CLEVELAND, JAN. 27, 2019 – As Commander in Chief of our armed forces, President Trump could sign an Executive Order today mandating greater security on our 1,954-mile border with Mexico. Congress has already approved the enabling legislation. It’s called AUMF, or Authorization of the Use of Military Force, two bills which passed Congress in 2001 and 2002.
Here is the 61-word rationale, in the first of the two bills, which became laws just days after the terror attacks against the U.S. on 9-11 (ALL CAPS added):
That the President is authorized to use ALL NECESSARY AND APPROPRIATE FORCE against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to PREVENT ANY FUTURE ACTS OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Under this law, three different presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump, have conducted wide-ranging military operations all over the globe to battle terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel have been deployed in combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Aerial drone strikes have killed terrorists in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Pakistan and other countries. In 2014, President Obama’s White House issued a statement explaining AUMF was the basis for using military power against ISIS. In 2018, the Trump White House stated that, “The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorizes the United States to use force against al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces and against ISIS.”
If the Commander in Chief, as defined under our Constitution. can send military might halfway around the world to fight terror, the same can be done on own border to thwart the same enemies.
First: Terror forces are exploiting the US-Mexico border
Is terror on our border with Mexico? Are Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their allies using Mexico as a base for possible terror operations against the US? The evidence – and the track record even before President Donald Trump began this current campaign – certainly says yes.
Christian Science Monitor staff writer Warren Richey documented a dozen salient examples in “Are terrorists crossing the US-Mexico border? Excerpts from the case file.” Richey focused on terrorists by names and act . One terrorist came into the US from Mexico and raised significant money here for the terrorism group Hezbollah before he was caught and deported. Another, Adnan El Shukrijumah, was atop the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list for more than a decade. In 2004, US consulate officials in Ciudad Juarez received a tip stating that he was one of “suspect Arab extremists who have been smuggled through Mexico to the United States/Mexico border. “
El Shukrijumah was a serious terror threat, personally selected by 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to plan and carry out terror attacks against the U.S. and elsewhere. He had lived in Brooklyn and South Florida, but disappeared after the 9-11 attacks.
El Shukrijumah was the masterminded behind the thwarted terror plot involving suicide bombers on the NY Subway System in 2009. Eventually he found his way to Pakistan. In 2014, a raid by the Pakistani military in a tribal area near the Pakistan-Afghan border killed El Shukrijumah.
Another terrorist Richey named, Ahmed Dhakane, ran a human smuggling operation based in Brazil that specialized in moving migrants from Somalia and other parts of East Africa into the US via Mexico. Richey writes that many of Dhakane’s clients were supporters or members of Al Shabab or associated Somali terror groups – and at least three of them made it into the US, according to federal court documents. One of Dhakane’s clients, nicknamed “Al Qaeda,” made it to California. The Christian Science Monitor published Richey’s article on January 15, 2017, more than two years ago and before Trump’s inauguration.
Additionally, for years there have been unsubstantiated reports of terrorism camps operating in Mexico territory. US government policy has been taking active steps to counter the threats.
And for a long time: This problem has existed for decades. One 2006 National Counterterrorism Center intelligence report stated: “Terrorists could try to merge into SIA smuggling pipelines to enter the U.S. clandestinely. … Al Qaeda and other groups sneak across borders in other parts of the world and may try to do so in the US, despite risks of apprehension or residing in the US without proper documentation.”
SIA is an acrostic for “Special Interest Aliens.” According to report from the Center for Immigration Studies, titled “Terrorist Infiltration Threat at the Southwest border” hundreds of people on terrorism watch lists are CAUGHT each year trying to get into the US from Mexico. Here’s an excerpt:
Bits and pieces of the puzzle have surfaced anyway. Occasional information leaks, government reports, and Freedom of Information Act requests over time suggest that hundreds of SIAs, perhaps ranging to the low thousands (depending on changing country of interest lists), have been annually apprehended at the southern border since 9/11.31 One set of SIA apprehension data reflecting September 2001 through 2007 showed that nearly 6,000 SIAs from 42 countries had been apprehended at the border.32
In reading and research for this post, I’m convinced that in years past there has been a concerted effort by the US government to underestimate the seriousness of the terrorism threat from our southern border. It might have been due to a desire to prevent panic, or to spur Mexico to take greater action, or some combination of these and other factors. But the Center for Immigration Studies report (replete with data and charts) has ample documentation of the severity of this problem.
Here’s one example we never knew: In June 2016 Department of Homeland Security Jef Johnson Secretary wrote a three-page memo to top law enforcement officials about the threat. The subject heading was: “Cross-Border Movement of Special Interest Aliens.
Second: Mexico can’t control narco-terrorism
In the current trial of Mexico drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, testimony revealed that former Mexico president Pena Nieto asked for $250 million, and then ended up taking a $100 million bribe. If true, it’s just the latest in a mountain of evidence which indicates that the government of Mexico cannot bring the drug lords to justice, and cannot control crime- and terror-related activities within its own borders.
According to the Congressional Research Service report, titled “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations” (July 2018) Mexico saw 29,000 murders in 2017. In the current election cycle, crime bosses and drug lords killed 114 candidates and politicians in Mexico, an overt effort to intimidate and stop office holders from opposing them.
Just as alarming is a paragraph in the Congressional Research Service report. It reads:
In addition, several analysts have raised concerns about severe human rights violations involving Mexican military and police forces, which, at times, have reportedly colluded with Mexico’s criminal groups. Notably, the Mexican armed forces injured or killed some 3,900 individuals in their domestic operations, between 2007 and 2014, with the victims labeled as “civilian aggressors.” However, the high death rate (about 500 were injuries and the rest killings) indicates the lethality of the encounters with Mexican military and official reports did not sort out in published statistics how many of the military’s victims were armed or were mere bystanders. (Significantly, these statistics did not continue to be made public after 2014)
To be more succinct, Mexico’s law enforcement and military are at times in collusion with the drug lords and crime groups, much to the detriment of the country’s own population. So despite large sums of U.S economic aid ($152.6 million in 2018 alone, with more than $100 for counter-narcotics and police support) Mexico is unable to control the narco-terrorism and other crime cartels operating in its country.
Third: Congress and Constitution
If these two factors were not enough, President Trump could also point to the obvious – Congress’ inability to take action on a serious threat to U.S. security. The just passed 35-day partial government shutdown is just the latest in a lengthy list of examples how Congress has failed to act in areas of national security. Despite the Transportation Security Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard being negatively impacted, Congress was unable to pass legislation to keep these essential government services operating.
Two months ago, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came to Cleveland to be the guest speaker at the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation’s Scholarship Luncheon. Gates penned a terrific memoir about his tenure as Secretary of Defense, under Presidents Bush and Obama, titled “Duty.” It contains a terrific explanation of how the US has gone about fighting the Global War on Terror. With respect to Congress, Gates says this:
While American politics has always been a shrill, partisan and ugly business going back to the Founding Fathers, we have rarely been so polarized and so unable to execute even the basic functions of government, much less tackle the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. I believe that this is due to the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president .. but even more so to the weakening of the moderate center of both parties in Congress. … Now moderation is equated with lacking principles, and compromise with “selling out.”
It’s hard to assess what’s worse here: The ramification behind Gates’ words, or the fact that he penned them in 2014, as matter have only gotten worse in Washington since then.
Finally, our Constitution and past practice have made it abundantly clear that as Commander in Chief of the armed services, our President has greater authority. Article II, Section 2 of our Constitution invests military power solely with the President. Constitutional scholars agree that one of the most important Commander In Chief duties of the nation’s chief executive is to protect the US: States, territories, and its people, from attack.
President Jefferson didn’t ask Congress before sending Navy frigates, sailors, and Marines to the “shores of Tripoli” to deal with the Barbary Pirates in 1801. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves in territories in rebellion against the U.S. through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln (an attorney by profession) researched the Constitution and knew he did not have civilian authority to make such a proclamation. But as Commander In Chief, according to Article II, Section 2, Lincoln could free the slaves. Therefore, he proceeded in that manner.
The U.S. has spent more than $2.8 TRILLION just on the Global War on Terror, according to Fortune magazine. Another estimate is that we have spent more than $7.6 TRILLION on both homeland security (defending ourselves at home) and in global military operations
And we have paid for this war with the sacrifice of precious blood for the cause of freedom. More than 7,000 military personnel have died fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since 9-11.
If President Trump cited AUMF, used his Commander in Chief authority, and signed an Executive Order authorizing $10 billion for border security, it would most certainly – at the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court – be upheld. The evidence clearly and overwhelmingly supports such a strategy.
As Congress and the courts have given consent to many or all the actions taken thus far under AUMF, then certainly an expenditure of $10 billion or less to would also pass Constitutional muster.
Kerezy does not teach political science or law. He is an associate professor of journalism/mass communications at Cuyahoga Community College. He also studied AUMF in his role as speech/debate coach at Revere (OH) High School in the winter of 2018.
Legal authority to engage military against ISIS: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1301198/is-war-powers-theory-background-statement.pdf Also, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/isis-syria-american-troops.html
ISIS & other terrorists in Mexico
Congress and Constitution
Gates, Robert “Duty” (2014) page 582
(Author’s note: Significant is a paragraph here from Professor Monica Hakimi at the University of Michigan Law School. Hakimi is opining about possible US intervention in Syria in an article titled, “Defensive Force against Non-State Actors: The State of Play” in the 2015 issue of International Law Studies. She wrote: “Nevertheless, a few basic guidelines can be distilled from the practice: the majority of States has affirmatively endorsed defensive operations against non-State actors in States that actively harbor or support those actors, or lack control over the areas from which they operate.”)