Here we go again. Francis X. Taylor, under-secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security on Sept. 10 that operatives of the extremist jihadi movement variously known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State have discussed infiltrating the United States through the Mexican border. "There have been Twitter and social-media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility," Taylor said in response to a question from Sen. John McCain, who wanted to know if any ISIS chatter had been intercepted that "would urge infiltration into the United States across our Southwestern border." But Taylor said he was "satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity." And when pressed further, he admitted: "At present, DHS is unaware of any specific, credible threat to the US homeland from ISIL."
This weasily flipping gives the media the opportunity to play it however they want. So the liberal Huffington Post headline reads "DHS Doesn't Think ISIS Is Plotting Attack Through US-Mexico Border," while the establishmentarian Bloomberg goes with "Islamic State Talked of Entering US Through Mexico."
We've been hearing this paranoia for years now—only the names change. Just last year, before ISIS suddenly became the sexy menace du jour, pundits, wonks and yellow journalists were speculating about Hezbollah plotting with Mexican cartels. A few years before that, we were told al-Qaeda was recruiting narco-gangs to infiltrate militants across the border. The Mexican government denied any Islamist militant presence in the country.
This propaganda motif actually goes all the way back to World War I, when there was much fear of a German invasion of the US via Mexico. The basis for this was an intercepted German diplomatic cable—the notorious Zimmerman Telegram—inviting Mexico to join the Central Powers. Nothing came of it; Mexico told the Kaiser to get lost. But the revelation fueled war fever in the US, and actually helped propel Washington into the war. A century later, you'd think the trick would be getting a little stale. Please, don't believe the hype!