Immigration Daily

Immigrant entrepreneurs thrive in the US

Arora, 7-2, 24, In 2007, I co-founded Biz2Credit, an online small business financing platform that uses technology to streamline the funding process. Previously, I worked for Deloitte Consulting and Goldman Sachs, and hold a Master’s Degree in International Finance from Columbia University. Biz2Credit has arranged $3 billion in funding and has over 200,000 small and mid-sized company registrants. Our platform handles more than 7,000 new small business financing requests each month and was named one of Crain’s “Fast 50” New York companies in 2014. Our widely reported Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index provides a monthly pulse on loan approval rates. We also produce a Top 25 Small Business Cities in America ranking, the Biz2Credit Latino Lending Report, and an annual Women in Small Business Study often cited by national media, Forbes, Six Reasons Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Thrive In The U.S.,

In review of the most successful companies in the U.S. last August, the American Immigration Council examined the impact of immigrant entrepreneurs and their children to the U.S. economy. The report, “New American Fortune 500 in 2023: The Largest American Companies and Their Immigrant Roots,” revealed that nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies in 2023 were founded by immigrants or their children.

Fortune 500 companies started by new Americans collectively generated a staggering $8.1 trillion in revenue during fiscal year 2022, surpassing the GDP of several developed nations. Their contributions extend beyond revenue, as they employ over 14.8 million people. Indeed, companies founded by immigrants and their children are a crucial driver of job creation and economic prosperity.

Many of America’s top corporations were founded by immigrants and their descendants, including Google (Sergey Brin, Russia), Apple (Steve Jobs, the son of Syrian immigrants), and Estée Lauder (born to Hungarian Jewish parents). Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and X (formerly Twitter), was born in South Africa. New Americans and their children play a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s economic landscape. These entrepreneurs have contributed significantly to America’s standing as a global economic powerhouse.

  1. Diverse cultural perspectives

As newcomers to this country, immigrants bring with them diverse cultural perspectives that can lead to innovative ideas and solutions. This diversity often fosters creativity and unique approaches to business challenges. Further, their global mindset enables them to identify and capitalize on opportunities that others might overlook, both in local and international markets.

  1. Resilience and Adaptability

Immigrants often face significant challenges when they arrive, including language barriers and cultural adaptation. Such experiences tend to build resilience and problem-solving skills that are crucial for entrepreneurship. In addition, the ability to adapt to new environments and situations is a key trait of successful entrepreneurs. Immigrants, having adapted to new countries, naturally bring flexibility to their business ventures.

  1. Strong Work Ethic

America is a country that has long rewarded self-motivation. Many immigrants are driven by a strong desire to improve their circumstances and achieve better lives for themselves and their families. This motivation translates into a strong work ethic and determination to succeed and instills commitment to making their entrepreneurial ventures successful.

  1. Resourcefulness

Immigrants typically have limited financial resources when they arrive in the U.S. Thus, they have to be resourceful to overcome their monetary constraints. Often, they source funding from family members and friends because if they have been in the country for a short period of time, traditional sources of debt financing are hard to obtain. Immigrant networks can be helpful in many ways.

Early in my career, I analyzed bank loan portfolios and quickly realized that small business lending to immigrant-based businesses was very profitable, and default rates were low. This is because failure often is not an option for immigrant entrepreneurs. They are typically good at bootstrapping, which fosters a lean and efficient approach to business from the outset. stack of silver coins with trading chart in financial concepts and financial investment business stock growt Immigrant-owned companies typically show a propensity for growth yet often have relatively low rates … [+]GETTY

  1. Networking

Immigrants often rely on strong community networks for support that can be extremely helpful in the early stages of business development. These networks provide relationships, collaborative spirit, and valuable resources, advice, and connections.

Biz2Credit initially started when my brother, Ramit, and I began helping members of the South Asian community in New York City to secure funding for their business ventures. Going into a bank and meeting with a loan officer can be intimidating for people who have language barriers and cultural barriers, including a reluctance to borrow money. We were able to help small business owners to secure capital, and eventually the idea spread beyond the immigrant community to “mainstream” business owners. Technology leveled the playing field not only for newcomers, but also for existing company owners who had a hard time getting money during the “credit crunch” of 2009 and 2010.

  1. Risk-taking propensity

The decision to leave one’s home country and start life anew in a totally different land and culture is not easy. It is a huge risk. However, countless immigrants have successfully navigated transition and survived and thrived. In fact, they are often more willing to take calculated risks in their entrepreneurial endeavors and, because of their life experience, are able to recognize and seize new business opportunities that others might overlook.

Further, immigrants are typically able to identify niche markets and underserved communities, both within their ethnic communities and the broader market. This ability to spot and cater to specific needs gives them a competitive edge. Additionally, connections in their home countries position immigrant entrepreneurs well to engage in cross-border trade and international business.

By combining these traits and leveraging their unique experiences, immigrants often become successful entrepreneurs who contribute significantly to the economy, create jobs, and drive innovation. Their ability to see opportunities where others might not, coupled with their determination and resilience, makes them well-suited to the entrepreneurial path.

Biometrics used to detect terrorists at the border

Crista Case Bryant, 7-1, 24,, Christian Science Monitor, Are terrorists slipping across the US border? What the evidence shows,

“We know what’s going to happen if we close our eyes and turn away and hope the bogeyman is going to go away,” he says. What is being done? According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, when Border Patrol agents encounter migrants crossing the southwest border illegally, they screen and vet those individuals. Agents ask for names, birthdates, and other biographical information, and take fingerprints and retinal scans. This biometric data can help establish a migrant’s identity if they use an alias or don’t have an ID. Their information is then checked against law enforcement and national security databases for “derogatory” information. No such information turned up during the initial screenings of the eight Tajiks. If such information comes to light later, as it did in this case, “enforcement action” will be taken accordingly, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said June 26 in Tucson, Arizona. “The safety and security of the American public is indeed our highest priority.”

Apprehensions of individuals on the terrorist watch list increasing; only a few people can commit a large terrorist act

Crista Case Bryant, 7-1, 24,, Christian Science Monitor, Are terrorists slipping across the US border? What the evidence shows,

The U.S. Border Patrol is encountering a far higher number of individuals on the terrorist watch list, with the annual total increasing from single digits during the Trump administration to 172 in fiscal year 2023. That’s not just a result of increased illegal immigration; the proportion of encounters involving someone on that watch list grew more than tenfold, from 0.0007% to 0.008%, according to government data. That’s a tiny fraction of total flows, but experts point out that just a handful of people can carry out significant attacks.

No past risks from immigrants but risks are now increasing

Crista Case Bryant, 7-1, 24,, Christian Science Monitor, Are terrorists slipping across the US border? What the evidence show

Historically, there is little evidence that unauthorized immigrants carry out attacks. A University of Maryland project on radicalization lists only 21 of 3,528 offenders as being an “undocumented resident.” A 2019 academic pape found that a correlation between migration and terrorism in Western Europe was driven in part by right-wing groups aggrieved by the influx. vUntil recently there was no empirical evidence that foreign terrorist groups were crossing the U.S. border. Now that is shifting, however, amid increased flows and a broader range of nationalities crossing illegally. “Al Qaeda and their affiliates, ISIS and their affiliates, have all identified this as a vulnerability in the United States’ defense,” says Christopher O’Leary, an FBI counterterrorism veteran now serving as senior vice president of global operations with The Soufan Group. “You have massive waves of people coming across; it’s certainly reasonable to think that you could blend into that.”

Global terror threats increasing

Crista Case Bryant, 7-1, 24,, Christian Science Monitor, Are terrorists slipping across the US border? What the evidence show

Part of the challenge is how to allocate U.S. resources. Mr. O’Leary, who worked on FBI counterterrorism investigations for more than two decades until stepping down last fall, says the government has pivoted away from the terrorism threat to focus on Russia, China, and great-power competition. He stresses the need to stay alert, 20-plus years into the global war on terror, with U.S.-designated terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, growing. For example, Al Qaeda’s core membership increased approximately tenfold from 2001 to 2018, according to estimates

Illegal Immigration decreasing

Camilo Montoya-GalvezUpdated on: July 1, 2024. Illegal crossings at U.S.-Mexico border fall to 3-year low, the lowest level under Biden,

Illegal crossings along the U.S. southern border fell to a 3-year low in June following President Biden’s drastic move to curtail asylum and continued efforts by Mexico to stop migrants heading north, according to preliminary Customs and Border Protection data obtained by CBS News. Border Patrol processed approximately 84,000 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization in June, the lowest monthly level since Mr. Biden took office in January 2021, when the agency reported just over 75,000 migrant apprehensions, the internal statistics show. June’s migrant apprehension tally was also the fourth consecutive monthly drop, continuing an unexpected downward trend in illegal border crossings that started in the early spring. Border Patrol agents recorded 118,000 migrant apprehensions in May; 129,000 in April; 137,000 in March; and 141,000 in February, according to public government figures. Migrant crossings dropped across border regions, including in remote and rugged stretches of Arizona and California that had become the busiest sectors for illegal entries. The marked reduction in migration comes weeks after Mr. Biden invoked a presidential power frequently cited by the Trump administration to ban most migrants from asylum if they crossed into the U.S. between official border crossings, known as ports of entry. The asylum crackdown — which includes exemptions for unaccompanied children and those who wait in Mexico for a chance to be processed at a port of entry — has allowed U.S. immigration officials to more quickly deport larger numbers of migrants, mainly those from Mexico and other countries in Latin America. The sustained decrease in unauthorized border entries has also occurred against the backdrop of a months-long campaign by Mexican officials to slow U.S.-bound migration by carrying out more deportations to southern Mexico and preventing migrants from boarding trains and buses. The aggressive operation began after a meeting between top American and Mexican officials in December, when migrant apprehensions at the U.S. border reached a quarter of a million, a record. Beyond U.S. and Mexican policies, other factors also influence migrant migration, including weather patterns and tactics by smugglers, who control the movement of migrants in many parts of Mexico. Temperatures along the U.S. border, for example, have increased rapidly and are expected to continue climbing further into the summer. Senior U.S. officials told CBS News the partial asylum ban is the main driving force behind the steep decline in crossings. One official noted the drop has been more acute since the crackdown was announced on June 4. In the past week, the average of daily migrant apprehensions fell below 2,000 — or nearly half of May’s 3,800 average, internal CBP data show. That number is also close to the 1,500 threshold the Biden administration set to suspend the asylum restrictions.

Terror risks increasing, southern border at-risk

Allison & Morrell, June 10, 2024, GRAHAM ALLISON is Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University; MICHAEL J. MORELL is Senior Counselor and Global Head of Geostrategic Risk at Beacon Global Strategy. He was Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, The Terrorism Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again, Foreign Affairs,

Two and a half decades later, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, is sounding similar alarms. His discussions within the Biden administration are private, but his testimony to Congress and other public statements could not be more explicit. Testifying in December to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wray said, “When I sat here last year, I walked through how we were already in a heightened threat environment.” Yet after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, “we’ve seen the threat from foreign terrorists rise to a whole nother level,” he added. In speaking about those threats, Wray has repeatedly drawn attention to security gaps at the United States’ southern border, where thousands of people each week enter the country undetected. Wray is not the only senior official issuing warnings. Since he became commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) in 2022, General Erik Kurilla has been pointing out the worrying capabilities of the terrorist groups his forces are fighting in the Middle East and South Asia. These include al Qaeda, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and especially Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), the ISIS affiliate that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Christine Abizaid, the outgoing director of the National Counterterrorism Center, described “an elevated global threat environment” while speaking at a conference in Doha last month. And in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee just last week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaking about the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States, said that the “threat level . . . has gone up enormously.” Only with complete access to intelligence information could one form a fully independent view of the threat. But the FBI director’s and the CENTCOM commander’s statements almost certainly reflect the classified intelligence they are reading and the law enforcement and military operations in which their organizations are involved. Their words should be taken seriously. In the years since 9/11, other officials have warned about terrorist threats that, fortunately, did not materialize, but that does not mean Wray’s and Kurilla’s comments today should be discounted. The wax and wane of terrorism warnings over the years has generally corresponded with the level of actual risk. In many cases, too, those warnings triggered government responses that thwarted terrorists’ plans. Given the stakes, complacency is a greater risk than alarmism. Combined, the stated intentions of terrorist groups, the growing capabilities they have demonstrated in recent successful and failed attacks around the world, and the fact that several serious plots in the United States have been foiled point to an uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusion. Put simply, the United States faces a serious threat of a terrorist attack in the months ahead. Fortunately, the United States has learned a great deal over the past 30 years about how to combat terrorist threats, including threats that are not yet well defined. President Joe Biden and his administration should now use that playbook. It includes steps the intelligence community should take to better understand the threat, steps to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, and steps to put pressure on terrorist organizations in the countries where they find sanctuary. One of the best models to follow is the set of measures Clinton authorized when the terror threat rose in the summer and fall of 1999. Those steps prevented a number of attacks, including at least one attack on the U.S. homeland. That success—as well as the United States’ failure to prevent 9/11—offers valuable lessons for modern policymakers. Today, as then, it is better to be proactive than reactive.

Growing risk of ISIS attack in the US from immigrated terrorists

David Ignatius, 6-26, 24, Washington Post, That clock ticking on our border policy impasse could be a time bomb,

Here’s how our border mess could become an election-year nightmare: Imagine that hundreds of Tajik migrants from Central Asia enter the United States through a smuggling network that the FBI subsequently discovers might have links to the Islamic State-Khorasan terrorist group. Some of the migrants are arrested nearly a year after they entered the country, but many still have not been located. In our scenario, the FBI scrambles to find what could be a ticking ISIS-K time bomb. It uses wiretaps and sting operations to locate recent arrivals who may have some connection to the Islamic State spinoff. But it’s playing catch-up. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general reports that the agency lacks the vetting tools it needs to identify and stop migrants with possible terrorist connections at the border. Folks, this isn’t a hypothetical. All of these details are real. Intelligence officials haven’t found evidence of an organized ISIS-K plot against the homeland. But the awful truth is that they don’t know what’s out there. America, with its porous border, is vulnerable to the stream of people who enter the country every day. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has been delivering hair-on-fire warnings about this problem for months. His latest came in June 4 testimony to a Senate committee: “Increasingly concerning is the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland” such as the March attack by Tajik members of ISIS-K that killed 139 people at a Moscow concert hall. In early June, the FBI and DHS arrested eight Tajik migrants in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The operation, aided by FBI wiretaps, was first reported by the New York Post. The paper said that at least one of the suspects had slipped into the country across the Mexico border more than a year ago. Surveillance showed that some of the Tajiks had used “extremist rhetoric,” according to CNN. “Rather than risk the worst-case scenario of a potential attack, senior US officials decided to move in and have the men apprehended,” CNN reported. Concern about the ISIS-K threat grew earlier this year when the intelligence community received new information that more than 400 Central Asian migrants had entered the United States through a “human smuggling network” potentially connected to ISIS, according to NBC News. Because of what one official told me was “extra caution,” about 150 of these “persons of interest” have been arrested, but about 50 haven’t been located, the network said. This flow of Central Asian migrants is a new headache for DHS. Officials estimate that about 40 people from that region cross into the United States every day, and that there are now “tens of thousands” of undocumented migrants here from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Most are economic migrants arriving through smuggling networks that operate using social media, cheap travel, transit through layovers in Europe — and then easy entry into the United States.

Immigration increases innovation and economic growth

ANDREW THURSTON JACKIE RICCIARDI, 4-4, 24, Do Immigrants and Immigration Help the Economy?,

When Americans mark their presidential election ballots later this year, immigration will be top of mind—it’s the nation’s number one issue, according to pollster Gallup. And one of the toughest talkers on the topic is former president and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. He’s built his political career on calls to secure the border and defend America against what he says are immigration’s dangers, warning of shrinking wages and stretched benefits programs. “When you have millions of people coming in,” he recently told a crowd in Michigan, “they’re going to take your jobs.” Immigrants stealing work from existing residents is a well-worn contention—with a history stretching back at least 100 years right up to present-day accusations that Tyson Foods could replace American workers with immigrant labor. But it’s also a false one, according to Boston University economist Tarek Hassan, whose recent studies have shown immigrants actually help fuel local economies by sparking innovation and driving up wages. The effects of a migrant influx can last for decades, too, enhancing a region’s attractiveness to foreign investors and opening long-term export opportunities, even 100 years later. Oftentimes, when immigrants move into an area, so do native workers, drawn by the promise of an invigorated economy. In one recent paper, Hassan, a BU College of Arts & Sciences professor of economics, also showed that living near people from other countries can shift native views on people of foreign descent, decreasing hostility and prejudice, while boosting empathy and knowledge. Residents who live alongside those people may also be less likely to vote for political candidates who demonize them. But there are important details that complicate the picture—at least from an economics perspective. Hassan’s research has shown that not everyone benefits the same way from a rush of migration, and that may strike a chord with some of the millions of voters who want to stem the tide. Despite the overall positive effects to a community, the flow of new residents does nothing to boost the wages of existing workers who don’t have a high school diploma. And the education and skill level of migrants matters, too: more education equals a more positive economic effect. “The headline finding is that immigrants are good for local economic growth and, in particular, educated migrants are doing a lot of that,” says Hassan. “At the same time, the data point to why some people might have problems with this. It’s a lopsided story where the immigration we’ve experienced in the last 40 years has been disproportionately benefiting the more educated local population. We’re trying to add some facts to the debate.” Immigration’s Impact on Economic Growth Hassan’s family story is one of migration—of crossing borders and navigating shifting national boundaries. “I come from a family with a rather complex migration history,” says Hassan. His father was an immigrant to Germany from Egypt, his mother a refugee from East to West Germany. Hassan was raised in Germany, but moved to the United States for graduate school and has now lived here for nearly 20 years. “You have to go back many generations to find somebody who was actually born in the same country they died in,” he says of his family. “But I think that’s true for a large chunk of the population.” He admits he finds the national debate on immigration frustrating. “There’s very little interest in nuanced information—on both sides of the debate. There’s this view among some people that all immigration is good and should be encouraged, and there’s this other view that all immigration is terrible. There’s not much interest in listening to each other.” With his research, he hopes to foster a more informed conversation. In a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Hassan and his colleagues examined decades of US migration data to look at the impact of new arrivals on economic growth, wage levels, and innovation, which they measured through the number of new patents filed in a particular area. More new ideas, he says, generally means more new businesses and products: “We find that when you have 10,000 extra immigrants arriving in a given US county, the number of patents filed per capita in that county dramatically increases, by something like 25 percent.” It was an effect that rippled out as far as 150 miles. The research team also estimated that, since 1965, migration of foreign nationals to the US may have contributed to an additional 5 percent growth in wages. They’re currently preparing the findings for journal publication. “More immigrants creates more economic growth,” says Hassan. “And because it creates more economic growth locally, it raises the wages of the people who are already there.” More immigrants creates more economic growth. And because it creates more economic growth locally, it raises the wages of the people who are already there. Tarek Hassan In an earlier paper, Hassan had looked at migration’s impact over an even longer term: 100 years or more. With an international research team, he studied how the pull of one area for migrants from the same country could help attract foreign investment to that region for years afterward. “You can still see today that places where Germans settled within the Midwest 100 years ago are much better at attracting foreign investment from Germany than places that didn’t see that migration,” says Hassan. The same is true for communities that had a concentration of Chinese or Polish migration, for example. “Ethnic diversity in that sense is really good for the ability of local firms to conduct business abroad, to both receive and make foreign investments.”

Multiple terror threats at the border

Andrew Arthur, Center for Immigration Studies, March 18, 2024,  FBI Director Warns ‘Dangerous Individuals’ Are Crossing the Border, Director Christopher Wray issued an ominous warning during a hearing last week before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) about a “wide array of very dangerous threats that emanate from” the Southwest border. Don’t feel bad if you missed it, because it didn’t get much coverage, but the interesting thing is Wray likely knew about — and may have been specifically referencing — the self-proclaimed Hezbollah member caught crossing that border two days earlier in El Paso, Texas. “Going to Try to Make a Bomb”. The alien in question is Basel Bassel Ebbadi, a 22-year-old Lebanese national, and the incident was initially revealed by Jennie Taer at the New York Post in a March 17 article headlined “Illegal migrant from Lebanon caught at border admitted he’s a Hezbollah terrorist hoping ‘to make a bomb’ — and was headed for NY”. Ebbadi was apprehended on March 9 near El Paso, and according to Taer, he was initially forthcoming about his terrorist plans in this country: “While in custody, he was asked what he was doing in the US, to which he replied, ‘I’m going to try to make a bomb’, according to a Border Patrol document.” Thereafter, however, he changed his story, telling ICE that he came illegally because he was “trying to flee Lebanon and Hamas because he ‘didn’t want to kill people’ and said ‘once you’re in, you can never get out’”. Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis — and Iran’s “Axis of Resistance”. The “Counter Terrorism Guide” published by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) explains that the 20,000 to 25,000 members of Hamas — a terror group first designated as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the State Department in October 1997 — operates primarily in Gaza, but that it also has a presence in the West Bank and in refugee camps in Lebanon. The group, of course, also planned and carried out the October 7 attacks in Israel, when 1,000 Hamas fighters poured through 30 breaches in the Israeli border wall with Gaza, killing 1,200 people, raping countless others, and taking “roughly 250” hostage. Meanwhile, DNI reports that “Lebanese Hizballah”, which was also designated as an FTO in October 1997: “Operates throughout Lebanon with relative impunity; has also worked with Iranian officials to provide training and other military support to Shia militants in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; has conducted lethal attacks globally.” Both Hezbollah/Hizbollah and Hamas are “aligned” with the Islamic Republic of Iran, sworn enemy of the United States and general disrupter of the international order in the Middle East. Consequently, there are ties between the two groups as well as with the Houthis in Yemen, members of which, AP explains, are “sometimes seen as the loose cannons of the alliance”. The Biden administration “delisted” the Houthis as an FTO less than a month after the inauguration, as the White House withdrew support for Saudi-led efforts to intervene in the civil war that has been raging in Yemen since 2015. The State Department was forced to redesignate the group as an FTO in January 2024, however, explaining: Since November, the Houthis have launched unprecedented attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as military forces positioned in the area to defend the safety and security of commercial shipping. These attacks against international shipping have endangered mariners, disrupted the free flow of commerce, and interfered with navigational rights and freedoms. In case you aren’t up on your Middle East geography, Yemen sits at the southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula, including at a Houthi-controlled choke point called the Bab al-Mandab Strait where the Red Sea flows into the Gulf of Aden and enters into the Indian Ocean. Not only oil tankers use that passage, but so does every ship that passes through the Suez Canal, from and to the Mediterranean. The strategic importance of that strait is why the British occupied Aden between 1839 and 1967, and why the U.S. African Command and its Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is headquartered on the other side of the strait in the African nation of Djibouti. The Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf threaten the 10 percent of global commerce that goes through the strait. Consequently, as Time explains: “If the Houthi blockade continues, the costs to consumers and the impact on local states will be considerable.” Not surprisingly, the Houthis are engaging in those attacks because they are part of Iran’s “axis of resistance”, and are trying to aid Hamas by undermining the Israeli war effort in Gaza. The fear in Israel and elsewhere is that Hezbollah would launch its own attacks on Israel to help Hamas out as well, and in fact it did fire rockets from Lebanon into Israel on October 8, starting a low-level back and forth that has been ongoing ever since. Ominously, Esmail Qaani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force has reportedly met with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah three times since the Hamas attacks of October 7. “A Heightened Threat Level from a Terrorism Perspective”. Which brings me back to Wray’s comments before SSCI on March 11, when he explained: Even before October 7, I would have told this committee that we were at a heightened threat level from a terrorism perspective — in the sense that it’s the first time I’ve seen in a long, long time … . The threats from homegrown violent extremists that is jihadist-inspired, extremists, domestic violent extremists, foreign terrorist organizations, and state-sponsored terrorist organizations all being elevated at one time since October 7, though, that threat has gone to a whole other level. And so, this is a time I think for much greater vigilance, maybe been called upon us. Notably, in response to questioning from SSCI Vice Chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) about criminals entering illegally across the Southwest border and being released into the country, Wray stated: “We have had dangerous individuals enter the United States of a variety of sorts. … From an FBI perspective, we are seeing a wide array of dangerous threats that emanate from the border”. Rubio then asked Wray whether any of the smugglers bringing illegal migrants to the United States had ties to “ISIS or other terrorist organizations”. Wray responded: So, I want to be a little bit careful about how far I can go in open session, but there is a particular network that has, where some of the overseas facilitators of the smuggling network have ISIS ties that we’re very concerned about and that we’ve been spending enormous amount of effort with our partners that we’re investigating. ISIS and the Iranian-led axis of resistance are on very different pages ideologically and politically (an offshoot of ISIS took responsibility for bombings at a memorial service for former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January that killed 100), but Rubio only focused on ISIS and Wray was pretty tight-lipped generally, as the excerpt above reveals. “Complex Border and Immigration Security Challenges”. In its “Homeland Threat Assessment 2024”, DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) warned (emphases added): The complex border and immigration security challenges we have faced over the last year are likely to continue. Although encounters with migrants have declined from record highs in December, migrants seeking entry to the United States are still arriving at a rate that is on pace to nearly match 2022 total encounters. As part of this increase, we have encountered growing numbers of individuals in the Terrorist Screening Data Set (TSDS), also known as the “watchlist.” . . . Record numbers of migrants traveling from a growing number of countries have been encountered at our borders this fiscal year. . . . Terrorists and criminal actors may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States. Individuals with potential terrorism connections continue to attempt to enter the Homeland. As of July, approximately 160 non-US persons in the TSDS attempted to enter the United States via the southern border this year, most of whom were encountered attempting to illegally enter between ports of entry. This represents an increase from the approximately 100 encounters in all of FY 2022. The Islamic Republic and its terror proxies received their own special notice in that report: “Among state actors, we expect Iran to remain the primary sponsor of terrorism and continue its efforts to advance plots against individuals in the United States”. Why would Iran and its terror allies want to attack the United States? As Director Wray noted, even before the October 7 attacks, various terrorist groups posed a threat (Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike and Iran vowed revenge), but in the minds of many, American support for Israeli in the wake of October 7 now especially makes our homeland a legitimate target. That includes not just FTOs, but also 80 musical acts that were scheduled to appear at the March South by Southwest (SXSW) concert series in Austin, Texas. They are now pulling out of SXSW because the U.S. military and a number of military contractors are among those sponsoring the event — groups they blame for supporting Israel’s military actions in Gaza. As the former head of the INS’s National Security Law Division, I can tell you that it’s rare for a migrant like Ebbadi to be quite so forthcoming about his terrorist intentions. Even if the administration is willing to ignore the claims of a Lebanese migrant, it should pay heed to warnings from the FBI director and DHS’s intelligence division about the terrorism vulnerabilities created by an insecure border.

ISIS is making a comeback

Tom O’Connor, Senior Writer, 3-23-24, Foreign Policy & Deputy Editor, National Security and Foreign Policy, Newsweek, With World’s Attention on Gaza, ISIS Is Making a Global Comeback, With World’s Attention on Gaza, ISIS Is Making a Global Comeback (,

With much of international attention gripped by the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has been steadily ramping up operations across continents and setting the stage for a resurgence of global mayhem. This latent threat came to life on Friday with ISIS claiming responsibility for a massacre targeting a concert held at Crocus City Hall outside of Moscow. It marked the deadliest militant attack on Russian soil since the 2002 theater hostage crisis in the capital. Experts and officials warn the next operation could target virtually anyone, including U.S. citizens. Just one day before the attack, U.S. Central Command chief General Michael Kurilla told lawmakers in Congress that “ISIS-Khorasan retains the capability and the will to attack U.S. and Western interests abroad in as little as six months with little to no warning.” Weeks earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had urged U.S. nationals to avoid crowded events, “to include concerts.” The latest attack has reclaimed international attention for the jihadis that, at their peak just a decade ago, presided over a self-styled caliphate spanning the size of Portugal. However, the roots of ISIS’ attempted resurgence have been taking hold for some time. The group’s so-called Khorasan province (ISIS-K or ISKP) has been particularly active in its base country of Afghanistan, using the Taliban-held nation to launch attacks at home and against neighboring Iran and Pakistan, in spite of efforts by all three governments. The militants also began expanding operations beyond the region, with Russia, Germany, Turkey and Tajikistan recently cracking down on alleged ISIS-K plots. “The recent spike in ISIS-K’s activity in the region is not an overnight development,” Amira Jadoon, a professor at South Carolina’s Clemson University who has regularly engaged with the U.S. government on issues of counterterrorism, told Newsweek, “but rather something that ISIS-K has been planning through a multi-pronged approach since a few years.”

Global terror threat increasing

Berman, 3-15, 24, Ilan Berman is Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC., The War on Terror Is Back, National Interest,

Within the Beltway, February and March tend to be busy months, when high-ranking military commanders and senior intelligence officials descend on Capitol Hill to update lawmakers on the assorted threats facing the United States. This year, however, interspersed with the usual briefings about Russia (reenergized by what it sees as flagging Western support for Ukraine) and China—with its persistent desire to dominate Taiwan—Members of Congress also heard a different and deeply unwelcome message. The conflict once called the “War on Terror” has well and truly returned. Within the Beltway, February and March tend to be busy months, when high-ranking military commanders and senior intelligence officials descend on Capitol Hill to update lawmakers on the assorted threats facing the United States. This year, however, interspersed with the usual briefings about Russia (reenergized by what it sees as flagging Western support for Ukraine) and China—with its persistent desire to dominate Taiwan—Members of Congress also heard a different and deeply unwelcome message. The conflict once called the “War on Terror” has well and truly returned.  Most immediately, the cause is the savage campaign of terror carried out by the Palestinian terror group Hamas on October 7, 2023. Much like the Biden administration’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan three years ago inspired a fresh generation of jihadists, the grisly success of Hamas’ offensive against Israel (which resulted in the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust) has breathed new life and vitality into an array of extremist Islamic factions.  “Both al-Qa‘ida and ISIS, inspired by the HAMAS attack against Israel, have directed their supporters to conduct attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Furthermore, Hamas’ actions are now “galvanizing individuals to leverage the Palestinian plight for recruitment and inspiration to conduct attacks.” But other factors are also at play. In Africa, for instance, massive disparities in resources, widespread economic privation, and chronically weak regimes have generated enormous volatility and given Islamists a much-needed foothold. “In East Africa, al-Shabaab and ISIS bring violence to peoples already struggling with inter-ethnic clashes and climate-related food and water shortages,” Gen. Michael Langley, who leads the United States Africa Command, told the Senate on March 7. “Conflict and climate challenges also loom over the vast populations and natural resources of Central Africa, while Southern Africa faces economic and energy shortfalls, combined with an ISIS insurgency in Mozambique. Simultaneously, massive strategic gains are being made by another actor, Iran, which is fast emerging as the principal beneficiary of the spreading regional disorder in the Middle East. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee, Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of U.S. Central Command, illustrated that regional threats like attacks on maritime commerce by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the targeting of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by Shia militias are part of a larger pattern, with the Islamic Republic at its center. The events of October 7 “created the conditions for malign actors to sow instability throughout the region and beyond,” Kurilla said, and Iran leaders have “exploited what they saw as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the Middle East to their advantage. At the moment, America is woefully unprepared for such a resurgence. In recent years, countering Islamic extremism has taken a back seat to “great power competition” with a rising and increasingly belligerent China (as well as an aggressive, militaristic Russia), with profound effects. Relevant defense budgets have dwindled as policymakers in Washington have increasingly prioritized conventional warfighting over special operations and low-intensity conflict Just as profoundly, counterterrorism has ceased to be a significant organizing principle in U.S. policy planning. Indeed, the Biden administration’s October 2022 National Security Strategy barely makes any mention of the urgency of fighting against militant Islam and contesting extremist actors Yet, as strategic planners know all too well regarding the battlefield, the adversary also gets a vote. So, it is with the threat posed by radical Islam. As America increasingly focuses on the dangers of Russian imperialism and Chinese expansionism, extremist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, as well as malign actors such as Iran, are exploiting the consequent opening. The result is a spreading global disorder that threatens both American interests and U.S. allies. All of this demands that Washington refocus in earnest on the counterterrorism fight and do so without delay.

Can’t solve privacy/general surveillance harms – the government spies on you in many ways


STEVEN OVERLY, 02/28/2024, Politico, Politicco Magazine, The Government Really Is Spying On You — And It’s Legal,

The freakout moment that set journalist Byron Tau on a five-year quest to expose the sprawling U.S. data surveillance state occurred over a “wine-soaked dinner” back in 2018 with a source he cannot name. The tipster told Tau the government was buying up reams of consumer data — information scraped from cellphones, social media profiles, internet ad exchanges and other open sources — and deploying it for often-clandestine purposes like law enforcement and national security in the U.S. and abroad. The places you go, the websites you visit, the opinions you post — all collected and legally sold to federal agencies. In his new book, Means of Control, Tau details everything he’s learned since that dinner: An opaque network of government contractors is peddling troves of data, a legal but shadowy use of American citizens’ information that troubles even some of the officials involved. And attempts by Congress to pass privacy protections fit for the digital era have largely stalled, though reforms to a major surveillance program are now being debated. On today’s episode of POLITICO Tech, Tau and I discussed the state of our personal privacy and the checks on all this government surveillance. I asked what differentiates the U.S. from authoritarian states like China when it comes to data collection, how our digital footprints will impact policy areas like abortion and what broader implications we can expect for civil liberties. He didn’t sugarcoat his responses. “Any nightmare use for data you can think of will probably eventually happen,” Tau said. “It might not happen immediately, but it’ll happen eventually.” The following interview has been edited down for length and clarity. Listen to the longer interview with Tau on today’s episode of POLITICO Tech, available on Apple, Spotify and Simplecast. Tell me about this dinner. Why did it leave you so freaked out that you had to write a whole book? This source described essentially a world in which the government had figured out that it could buy the geolocation data of cellphones, millions, possibly even billions of cellphones, mostly collected through apps or online advertisers, and it could use it in a surveillance program. And that’s what the Pentagon was experimenting with. It would eventually stand up and become a full-fledged program within the DOD. It would also expand to other government agencies like DHS. And it was a peek into a whole new way of doing surveillance that I hadn’t thought about. The data that you’re talking about in this book, a lot of times it’s not data that’s collected through traditional legal channels or even through cyberattacks, but rather the government purchasing it from companies that have scraped it from mobile phones, ad exchanges, social media. What difference has that made in terms of both what the government knows about people and also how it uses that information? A lot of these companies that I profiled in the book are virtually unknown to the average American. I think everyone knows what Google has about them. I think everyone knows what Facebook does. But these are companies, tiny, obscure data brokers, in some cases massive billion-dollar companies, but very little public-facing presence and almost no direct consumer relationship. Some of these companies focus on consumer data. Some focus on social data. Some focus on movement data. Companies often claim that this data is collected with your consent and that it’s completely anonymous. But is that true? When you dig deep into those claims, you’ll realize that neither is really true. That, for the most part, yes, perhaps there is some clause in a privacy policy that says that location data may be resold to other entities, but generally speaking, those privacy policies indicate that it will be sold for commercial purposes or for targeted advertising. Rarely, if ever, do they mention that there might be a government buying it; there might be some public safety entity or military unit using this data. So the second main claim that a lot of these vendors make is that the data is anonymized, that they’ve stripped it of names or addresses that could reveal who a phone belongs to, say, in a geographical movement set. And that isn’t true either, because where your phone spends its evenings, for example, is likely the address of its owner, and it can be cross-checked against other property records. And in many other kinds of data sets, there’s ample evidence that you can be re-identified even if your name is not in them.

Border surveillance used to spy on US citizens

Brian Tau, Investigative Journalist, in  OVERLY, 02/28/2024, Politico, Politicco Magazine, The Government Really Is Spying On You — And It’s Legal,

How much tension did you find there is within the government when it comes to the accessibility and use of this data? I don’t want to give the impression that these government programs are poorly run or are violating the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans day to day. That isn’t the case that I found in my reporting. However, it’s certainly true that there is this tension between the United States being a society that’s privacy-oriented, that’s skeptical of the government, and the public safety and national security missions of all these government agencies. Lawyers and program managers and elected officials have to try to balance the fact that this data is out there. It’s available for purchase. It’s something that Home Depot can use to target ads. And the question that gets asked over and over again inside government is, if Home Depot can use it to target ads, why can’t we use it for our very important national security or public safety mission? The data is used in a wide variety of law enforcement, public safety, military and intelligence missions, depending on which agency is doing the acquiring. We’ve seen it used for everything from rounding up undocumented immigrants or detecting border tunnels. We’ve also seen data used for man hunting or identifying specific people in the vicinity of crimes or known criminal activity. And generally speaking, it’s often used to identify patterns. It’s often used to look for outliers or things that don’t belong. So say you have a military facility, you could look for devices that appear suspicious that are lingering near that facility. Is there an example of what this leads to in the real world? I’d point to the example of an Arizona man who was arrested because law enforcement saw that there were phones moving between a restaurant he owned on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border and Mexico. They figured out that there was a tunnel there and found a pretense to search his car and found drugs. [They] later got a search warrant to search his restaurant. So, we’ve seen it used in a wide variety of areas, including in situations where the government would otherwise need a warrant or some other sort of court order to get data on American citizens.

Police are buying data and using it secretly to surveill citizens

Brian Tau, Investigative Journalist, in  OVERLY, 02/28/2024, Politico, Politicco Magazine, The Government Really Is Spying On You — And It’s Legal,

You compare to some degree the state of surveillance in China versus the U.S. You write that China wants its citizens to know that they’re being tracked, whereas in the U.S., “the success lies in the secrecy.” What did you mean by that? That was a line that came in an email from a police officer in the United States who got access to a geolocation tool that allowed him to look at the movement of phones. And he was essentially talking about how great this tool was because it wasn’t widely, publicly known. The police could buy up your geolocation movements and look at them without a warrant. And so he was essentially saying that the success lies in the secrecy, that if people were to know that this was what the police department was doing, they would ditch their phones or they would not download certain apps. That is the main theme of what I saw in looking at these government programs in the United States: That, by and large, the lawyers justified them on the grounds that they were open source, that this was data you could buy. But if you started poking around asking about them, FOIA-ing the contracts, they really didn’t want to talk about them. You write in the book about what you call “gray data,” which is information that’s generated by this widening world of connected devices. How is that changing the nature of surveillance and this data that the government and others have access to? So what I call gray data is essentially data that’s sort of there for the taking; that’s the byproduct of moving around the web or using some sort of service. So think of these Bluetooth devices that we all increasingly carry now. Your Bluetooth wireless headphones are actually just constantly pinging everything around it trying to tell a phone, another endpoint, that it’s there. And these clever governments or their contractors or these private companies have figured out, “Hey, you know, I could just run a little bit of code on a million phones around the world and just start vacuuming up all the Bluetooth signals around it.” And some of these contractors have found willing government buyers for this data. Another example I give in the book is car tires. For example, did you know that your car tires actually broadcast a wireless signal to the central computer of your car, telling it what the tire pressure is? Well, that’s all well and good, and it’s there for perfectly legitimate safety reasons. But of course, governments have figured this out. They figured out that the car tire is a proxy for the car. And if you just put little sensors somewhere or you run the right code on devices that you scatter around the world, then you can kind of track people with car tires. I am familiar with governments experimenting with it. And there is a company that has put up sensors in various American cities that they claim is for traffic monitoring, and I think that’s probably correct. But I’m also aware that, at the very least, the intelligence community has figured out how to do it for national security purposes, too. I don’t know how deeply it’s penetrated to being a mass surveillance kind of technology, but it’s definitely something governments know how to use. I wonder if you might connect some of these bigger questions about surveillance and about civil liberties to the ways it can affect everyday lives. One example that comes up in the book was abortion access. With abortion access, you think about the fact now that there’s a patchwork of state laws around abortion and that in the previous era, before the Roe v. Wade decision, that was the reality as well. And in some states, there were these underground abortion clinics where people could go and have the procedure, even though it was against state law. And if you imagine trying to set up something like that today, I just don’t think it would be possible, and it wouldn’t be possible because all the devices we carry around, everywhere we go on an app like Uber, every email or Google query that we make or send is logged somewhere. The fact is that if a prosecutor in a state where abortion is illegal wants access to that data, they will get it. And so, essentially, we’ve built a society where everything is logged and when everything is logged, it’s very hard to move around the world with any sort of privacy or anonymity.

Mass surveillance used to target opposition groups and is grounded in racism, as immigrant communities are police

Neta Crawford, September 2023, Post-9/11 US Mass Surveillance,

While “mass surveillance” is often used to refer to government spying, today it involves a complex grouping of federal agencies, local police, private companies, and even members of the public. Mass surveillance programs allow the U.S. government to warrantlessly and “incidentally” vacuum up Americans’ communications, metadata and content, and store their information in data centers and repositories such as the database authorized by Section 702 – a provision up for reauthorization in 2023. Federal agencies also increasingly obtain data from private companies and track Americans using facial recognition, social media geomapping, and other technologies. Mass surveillance has intensified the criminalization of marginalized and racialized groups, from Muslims and Arabs to Latinx immigrant communities to Black and Indigenous organizers, and has increasingly targeted protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. With the rise of what the U.S. government portrays as competition with China, Asian Americans have also been increasingly targeted. Mass surveillance has also facilitated the tracking, incarceration, and deportation of thousands of migrants, most of whom were guilty only of the civil offense of crossing a border without government permission. The post-9/11 state’s focus on racialized groups may have ill-prepared it to address rising white supremacist violence. Building a set of institutions and technologies capable of overseeing both mass movement and minute details of individuals’ lives has broadened the powers of law enforcement and corporations, in ways that have often proved difficult to reverse or even oversee. Mass surveillance lacks government transparency, which makes accounting for the true budgetary costs nearly impossible. However, available data on government intelligence institutions offer some sense of the mushrooming scale of surveillance: The annual U.S. intelligence budget has doubled from approximately $40 billion per year in the late 1990s to $80 billion per year in 2020. Public money has also been spent in profiteering, waste, fraud, and abuse on top of licit expenditures. For instance, five years after its creation, DHS was found to have overseen $15 billion in over-budget, delayed, or canceled contracts.