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Answering Hugh Hewitt on Counter-terrorism

UPDATE: Hugh was kind enough to link to my response, and I agree that we agree on a fair bit of this. I will elaborate on our disagreements in detail on Tuesday as tomorrow has a more important theme. I think he sees a possibility of the holes in our game i.e. immigration from our allies, and actual closing of our borders as possibly being fixed, and I don't.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed HLS Sec. Chertoff about the immigration bill and it's possible granting of probationary status on millions of illegals, which could include terrorists. Hugh asked CT folks to answer whether this was a serious problem. Yes the possibility exists that a potential terrorist could gain some documents this way,  but this bill doesn't change the threat in any appreciable way. Here is my response to him.

Dear Hugh,

I am Jim Hanson, Uncle Jimbo from Blackfive, and I have been studying global terrorism for most of my adult life, around 25 years now. I served as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and operated in many countries around the Pacific Rim, more than two dozen worldwide. I have conducted counter-terror, -insurgency and -narcotics missions as well as training the counter-terror and hostage rescue teams for numerous US allies. I have helped prepare operations plans for anti-terrorrism and force protection for US facilities overseas and within the US. One of my specialties was designing live-fire hostage rescue exercises that demonstrated all the difficulties that a live terror attack would have. In the course of this we spent scores of hours of planning and scheming scenarios about how, when and where terrorists could hit us.

As far as securing the US from terror attacks by closing our borders or instituting sufficient administrative controls to foil an incident, that assumes we can trust travelers from say, Londonistan. The EU countries are chock full of disaffected, unassimilated Muslims all of whom get special visa status because the Brits and Old Europe are our friends. Even if we hermetically sealed our southern border, are we going to do the same with Canada, and then again what about all those legal visitors? In addition, if illegal immigration in anticipation of laying low and then making an attack was such a threat, then what has been up for the past six years? My greatest fear on 9/11 was what was planned for 9/12. It seems obvious that if AQ had any sleeper cells they would have used them, and If AQ had a good understanding of the American psyche, they would have had follow on attacks planned, but not in NY or LA. No, the move that would have really terrified us would have been shootings in four midwestern cities at mall food courts.

Sure knocking down the towers was epic and they scored a huge victory in doing so, but they didn't terrorize us so much as really piss us off. They galvanized the country in angry response, but they did not terrorize us. I don't know a soul here in Madison who could even imagine a terror attack here.

The key to securing America is you first have to admit that we absolutely will not do it. There is no way Americans would accept even one tenth of the measures necessary to actually secure this country, so the first  step is admitting our problem. All of the money we have spent buying armored cars for the Pocatello, ID Police, and turning our airports into obstacle courses have had almost zero effect as far as stopping terror attacks. They have been feelgood, symbolic gestures as well as one of the largest pork distributions in decades. If you really wanted to substantively increase the level of security in America, you should pass a universal concealed carry law and train all adults 18+ in the use of firearms. But the idea that even all our treasure could buy reasonable security in America by locking our doors and windows is a pipe dream. Sec. Chertoff is correct that providing a legal channel and documentation, that all immigrants would need to have and use, would serve the purpose of making it more difficult for a terrorist to hide in plain sight. But overall that and the rest of our knee jerk reaction of throwing money at the problem have been sound and fury signifying nothing.

If we had taken all of those billions of dollars we wasted on Homeland Security and recruited Arab and Muslim agents and intel sources we would be quantum leaps from our current blind position. Once a potential terrorist has reached America we have very little chance of catching them absent a foolish mistake, and given the ease of walking in the open front door from the EU or too many other countries it is clear that our focus should not be on our homeland, but theirs.

While the recent Pew survey should set off alarm bells about our current Muslim population and the huge support for terrorism from it's 30 and under cohort, that is a different problem. Most of them are here legally and we must simply fight them and their mouthpieces like CAIR as they attempt to build enclaves of ignorance amongst us. But the real problem is in the other dozen or so countries where the religion of peace is out proselytizing via slaughter. If I was asked what the greatest threat of terror attack in the US is, I would have a dual answer. The most likely is a radicalized Muslim already here legally, shooting up a food court. But the larger threat would be an attack planned overseas, conducted by agents who came here on tourist visas from Germany or France or any other dozen or so countries including even the Saudis still, we've made a lot of progress eh?

Leaving our borders open and doing nothing about the millions who have wandered in for work or whatever is hardly a good idea, but this current measure is not going to change much at all about the threat we face. We will always be vulnerable at home because Americans are the most freedom and liberty-loving people on earth, so let's focus where we can and whack 'em before they get here.