10-43: Be Advised... with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief
OTMs and SIAs in the USA
OTM is a delightful little acronym for illegal immigrants who are 'Other Than Mexican' — SIA stands for 'Special Interest Aliens' from terrorist nations like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen
Newsflash: Terrorists, potential terrorists, and supporters of terrorists are entering the United States illegally. Newsflash: They’ve been doing it for years. Newsflash: The Mexican border — and the network of tunnels that runs beneath that land — is a popular entry point for these aforementioned, uh, individuals.
Yeah, right, I know... Shocking!
Earlier this month, a local television station in Atlanta put together an excellent news report about this issue. Hold everything. Did I just use the words “excellent,” and “news,” and “report” and “local” and “television” all in the same sentence? That actually is shocking, but I digress... You can see that report in the window to the immediate right of this paragraph. Check it out now, before reading on.
OTMs and SIAs What do you think? PoliceOne columnists — including yours truly — have been howling about this issue for years. Check out Jim Glennon’s July 2009 article in which he writes, “It seems like 99.9 percent of the time, the media line is that 99.9 percent of the people crossing our Southern border are just poor innocents looking for work and a meager wage. Evaluated in the most simplistic terms, this is of course, partly true. But the more complex reality isn’t that simple or sanitary.”
That’s putting things mildly. In its online report accompanying the above video, TV station WSB-Atlanta said that although the specific number of terrorists caught along the border remains — as it should be — a secret, Border Patrol “has captured thousands of people” classified as OTM (a delightful little acronym for ‘Other Than Mexican’). The report said further that “many of them are from terrorist nations like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. Federal authorities call those groups SIAs, which stands for Special Interest Aliens.”
According to the WSB segment, a man named Ahmed Muhammad Dhakane allegedly secreted “hundreds of people” — including Somalis believed to be associated with Harakat al-Shabaab (a.k.a. “The Youth”) — into the United States.
Prior to arriving to Congress, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) worked as chief of counterterrorism in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District of Texas — part of the Lone Star State that borders with Mexico. McCaul’s “sound bite” in the WSB report is chilling: “To this day we do not know where those 300 Somalis are ... We do know they are in the United States.”
From Anthrax to Kamikaze Dogs It’s a rock-solid certainly that those 300 infiltrators are not the only ones already here in America. Islamist terrorists have long been encouraging would-be jihadists to infiltrate the United States from the south to conduct attacks. In this video, a radical cleric — with a smug smile on his face — talks about assigning someone to use an underground tunnel to carry anthrax across the Mexico/U.S. border with the intent to kill more than 300,000 of our citizens.
To conduct a considerable attack could be as uncomplicated as sending a man and his dog through one of those tunnels — or for that matter, above ground — from Mexico into the United States. Earlier this month, Homeland Security Newswire reported on a failed al Qaeda plot to send “kamikaze dogs” with surgically-implanted bombs on airplanes bound for the U.S. The dogs died at Baghdad airport and were consequently not sent to America, but the fact that it was attempted “illustrates the determination of al Qaeda militants, who are trying to circumvent terrorism controls by any means,” French criminologist and aviation expert Christophe Naudin told the Paris daily newspaper Le Figaro.
That plot took place about two years ago. Raise your hand if you think that the bad guys have been working to perfect that technique? I’d bet a waist-high stack of green money that everyone reading this has their hand raised.
Welcome to Mumbai, U.S.A. We must also remember that we’re less than a week from the two-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. On November 26, 2008, terrorists launched a multi-faceted, well-coordinated, military-style attack against ten civilian targets, killing approximately 183 people — including six Americans — and wounding 324 in a 60-hour running gun battle. Could a similar attack happen in Seattle or San Diego, Miami or Manhattan? Sure could, and our porous Southern border is a well-worn pathway for terrorists to follow to their U.S. targets.
PoliceOne member Michael Salvatore is retired police officer who has been working in homeland security since 2000.
Salvatore told me today, “The violence in Mexico is unconscionable and has begun to spill over to our Southern states. Criminals in Mexico are using children, VBIEDs, and other forms of terrorist tradecraft and this will only get worse. Before too long, it will spread beyond our Southern border. From the domestic and international terrorism perspective, law enforcement officers in the U.S. will soon face a new enemy: the small-unit, small-weapons assault experienced by India in Mumbai. All one needs to do is see what is happening around the world. Look at the UK, Germany, France ... to see what type of training they are receiving and the type of security posture they’re putting in place. Look at the critical infrastructure they’re protecting. They know something! For obvious reasons, intelligence is a close hold, but we can learn from what we see others doing — and most importantly, what the terrorists are saying. I know that crime fighting is the number one concern for police executives. Nevertheless, they would be remiss if they turned a blind eye to the terrorist threat that we face every day.”
PoliceOne columnist Dick Fairburn, who wrote an excellent three-part series on the Mumbai attacks told me today that he sees our Southern border as “shockingly open.”
“Any LEO from the border region can tell you frightening tales,” Fairburn said. “Our politically-correct government officials at the federal level must want it to remain so, because the border could be sealed if we truly wanted it that way. To my notion, it is much like the current debate over millimeter scanners and ‘pat downs’ at airport security, which will do nothing to prevent another ‘underwear bomber’ from flying into the country from abroad, and the next one might be bright enough to actually detonate the thing! Jeff Cooper once said, in his masterfully politically-incorrect way, that the terrorist problem ‘isn’t the arrows, it’s the Indians!’ Just as banning guns doesn't lower crime, searching for bombs and weapons won’t stop terrorist killing. The true, final weapon is their hate-filled brain. We need to develop physical and enforcement barriers that will keep out terrorists!”
Glenn French, who writes a regular PoliceOne column on matters related to SWAT — his debut column happened to be about the Mumbai attack — echoes some of Fairburn’s thoughts.
“The unfortunate fact ... is the politics that are at hand,” French told me this morning. “It’s common knowledge that the Latino vote in the United States benefits both political parties in the Border States and it appears that neither party is willing to upset the Latino voting base to secure our borders at their political expense. The United States was able to secure the entire country of Iraq after placing an entirely new government and I am not convinced that securing our Southern border would be as difficult. Many elected officials like to engage in rhetoric of securing our borders as a talking point, [but] it’s time for them to stop the lip service, forget the voting base and do what’s right for America, develop solid immigration policy and contain our border with legitimate border enforcement. Taking the high road can sometimes be a difficult task and in this matter I salute the law enforcement in the Border States for their relentless efforts in fighting this battle. I am not advocating shutting our borders down but lets stop pretending there isn’t a problem and deal with it in a manner that maintains the greatness of this country, which so many countries envy.”
Crime Fighting and Counterterrorism There is now a very real confluence of counterterrorism and domestic U.S. law enforcement. Earlier this month, Federal law enforcers in San Diego found — and shut down — a tunnel the size of six football fields replete with lighting, ventilation, and a rail system used to send loads of illegal drugs into California. That rail system could well be used to ship small arms for a Mumbai-style attack, or weapons much more worrisome to the folks at NEST (the Nuclear Emergency Support Team).
Aaron Cohen, author of Brotherhood of Warriors, told me today, “It’s no surprise that illegal immigrants from nations that sponsor terror have used our Southwest borders to try and infiltrate the United States. They are, and continue to be a very porous, highly unsterile area of infiltration due to its shear size.”
Cohen knows of what he speaks — he’s a former member of Sayeret Duvdevan, an elite Special Forces unit within the Israel Defense Forces focused on counterterror operations.
“It’s know in the Israeli special operations community that terror groups will continuously exploit the use of cost-effective, low-tech methods to achieve their goals operationally knowing that one successful breach resulting in an actual physical act of terror will create the psychological effect they are attempting to achieve. Protecting our borders must continue to be a priority and we need to make sure that our Border Patrol [Agents] are getting the proper resources and training needed to be able to prevent terrorists from entering this country. This information must be shared as needed to various law enforcement agencies operating on the border as well. Terrorism is an international threat involving coordination and inter-agency trust on all levels in order to reduce the amount of overall risk by continuing to prevent attacks,” Cohen said.
It’s refreshing to see a report on the local five o’clock news (like the one above) that hammers home this clear and present danger to the United States. None-the-less, it is a danger that remains largely unknown among the general populous. Why?
A.) the mainstream media is criminally negligent in underreporting the problem? B.) the masses are more interested in a royal wedding than a royal security mess? C.) the arrests and interdictions made are purposely kept secret because of OpSec? D.) the fact of the matter — for good or ill — is that it’s actually all of the above?
Congratulations if you chose “D.” Unfortunately, any consideration given to the security of our borders — by either the press or the public — has become a shrill, one-issue debate: illegal immigration of undocumented laborers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a major issue, but it’s not the only issue. Happily, we at PoliceOne have been bucking the trend to ignore this stuff, having reported on it repeatedly over the years. We’ll continue to do so because we serve law enforcers like you, gentle reader, and protectors of our homeland like Salvatore, whose words to me this morning are at once humbling and inspiring.
“Outside of the intelligence arena, I have seen little reporting in this area, but PoliceOne is one of the most informative Web newsletters I receive, and believe me, I see a lot of them,” he said.
I could ask for no higher praise than that Michael, thank you.
As always, we encourage you to add your comments, or you can email me directly via the link below.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug has authored more than 650 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a two-time (2011 and 2012) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
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