks. Island residents have shown up on propaganda films committing murders in Syria. A New York Times article quoted former U.S. Ambassador John L. Estrada as saying islanders “are high up in the ranks” of ISIS. “They are very respected and they are English-speaking,” the former ambassador said.
“In April, I wrote a column asking whether an ISIS-inspired T&T national living in Maryland, who was arrested for aspiring to a vehicle-ramming attack on Maryland’s National Harbor, maintained any associations with radicals in his homeland or abroad. ICSVE researchers have interviewed three Trinidadians from ISIS, now in SDF custody, one who lived for some time inside the United States as legal residents.
“The point is that ISIS had available to it a pool of ideologically prepared, trained and willing Trinidadian operatives it could have sent.
“Abu Henricki told the researchers the route would somehow involve a stop in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and then on to Mexico for a border crossing. However, none of my research about smuggling routes and networks that move migrants from the Middle East has ever uncovered a Puerto Rico leg, let alone identified the island as a destination. Also, since this is an American territory, Puerto Rico would be a high-risk and unnecessary stop on the way to somewhere else. Why not just attack in Puerto Rico if you can get there, rather than to exit, enter Mexico, then re-enter the United States over its land border?
“I’m of the opinion that Abu Henricki got Puerto Rico wrong, the way people do after hearing something a few years earlier, maybe in a second language, and probably meant some other transit country.
“Speckhard allows that Puerto Rico “doesn’t make total sense” but also figured that her subject was never actually told the route.
“People invited to do attacks don’t always know what the plot is. He didn’t know,” she said.
“She also said she and her fellow researcher were exhausted by the end of the interview, could have pressed harder for better answers, and understandably opted to leave because everyone was tired and their prison hosts wanted them to finish up.
“Critics have pointed out that, as a reviled ISIS prisoner of war in a tough neighborhood, Abu Henricki would be motivated to make up a story he thought might save him from Iraqi show trials that often end in quick execution, or being sent home to face trial in Canada. (Speckhard noted that ISIS prisoners frequently say the SDF treats them well in custody).
“The view that he might lie to avoid prosecution has merit and will need to be sussed out by intelligence agencies over time.
“But, again, Speckhard summed it up best when she pointed out that Abu Henricki said he had just been offered an opportunity to work with American and Canadian intelligence — and seemed sincere when he insisted he had withheld the secret of the plot from them but not from her at interview’s end. If he was looking to protect himself, why would he tell ICSVE researchers but not the intelligence officers? Sometimes, a good interview is about good personal chemistry between interviewer and interviewee.
“In summary, the interview with Abu Henricki represents a piece of raw information lead deserving of intelligence agency investigation and analysis, not criticism and dismissal. She and Shajkovci should be commended for recognizing its potential import to homeland security authorities and bringing it to attention both privately and publicly.
“Whatever becomes of the inevitable investigation or Abu Henricki, the published report about what he said should serve as a wake-up call to American decision-makers and voters, regardless of partisan sentiment, to look at the border crisis as about much more than Central Americans with children”.
In my personal opinion as someone who has spent over 17 years in studying and doing research on the activities of jihadist outfits such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, etc., the “raw information” revealed by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci are of immense importance. This should have already come in the so-called mainstream media. But all of us know, those “mainstream” media either are polluted with political bias or are under the payroll of terror-patron nations such as Qatar and Iran.
In addition to the fact in the Homeland Security Today article, I would like to call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US as well as other intelligence and counterterrorism organizations in Europe, Asia and the world to immediately scrutinize each of the suspected immigrants in the respective countries as well bring the Muslim immigrants in particular under strict surveillance, for the sake of national interest and security.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib