Jim Geraghty asks the natural question at NRO on Thursday: is there or isn’t there an ISIS threat on our southern border?
Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said on Tuesday that a high-level source in the U.S. Border Patrol had told him at least 10 ISIS-linked terrorists had been apprehended in Texas. Hunter expressed the prudent concern that these 10 may be only a small percentage of the terrorists who have already crossed the border.
The Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Jeh Johnson, came back full blast on Wednesday with a most peculiar response – one that a more intelligent, discerning media audience would have recognized as full of Shinola. (More on that in a moment.)
Johnson blasted Rep. Duncan Hunter’s suggestion that ISIS fighters have crossed the United States’ southern border into Texas.
“Let’s not unduly create fear and anxiety in the public by passing on speculation and rumor,” Johnson said Wednesday on CNN’s “Situation Room.” …
Johnson said [Hunter’s] claims aren’t supported by “credible, specific intelligence to that effect.” He said public officials should “be responsible in what we decide to share with the American public, so that the public is informed.”
His comments came after a Homeland Security spokeswoman called Hunter’s statement “categorically false.” …
“So what I would say to the American public is, we’re vigilant in looking out for individuals of suspicion that may be crossing our border, and we have no specific intelligence that ISIL is planning to come into the U.S. through our southern border,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS.
Within hours, Judicial Watch – which has been reporting assiduously on this topic – disclosed a new leak from DHS sources that four ISIS terrorists had been arrested in Texas in the previous 36 hours. For those who’ve been rendered arithmetic-challenged by Common Core, that brings the total of reported ISIS arrests on the southern border to 14.
This pattern of mixed signals has been consistent with the Obama administration since reports began to emerge, in late August, about ISIS terrorists in Mexico planning to cross the border. (See here and here for related reporting.)
Here’s the deal. It doesn’t even matter whether the statements made by Duncan Hunter and Judicial Watch are exactly “correct.” What matters is the strangely cavalier attitude of the Obama DHS about the ISIS threat and the potential for ISIS terrorists to have crossed our border.
The negative proposition, that ISIS terrorists have not crossed the border, cannot be proven. Ever. There will always be some potential that ISIS terrorists have crossed our border. Prudent policy (a) would never exclude that possibility, and (b) would make that point to the American people, rather than disparaging it, or insisting that to make the point is to create undue fear and anxiety.
DHS has no way of knowing that Duncan Hunter’s statement is “categorically false,” nor is it in the interest of national security – or even in the interest of the Obama administration’s political fortunes – to assert that it is. This is the case even if an underlying reality in fact makes Hunter’s statement false. It is impossible for DHS to have comprehensive knowledge of that reality, whatever it may be. To speak to the people as if DHS does know, or could know, the sum total of that reality is to act in a terribly irresponsible (not to mention condescending) manner.
Yet that’s exactly what DHS has done, by insisting that Hunter’s information is categorically wrong.
What should DHS be doing? It should be acknowledging that there is a threat – even if not every assertion about terrorist arrests is valid – because manifestly, rationally, objectively, there is a threat. ISIS has made threats to America; the opportunity is clearly there for ISIS operatives to try to make good on those threats. We have a long, poorly policed border with Mexico, over which hundreds of thousands of illegals have poured in the last four years.
We already know that not all the criminals are interdicted at the border, before they can commit fresh crimes on U.S. soil. It is reasonable to suppose that we have missed interdicting terrorists too; it is not reasonable to claim categorically that we haven’t. Moreover, it is irresponsible to be perfunctory and dismissive about the possibility that we haven’t. Indeed, the American people should be more attuned, not less, to the need for vigilance and prompt reporting from the public on suspicious or unusual activity.
The people can understand that vigilance won’t be 100% effective, but that’s not the policy message the Obama administration has conveyed. The administration’s message has been, in effect, that whatever it’s doing has been 100% effective, and that the administration is in a position to know that, with enough certainty to issue assurances.
Objectively, rationally, this cannot be the case. Whether the administration is deluded about its effectiveness, or is just trying to shape the public narrative in a politically favorable way, the fact is that Obama’s officials are asking us to believe the incredible.
The responses being offered by the Obama DHS are thus inappropriate and unacceptable. The reports from Duncan Hunter and Judicial Watch, on the other hand, whether they are precisely “correct” or not, are credible, because they are aligned with reality and reason. ISIS has the oft-stated motive to attack the U.S., and quite obviously has the opportunity to cross the border. Red herrings and sanctimonious ranting from Jeh Johnson don’t change that.
The Obama administration long ago wore out its imputed bona fides on matters like this. The warnings from Hunter and Judicial Watch are “right,” in the larger sense that the DHS assurances aren’t, because Hunter and Judicial Watch – and apparently at least some officials inside DHS – actually have their eyes on the ball. It’s not clear what the Obama administration has its eyes on.