Was September 11 A ‘One-Off’ Event?

Joe Biden is betting our national security that it was

By Andrew R. Arthur on June 16, 2023

The median age in the United States is 39, meaning few Americans today were alive the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 7, 1941. For the rest, September 11, 2001, defines the greatest single attack on the United States. But was it a one-off event? That’s how the Biden administration is treating it with its feckless catch-and-release policies at the Southwest border. Let’s hope the president’s right.

Current Takes on the U.S. Immigration System. Consider the following paragraph (I'l explain the source shortly):

Border security — encompassing travel, entry, and immigration — is not seen as a national security matter. Public figures voice concern about the "war on drugs," the right level and kind of immigration, problems along the southwest border, migration crises originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere, or the growing criminal traffic in humans. The immigration system as a whole is widely viewed as increasingly dysfunctional and badly in need of reform.

“War on drugs”: CNN reports that in 2022, nearly 110,000 Americans died of drug overdoses — a record. More than 75,000 of those deaths were attributable to synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl, a uniquely deadly substance.

The DEA makes no bones about where that fentanyl is coming from: “Mexican [transnational criminal organizations] have established clandestine laboratories in Mexico for the synthesis of fentanyl, and Mexican authorities have encountered a rise in illegal fentanyl pill press and tableting operations”.

That’s why congressional Republicans — appropriately — have tied the president’s ongoing border crisis to the surge in fentanyl, and more specifically to the ongoing epidemic of fentanyl overdoses.

“Right level and kind of immigration”: Speaking of CNN, consider the following headline in CNN Business, from December: “America needs immigrants to solve its labor shortage”. It explains:

Immigrants are vital to the US economy and fill thousands of US jobs — jobs many Americas don’t want to do. In 2020, the processing of legal immigrant worker visas stopped and only picked up towards the end of 2021.

And by the end of last year there were close to 2 million fewer working-age immigrants in the United States than there would have been if pre-pandemic immigration continued unchanged, according to new research from the University of California, Davis.

Conversely, there are more than a few organizations — including the Center — that have argued that the United States doesn’t have a labor shortage at all. Instead, they point to the “long-term decline in the labor force participation rate among the U.S.-born” that predates the Covid-19 pandemic and argue that the key is getting more working-age Americans back into the labor force.

“Problems along the Southwest border”: Though I doubt that I need to even elaborate on this topic, suffice it to say that the Biden administration’s “overarching non-detention policies” at the U.S.-Mexico line have spurred the largest illegal mass migration there in history, as one federal judge explained in March.

Since February 2021 — Biden’s first full month in office — CBP has encountered nearly 5.25 million illegal migrants at the Southwest border, expelling 2.46 million of them under Title 42 and processing about 2.85 million others under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which the administration insists on referring to as “Title 8”.

As I recently explained, Biden’s DHS has released at least 2.1 million of the Southwest border migrants it processed under the INA into the United States — more people than reside in 13 U.S. states. Unofficially, I have been told that nearly all the 2.8 million migrants processed under “Title 8” have been cut loose into the country.

That massive surge in migrants whom agents must apprehend, process, detain, and care for has swamped Border Patrol’s capacity to otherwise control the Southwest border. I’ll return to that point, below.

“Migration crises originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere”: Of those nearly 5.25 million illegal migrants encountered by CBP at the Southwest border, more than a half million were nationals of the Caribbean countries of Haiti and Cuba.

That said, they had a lot of company on the long journey to the border. As recently as FY 2020, nearly all illegal migrants came from just four countries: Mexico and the three “Northern Triangle” nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Not anymore. Nearly 2.14 million migrants encountered by Biden’s CBP were neither Mexican nationals nor nationals of those Northern Triangle countries, and they have come to our border from as far away as Uzbekistan and Angola.

“Growing criminal traffic in humans”: Human trafficking — particularly the trafficking of vulnerable women and girls — has spurred bipartisan action on Capitol Hill.

As DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained in January, “I don’t think that people understand how widespread this heinous crime is and how an engagement by the public as well as the government is required to combat it”, underscoring the dangers of trafficking.

“Increasingly dysfunctional and badly in need of reform”: In promoting its most recent (facially illegal) schemes to funnel illegal migrants into the United States through the ports of entry in January, the White House complained: “While these steps will help address some of the most acute challenges at the Southwest border, they will not solve all of the problems in an immigration system that has been broken for far too long”.

Similarly, a Washington Post article from February 2021, discussing the new president’s border and immigration challenges, was headlined “Biden administration tries to transition from campaigning on immigration to managing a dysfunctional immigration system”.

In summary, the paragraph at the top is an extremely accurate summary of not only the current takes, but the hottest takes on the immigration and border issues with which our federal government is grappling, from members of both parties and across both the executive and legislative branches.

An Eerie Warning. Except of course, that statement is almost 19 years old. It was published on July 22, 2004, on page 384 of the final report of the “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States”, better known as the “9-11 Commission”.

For those who have forgotten (or were too young to remember), the 9-11 Commission was “an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation ... in late 2002”. It disbanded a month after that report was published.

The commission’s remit was “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks”, and it was specifically “mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks”. Which it did, in exacting detail.

I confess that I cheated a little bit, however, changing every use of the verb “to be” above in the past and past perfect tenses to the present tense. And I left out the introductory sentence, which began on page 383: “In the decade before September 11, 2001, border security — encompassing travel, entry, and immigration — was not seen as a national security matter.”

Respectfully, I could have changed that sentence as well, to begin, “In the past three years ...” and it would have been every bit as true.

Which is not to say that no one’s discussed the national security implications of the current de facto open Southwest border. According to CBP statistics, Border Patrol agents have apprehended 209 aliens on the terrorist watchlist at the Southwest border since the beginning of FY 2021, 96 of them in the first seven months of FY 2023 alone.

By comparison, in the four prior fiscal years (FY 2017-2020), agents apprehended just 11 watchlist aliens. Not 11 per year — 11 in total: 2 in FY 2017, 6 in FY 2018, 3 in FY 2020, and none in FY 2019.

That suggests that something’s afoot, unless somehow agents now have more or better capacity to apprehend and identify known and suspected terrorists. Given the fact, as I explained above, that agents are so overwhelmed rounding up, transporting, processing, caring for, and — all too often — releasing illegal migrants at the Southwest border, that’s not terribly likely.

Of course, those are just the terrorists we know about. Fox News reported in May that “at least” 1.5 million aliens — known as “got-aways” — have evaded agents at the Southwest border and entered the United States since Joe Biden took office.

That brings me back to page 384 of the report, where the 9-11 Commission explained:

For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.

With due respect to the 9-11 commissioners, that contention looks naïve in retrospect, or at least from the vantage point of the border under the current regime.

In the March order I referenced above, the judge explained how Biden’s DHS is prioritizing speed over safety in its pre-release screening processes for apprehended migrants at the Southwest border.

If you want proof, consider the case of the unnamed Brazilian illegal entrant I discussed the other day. He was convicted back home of murder and a long list of other heinous crimes, and was a known member of “the most powerful organized crime group in Brazil”. Agents apprehended him after he crossed the border illegally into Arizona in March, and thereafter released him.

Why did they release him? Because, according to an ICE press release, this alien murderer and known organized criminal “withheld information on his murder conviction”. Strike “murder conviction” and insert “terrorist ties and intention to carry out attacks on the Pentagon, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol”, and you’ll understand the perils this nation is facing.

And that assumes that our would-be attacker ever gets caught. Al-Qaeda was notoriously well-financed and could easily have paid smugglers to move operatives past agents and into that stream of 1.5 million got-aways.

As anyone who has ever watched a police procedural knows, to find a suspect — criminal or terrorist — you look for three things: means, motive, and opportunity.

Terrorists have long had the means to enter the United States, as the 9-11 Commission report makes clear, and the Biden administration’s border release policies have provided them with plenty of opportunities to do so.

That’s true even if you want to consider every single alien who enters this country illegally without the valid admission documents that the 9-11 commission considered so crucial to our nation’s security as “asylum seekers” (as the administration does).

The conference report for the REAL ID Act of 2005 — legislation implementing recommendations of the 9-11 commission — explained, more than a few “alien terrorists have abused our generous asylum laws”.

Most saliently, the conferees noted, “Plainly, an alien who is a terrorist could more easily fabricate a claim that his home government believes erroneously that he is a terrorist”.

That’s because key to most asylum claims is a contention that the applicant has been subject to some form of “persecution” — arrest, imprisonment, torture — by the applicant’s home government. That’s the sort of abuse more than a few foreign governments inflict on terrorist “non-state actors”, but the asylum regulations bar the U.S. government from seeking confirmation that an applicant, in fact, is a terrorist.

The president and his immigration advisors are literally gambling the safety of the American people, our homes, and our institutions on their hopes that no foreign national with the means to make it to the Southwest border has any motivation to attack our country. That’s a bet I wouldn’t take, and I doubt the 9-11 commission would take it either.