Politicians have long warned of the threat of Islamist terrorists crossing the United States’ southern border, despite relatively little evidence that ISIS or al Qaeda or any other terrorist group is present in Mexico. But with two terror attacks this week in Canada, at least one of which was confirmed to have been carried out by an Islamist, the question now is whether the real danger to the homeland comes from the north.
In contrast to the militarized border between the United States and Mexico, the nearly 4,000-mile border between the United States and Canada is perhaps the world’s most peaceful. There’s been no significant conflict between the two sides since the War of 1812, and travelers and goods cross freely every day. But Canada has been used as a launching pad for attempted terrorist attacks against the United States, and the Department of Homeland Security has long seen the northern border as presenting “a more significant threat” than the southern.
As Garrett Graff pointed out in Politico last week, a number of jihadist plots have been hatched in Canada, most notoriously “the Millennium plot,” when an Algerian national intent on planting a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport was caught crossing the border with a truck full of explosives.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who has alleged that the Border Patrol has caught potential Middle Eastern terrorists crossing the Mexican border, contrasted the security on the Mexican border with that on the Canadian border. “The southern border is a well known corridor for illegal entry into the United States,” he said. “The northern border is lesser known as a threat, but the risk is no different. If smugglers and criminals are working the southern border and waterways, then surely they know the U.S. border with Canada is open too. And it’s naive to assume they are ignorant of that fact.”
The offices of other Republicans who have made strong claims about terrorists crossing the Mexican border did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment. That includes former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who said last month that “these ISIS thugs have been saying for months that they’re going to send people here to kill Americans on as big a scale as they can, and never mind that a porous border is the most obvious pathway for terrorists to enter our country.” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) claimed that ISIS is in Juarez. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) have expressed similar concerns.
The anxiety over ISIS attacking from Mexico has come to a boil with the panic over Ebola and the suggestion that terrorists would deliberately infect themselves with the deadly virus and then enter the United States. Not only is there is no evidence that ISIS is mounting an offensive south of the Mexican border, but doing so by spreading the Ebola virus is almost impossible. Jihadists would essentially need to bathe themselves in Ebola-infected vomit or blood to weaponize the virus.
Perhaps it’s for the best that none of these politicians are using the same apocalyptic language about the potential threat presented by our neighbor to the north. After all, as Ottawa recovers from a horrific shooting spree, there’s no need to exaggerate any danger.