Border experts say U.S. isn't safer today than it was on 9/11: 'We've gotten complacent'
"We have absolutely provided a new opportunity and a new avenue for terrorist organizations to exploit," says Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, citing the record number of suspected terrorists encountered by CBP this year.
Mark Morgan, who served as acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 2019 to 2021, argued that the U.S. is not safer today than it was 22 years ago on September 11, 2001.
"We've gotten complacent. I feel our vigilance has been muted over the past probably eight, nine years and it's unfortunate. I feel as though we come together once a year as a remembrance but the other 364 days of the year, for the masses in the United States, I think they've forgotten, I think a lot of people have forgotten or don't even know why the Department of Homeland Security was created, why Customs and Border Protection, which I would eventually lead, was created," Morgan said Monday during an interview on the "Just the News, No Noise" television program.
"I don't want to oversimplify [the] message but it was pretty clear that those organizations were created only and because of 9/11 to protect our homeland," he added.
Morgan cited the Biden administration's handling of the southwest border and northern border, noting the record number of suspected terrorists who have been encountered by CBP this year.
"Look at the southwest border. Look at our northern border right now. We have absolutely provided a new opportunity and a new avenue for terrorist organizations to exploit," Morgan said. "So I would say in some ways we've improved like the airways and in other ways, our land borders, I believe we're actually more vulnerable than we were prior to 9/11."
Jessica Vaughn, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer in Belgium and Trinidad and Tobago, told Just the News that the U.S. needs better vetting procedures at the border before it releases immigrants while their asylum claims are processed.
Border Patrol encounters of migrants at the southern border alone increased by 27% from June to July, according to CBP operational data.
"Paradoxically, even with all the improvements the government has made to the vetting process, including more information sharing and identity technology, the United States today is still very vulnerable to a devastating terror attack – because of the policies that have been implemented by the Biden administration that actually undercut those improved processes and technology," she said.
"The government does a much better job now at vetting those who come on visas, as the 9/11 hijackers did; immigration officers have access to more information and the documents are more secure, so we are more likely to detect and deter terrorists from entering legally. But under Biden catch and release policies at the border, over the last three years, we have experienced a massive influx of millions of illegal migrants that has overwhelmed border officials and made meaningful vetting impossible," she added.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals and "there were significant security weaknesses in the Saudi government’s issuance of Saudi passports in the period when the visas to the hijackers were issued." The U.S. visas issued included student and tourist visas.
Vaughn, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said that more than a million illegal immigrants have entered the U.S. after evading the Border Patrol, "only to disappear into American communities."
She noted that a number of independent government investigations have found that DHS is unable to find and track the immigrants that it processes and allows to enter the U.S. with a notice to appear in court at a later date.
"Counter-terrorism officers are distracted by other politically-driven priorities, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of migrants who potentially could pose a threat. Even the best technology and the most competent staff can be undermined by reckless policies that prioritize the entry of migrants over the security of the nation," she said. "I have a lot of respect for our counter-terrorism personnel, but considering the huge flow of potential threats they have to investigate now, it's just a matter of time before something gets by them."
Morgan shared an assessment similar to Vaughn's, saying that the situation at the border should be "terrifying" to all Americans.
"We know that illegal aliens, before they cross, they dump all their identification on the banks on the Mexico side so it'd be more difficult for U.S. authorities to actually verify who they actually are," he said. "We know they're giving fake names. We know that when your policy is to catch and process and release as fast as humanly possible, there's no way you can actually actually vet them."
Chad Wolf, former acting secretary of Homeland Security, said the rising number of suspected terrorists encountered by CBP is evidence that the border is not secure and makes the U.S. vulnerable to terrorist activity.
"The number of known and suspected terrorists that are apprehended by this administration over the last two and a half years, it's over 250 of them, and you contrast that with all four years of the Trump administration, and you're only talking about probably 13 or 14," he said. "And so it gives you an idea that the border is more open, it's less safe, and it's less secure, really now than it really has ever been in the history of our country."
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik slammed President Joe Biden for not attending one of the 9/11 memorial services taking place in the areas where the terror attack occurred, such as New York City, Pennsylvania or the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Biden instead appeared in Alaska on Monday to commemorate 9/11.
In New York City, Vice President Kamala Harris and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attended in Biden's place. First Lady Jill Biden appeared at the Pentagon.
"I was disgusted with the fact that Biden wasn't going to be there or attend any ceremony whether it was New York, Shanksville, D.C., Pentagon," Kerik told Just the News. "Mayorkas is responsible for the most substantial threat to this country in my lifetime, with a completely open border that he's done willfully, intentionally."
Wolf said Biden should have appeared at the one of the attack sites, calling it a "strategic blunder."