Americans form greatest percentage of known terrorists crossing U.S. border

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Nearly half of terrorists crossing into the United States to perform violent acts or making an escape from the country afterward were American citizens, and a significant percentage were Canadians, finds a Homeland Security Department-funded study.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism-conducted study is based on data gleaned from terrorist (as designated by the FBI) court cases from 1980 through 2004 showing that 264 individuals during that period with a direct tie to terrorism crossed a U.S. border in relation to a terrorist act. Of the 95 individuals for whom citizenship was determinable, 48 percent were U.S. citizens, and another 18 percent were Canadian citizens.

Border security managed to thwart just 13 percent of the crossings, and terrorists' favorite port of entry mode was airports, with land ports of entry or seaports constituting a minority of the total. Only a minority of the indicted terrorists had a previous known arrest record: 11 percent were previously arrested in the United States and 11.1 percent were previously arrested abroad.

States along the southwestern border--California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas--accounted for only 6 of the 115 cases for which location crossing data was available. The report does note that the data only includes border crossings specifically referenced in court documents related to federal terrorism cases, meaning that it's possible that the data could be nonrepresentative.

Related research work conducted by the National Center for Border Security and Immigration based on field work at Customs and Border Protection ports of entry concluded that agents there are concerned mainly with the immigration status of border crossers and customs declarations rather than terrorist detection. Screening-related terrorism in airports, the center learned, is mainly driven remotely by the CBP National Targeting Center, which sends local agents a list of passengers selected for secondary screening.

For more:
- download the research results, "Border Crossings and Terrorist Attacks in the United States: Lessons for Protecting against Dangerous Entrants" (.pdf)

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