Intelligence and the "War on Terror"

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By Michael W. Cutler

Mike is a Senior Fellow with CAPS and retired INS Senior Special Agent. During his 30-year career with the INS he rotated through all of the squads within the Investigations Branch. He was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the DEA and for 10 years was assigned, as an INS Senior Special Agent, to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. He has testified at numerous hearings conducted by committees and subcommittees of the House and Senate and provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

He hosts "The Michael Cutler Hour" on USA Talk Radio Fridays at 7 p.m. (EST) and is frequently interviewed by broadcast media on various aspects of immigration issues, especially the nexus to national security.

The writer's views are his own.

January 19, 2011
Intelligence is the quality that places our species at the top of the food chain.  There are all sorts of creatures on our planet that easily surpass the human species in ever so many ways.  There are birds such as eagles, that can soar majestically and nearly effortlessly to dizzying altitudes by riding thermals (columns of rising warm air).  There are falcons that can snap their wings shut and plummet at high speeds towards its prey on the ground, far below.  There are species of dogs whose sense of smell is hundreds of times stronger than that of humans.  There are fish and aquatic mammals that can dive to depths that would crush  most submarines and there are animals that can sprint as fast as a car or possess far greater strength than humans. What distinguishes the human species from all other species is intelligence.  "Intelligence" has a few different definitions. First, the "capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc." However, the other definition I want you to consider is: "The gathering or distribution of information, esp. secret information." Often when I have appeared before Congressional hearings or when I engage in debates with those who advocate for open borders and various forms of amnesty for illegal aliens, the familiar refrain is that immigration has nothing to do with terrorism.  Those who take this position will often followup by saying that the only way to protect our nation against the next terrorist attack is to make good use of intelligence. Both forms of intelligence must be brought to bear against our adversaries.  Our various agencies most certainly have to develop good intelligence and then decide on how to react to whatever the intelligence reveals about our vulnerabilities and about possible impending attacks. However, ignoring the risk that our nation's open borders and failures to address the utter lack of integrity where the entire immigration system is concerned, belies an abject failure to act intelligently and demonstrate a capability that the first definition of "intelligence" addresses. There are many reasons why some people refuse to acknowledge the extreme significance of border security and the creation of an immigration system that has real integrity to issues relating to national security.  Some folks are simply misguided.  These individuals feel empathy and sympathy for illegal aliens who live in abject poverty in their home countries. The emotional appeals and propaganda spewed by open borders advocates have managed to cloud the realities for this group of people who consider themselves "humanitarians." The other group of open borders advocates are not naïve, but do have an agenda; they seek to profit from the influx of massive numbers of illegal aliens into our country.  Among these groups are the immigration lawyers who are eager to see an influx of potential clients.  The greater the number of illegal aliens, the greater the number of aliens who will seek their services.  An amnesty program would be ideal to encourage massive numbers of additional illegal aliens to enter our country and provide them with a huge incentive to seek out attorneys who practice immigration law. So-called, "pro-immigrant" organizations recognize that in signing up more aliens they will garner more contributions and also acquire more political leverage as they are able to claim ever increasing numbers of members.  Labor unions are often guilty of a similar thought process. All too often politicians from both political parties look at the massive numbers of illegal aliens and see new voters and also cheap labor for the deep-pocketed campaign contributors who own the factories, farms and other employment venues and are happy to employ illegal aliens that will work for substandard wages under substandard conditions. The more courageous and/or ethical of our nation's political leaders understand, however, that by not blocking the flood of illegal aliens into our country, while many of the illegal aliens are simply desperate for illegal employment, a violation of law that brings with it additional problems, there is a significant population of illegal aliens whose motivation is far more sinister than simply seeking a menial job.  These are the aliens who have criminal histories or may be fugitives from justice in another country where they are wanted for committing serious crimes.  Other illegal aliens may be involved in transnational gangs or criminal organizations such as the Mexican drug cartels or other organized crime groups from the four corners of our planet.  Still other may be involved with terrorism or fall into a number of other categories of aliens whose presence in our country would pose a threat to the security of our nation and the safety of our communities. Additionally, our government needs to cultivate informants and make use of what is known as "Human Intelligence" as well as the sort of intelligence that can be gained by conducting electronic surveillance and through using spy satellites and high powered super-computers. Human Intelligence is obtained, as its name suggests, the use of people to provide vital intelligence.  This means spies, intelligence officers and using informants (people who are familiar with particular criminal or terrorist organizations.)  The proper use of our immigration laws can help to reward those aliens who seek to provide assistance to our nation in exchange for the right to become residents of the United States and have their immediate families join them here.  One of my jobs when I was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the New York office of the DEA and then when I became a Senior Special Agent and assigned to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force was to assist other federal agents from other federal agencies as well as members of local and state police departments in cultivating informants. If our nation is to succeed in fending off terrorist attacks and effectively combating the growing threats posed by transnational criminal organizations, then our leaders had better understand the role of both sorts of "intelligence." After all, it is the intelligent thing to do!
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