At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, FBI director Christopher Wray said that Hamas’s brutal terror attack on Israel that left more than 1,400 dead, mainly civilians, “will serve as an inspiration [for Islamist terrorists], the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago.”
There is growing concern about the sympathy on display in major U.S. cities and on large college campuses for Hamas terrorists and their supporters in Iran. Chants of “Free Palestine” accompany distinguished professors justifying Hamas’s murder as “awesome” or saying its members have “every right” to kill innocent Jews and Israelis.
Alongside this is a Cygnal poll which found 57.5% of Muslims living in America believe Hamas’s attack was justified and 38.6% see the organization’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, in a favorable light. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who openly calls for Israel’s and America’s destruction, has 31.3% favorability with Muslim Americans.
The statistics are troubling, but what likely causes the most fear for Wray and other national security experts is the freedom with which individuals have been able to cross the southern border from Mexico into the United States.
Since 2020, nearly eight million people entered the U.S. illegally, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency. Among this group, the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies think tank found that more than 75,000 “special interest aliens,” or SIAs, the term coined by the U.S. government to classify those from countries that may pose a national security risk, entered without permission or authorization from the government.
The list includes persons from Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Syria.
Two hundred seventy of the SIAs who entered the U.S. are on the FBI’s terror watchlist, the CIS study said.
Hamas well represented
Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at CIS and one of the authors of the report, told JNS that “Hamas is well represented inside the United States and [its members] are publicly identified as both individuals and groups in a court filing left behind in the 2008 prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas, Texas.”
In December 2001, the U.S. designated the Holy Land Foundation as a terrorist organization, seized its assets and closed the organization. In 2009, its founders were given sentences of between 15 and 65 years in prison for “funneling $12 million to Hamas.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is known for its vehement anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messaging, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial.
The Customs and Border Protection office in San Diego put out a situational awareness notice warning that “individuals inspired by, or reacting to, the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via … the Southwest border.”
It points to individuals belonging to Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as potential risks for entry. If they successfully entered the U.S., it could mean sleeper cells are inside the country waiting for instructions to act.
Lora Ries, the director of the Border Security and Immigration Center at the Heritage Foundation and former acting deputy chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, said America is facing “a dangerous time,” with potentially thousands of “people who want to harm Americans.”
She said the most troubling statistic is the nearly 1.6 million “got-aways,” people who forwent taking advantage of benefits the U.S. government offers illegal immigrants. People who forgo this program, she said, are typically criminals who want to avoid being on the government’s radar.
Ries said there is a “real national security threat” and that “Americans shouldn’t have to wait for a terror attack to react.”
The assumption must be that there are terrorist cells in the U.S., given the terrorist groups’ calls for violence, she said.
Why a so-called Palestinian freedom fighter would seek to enter the U.S. may seem puzzling to some. However, their leaders’ messaging typically couples the U.S. with Israel, as is the case with the regime in Iran, the worst sponsor of terrorism in the world today.
The risk to Jews across the globe immediately comes to mind. At a time when antisemitism is surging—the Anti-Defamation League estimates a 388% rise in incidents since the outbreak of the war—Americans have been targeting Jews with verbal abuse and in some cases violence every day.