Panel: America’s Covert Border War

A Professional Assessment of the Terrorist Infiltration Threat at the Border

By CIS on February 2, 2021

The Center for Immigration Studies hosted a panel on Tuesday, February 9 to discuss one of the most politicized, taboo, and chronically misunderstood threats to the U.S. Southwest Border: the national security risk posed by long-haul illegal border entry of migrants from nations of terrorism concern in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. The starting point for conversation was the new book, America’s Covert Border War, The Untold Story of the Nation’s Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration (Post Hill Press/Bombardier Books), by Todd Bensman, Senior National Security Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Most border security discussions focus on drug trafficking or on illegal entry by Spanish-speaking economic migrants. But Bensman’s book explores the threat posed by terrorist travel within this migration flow, a border issue which has drawn significant U.S. counterterrorism effort by both Democratic and Republican administrations for 15 years along the physical border and throughout Latin America. Perhaps no other idea about the American border has sown more media fact-checks, claims, counterclaims, rebuttals, and false narratives on all sides as this one. It turns out that Democratic and Republican homeland security administrations alike have retained these covert government programs to confront an infiltration threat whose very existence is frequently challenged. "America's Covert Border War" provides a first comprehensive, neutral overview of how the U.S. government has viewed this controversial threat and what homeland security practitioners like the panelists have seen and done about it.


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America’s Covert Border War: The Untold Story of the Nation’s Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration


Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies.

James Dinkins, former Executive Associate Director of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (oversaw Latin American efforts to dismantle the specialized long-haul smuggling networks).

Norman Townsend, former FBI Supervisory Special Agent in Texas (whose unit interviewed Middle East migrants caught on the southern border).

Edward Dolan, former DHS Regional Attaché to Central America and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent, (Led DHS efforts to identify and interdict known or suspected terrorists and organizations responsible for moving them into and through Central America).

Todd Bensman, Senior National Security Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies, and former Senior Counterterrorism Program Specialist, Texas Department of Public Safety.