A Clear and Present Lack of Danger
Todd Bensman’s America’s Covert Border War faces several challenges right out of the gate. First, it’s a work of speculative nonfiction about how terrorists plotting to kill Americans could cross the U.S.-Mexico border, even though none are known to have done so. Second, it was published 15 years after fear of Islamic terrorism peaked. Third, the Trump administration—the biggest source of public speculation about Muslim terrorists crossing the border—is over. Only the best of writers would have overcome those challenges to produce a good book.
Bensman overcame none of them.
This book’s biggest problem is that the author has nothing to write about. Not a single terrorist has illegally crossed the Mexican border and then committed an attack on U.S. soil. Bensman systematically exaggerates threats, selectively excludes information, and blurs the line between how terrorists theoretically could have infiltrated the country and what they actually have done.
At times Bensman finds a nugget that sounds scary. There is, for instance, the “2001 California border crossing of a ranking Hezbollah operative (in the trunk of a car) later convicted of terrorism.” That sounds like a legitimate threat, and a reasonable reader might expect that half-sentence to be the beginning of a chapter about a serious terrorism case. But Bensman doesn’t mention it again, never tells the reader the terrorist’s name, and gives a citation that’s little help in tracking it down.
After digging, I discovered that this terrorist was Mahmoud Youssef Kourani. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. By all accounts, he was a criminal justly convicted. But there is no indication that he ever planned or intended to commit a terrorist attack, particularly against Americans.
Other times, Bensman can’t even muster that much. One section cites his work on terrorists who have crossed the border but leaves out their names and the crimes they actually committed. Once again, I had to dig. Turns out that these migrants with monikers like “Unidentified Afghan national,” “Unnamed Sri Lankan national,” and “Al Manar Television employee” were not terrorists. They just happened to be illegal immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
That’s the biggest methodological problem in Bensman’s book. He focuses on illegal immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, known as “special interest aliens” (SIAs), and frequently conflates them with “known and suspected terrorists” (KSTs
Article from Latest – Reason.com