The ultra-marathoners of human smuggling: defending forward against dark networks that can transport terrorists across American land borders
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National legislation requires America’s homeland security agencies to disrupt transnational human smuggling organizations capable of transporting terrorist travelers to all U.S. borders. Federal agencies have responded with programs targeting extreme-distance human smuggling networks that transport higher-risk immigrants known as special interest aliens (SIAs) from some 35 countries of interest in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia where terrorist organizations operate. Yet ineffectiveness and episodic targeting are indicated, in part by continued migration from those countries to the U.S. southwestern border since 9/11. Should an attack linked to SIA smuggling networks occur, homeland security leaders likely will be required to improve counter-SIA interdiction or may choose to do so preemptively. This thesis asks how SIA smuggling networks function as systems and, based on this analysis, if their most vulnerable fail points can be identified for better intervention targeting. Using NVivo qualitative analysis software, the study examined 19 U.S. court prosecutions of SIA smugglers and other data to produce 20 overarching conclusions demonstrating how SIA smuggling functions. From these 20 conclusions, seven leverage points were extracted and identified for likely law enforcement intervention success. Fifteen disruption strategies, tailored to the seven leverage points, are recommended.
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