Jim Kouri
New Taliban terror threat concerns U.S. security, law enforcement officials
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By Jim Kouri
October 16, 2010

Senior U.S. intelligence, security and law enforcement officials are concerned over recent intelligence and "chatter" that strongly suugests the Pakistani Taliban may have already snuck another terrorist into the U.S. to launch an attack, according to Fox News Channel's National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin in her terrorism report yesterday.

Authorities, however, know very little about the suspected Taliban agent or any possible plot, but they are seriously investigating the threat.

U.S. authorities believe the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, would have directed the individual to attempt another Times Square-style operation, but not necessarily in New York City, according to the Fox News report.

A senior intelligence official said the threat's lack of specificity makes it nearly impossible for the counterterrorism community to defend against such an attack. Any possible threat, however, does not seem to be imminent, with a senior counterterrorism official saying he was "unaware" of any "imminent threats" against the U.S. homeland, according to Fox News.

While it appears that the Federal Bureau of Investigation — and its Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) such as the FBI-New York Police Department counterterrorism operation — has made great strides in developing its strategy, many security experts are not as confident in the Homeland Security Department. DHS scores are low as far as confidence in its leadership and its policies.

For example, it would not be difficult for a member of the Taliban to fly into a Canadian or Mexican city and then enter the United States by simply crossing the border. And it wouldn't be difficult for that Taliban member to sneak into this country with a weapon of mass destruction, according to the federal government's own reports.

According to a report obtained by the Terrorism Committee of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the Government Accountability Office's first two testimonies/reports before the U.S. Congress focused on covert testing at ports of entry — the air, sea, and land locations where international travelers can legally enter the United States.

In its third testimony/report, the GAO focused on limited security assessments of unmanned and unmonitored border areas between land ports of entry.

GAO officials were asked to summarize the results of covert testing and assessment work for these three testimonies. This report discusses the results of testing at land, sea, and air ports of entry; however, the majority of GAO's work was focused on land ports of entry. The unmanned and unmonitored border areas GAO assessed were defined as locations where the government does not maintain a manned presence 24 hours per day or where there was no apparent monitoring equipment in place.

"The government has conducted numerous vulnerability tests and they all appear to highlight the fact that our borders are porous not only to illegal aliens but also to terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and other contraband. Maybe Secretary [Janet] Napolitano [of the Homeland Security Department] should worry more about that than about guns being smuggled into Mexico," said political strategist Mike Baker.

GAO investigators identified numerous border security vulnerabilities, both at ports of entry and at unmanned and unmonitored land border locations between the ports of entry. In testing ports of entry, undercover investigators carried counterfeit drivers' licenses, birth certificates, employee identification cards, and other documents, presented themselves at ports of entry and sought admittance to the United States dozens of times.

They arrived in rental cars, on foot, by boat, and by airplane. They attempted to enter in four states on the northern border (Washington, New York, Michigan, and Idaho), three states on the southern border (California, Arizona, and Texas), and two other states requiring international air travel (Florida and Virginia).

In nearly every case, government inspectors accepted oral assertions and counterfeit identification provided by GAO undercover investigators as proof of U.S. citizenship and allowed them to enter the country. In total, undercover investigators made 42 crossings with a 93 percent success rate.

On several occasions, while entering by foot from Mexico and by boat from Canada, covert investigators were not even asked to show identification.

For example, at one border crossing in Texas, an undercover investigator attempted to show a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer his counterfeit driver's license, but the officer said, "That's fine, you can go" without looking at it.

As a result of these tests, GAO concluded that terrorists could use counterfeit identification to pass through most of the tested ports of entry with little chance of being detected.

In its most recent work, GAO shifted its focus from ports of entry and primarily performed limited security assessments of unmanned and unmonitored areas between ports of entry. The names of the states GAO visited for this limited security assessment have been withheld at the request of Customs and Border Protection officials.

In four states along the U.S.-Canada border, GAO covert investigators found state roads that were very close to the border that CBP did not appear to monitor. In three states, the proximity of the road to the border allowed investigators to cross undetected, successfully simulating the cross-border movement of radioactive materials or other contraband into the United States from Canada.

For example, in one apparently unmanned, unmonitored area on the northern border, the U.S. Border Patrol was alerted to GAO's activities through the tip of an alert citizen. However, the responding U.S. Border Patrol agents were not able to locate the investigators and their simulated contraband.

GAO officials also identified potential security vulnerabilities on federally managed lands adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. GAO concluded that CBP faces significant challenges on the northern border, and that a determined cross-border violator would likely be able to bring radioactive materials or other contraband undetected into the United States by crossing the U.S.-Canada border at any of the assessed locations.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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