Senior counterterrorism official: Terrorist teams don’t use the southern border to enter the USA

Senior counterterrorism official: Terrorist groups do not use the southern border to enter the United States

A senior Biden administration safety official advised Congress on Wednesday that she has seen no proof that overseas terrorist teams try to sneak brokers into the USA throughout the southern border.

Director of the Nationwide Counterterrorism Middle, Christine Abizaid, mentioned that the border with Mexico has a “weak spot,” however it seems that terrorist networks usually are not exploiting it.

He added: “As we take a look at the worldwide terrorism atmosphere, and we take a look at the intentions of overseas terrorist organizations to attempt to plant brokers in the USA, we now have no dependable or confirmed indications that these terrorist organizations try to do this in the USA.” “This time,” she advised the Home Homeland Safety Committee throughout a listening to on threats to the USA.

Republicans had been angered by her testimony and the administration’s reluctance to inform Congress a lot concerning the enormous variety of folks on the terrorist watch record being detained by the Border Patrol.

“Who’re these? Is Hamas on the record?” mentioned Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Home Overseas Affairs Committee.

Ms. Abizaid, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Homeland Safety Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who additionally testified Wednesday, didn’t say so.

Mr. Wray mentioned he’s involved concerning the massive variety of “smugglers” — migrants who evade Border Patrol altogether — who could also be hiding amongst that inhabitants, which has been estimated at greater than 2 million folks because the begin of the Biden administration.

“I feel any time you’ve gotten a gaggle of individuals in the USA that we do not know sufficient about, that is a priority for us,” he mentioned.

Mr. Wray mentioned the FBI is searching for some border crossers in terrorism investigations.

He mentioned: “There are actually people topic to terrorism investigations and we’re searching for them.”

New focus

Terrorist actors exploiting America’s porous borders have come into sharper focus following the lethal October 7 infiltration assault by Palestinian Hamas militants on Israel, which killed an estimated 1,400 Israelis and overseas nationals and took greater than 200 hostages.

Home Homeland Safety Committee Chairman Mark Inexperienced, a Republican from Tennessee, challenged Mr. Wray particularly over whether or not Hamas activists could possibly be amongst those that evaded seize. The pinnacle of the FBI objected however mentioned the border was a “main concern.”

Till final yr, officers on the Division of Homeland Safety wouldn’t even announce how many individuals on the terrorism watch record had been apprehended by border authorities, saying the matter was too delicate.

The administration backed off within the spring and now experiences public numbers each month. Knowledge launched Tuesday confirmed Border Patrol brokers arrested 12 terrorism suspects on the southern border and one on the northern border in October. That is along with 172 circumstances detected in fiscal yr 2023, 98 circumstances in 2022, and 16 circumstances in 2021. The whole because the starting of 2021 is 299 circumstances.

From 2017 via 2020, underneath President Trump, the overall quantity was simply 14 — 11 on the southern border and three on the northern border.

Republicans in Congress have been urging Mr. Mayorkas to disclose the identification of the terrorism suspects and what occurred to them, complaining that the Homeland Safety secretary has obstructed them.

Mr. Mayorkas has mentioned publicly that individuals on the terrorism watch record “could not essentially be recognized or suspected terrorists.” When somebody seems within the terrorist screening dataset, he mentioned, “it is an enforcement precedence for us.”

“If we decide that it could not be secure for the American folks to launch them into the USA, we’ll detain them pending their deportation,” he advised senators in a separate session final week.

On Wednesday, he indicated that some had been arrested, and promised particulars in one other kind – a potential reference to a secret location.

The Division of Homeland Safety says a few of the rise in arrests of terrorism suspects is the results of elevated unlawful immigration from South America. Armed insurgencies, such because the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, often known as FARC, have been designated as terrorist teams, so members of these teams could seem on a watch record.

Dangers and intentions

Ms. Abizaid, the counterterrorism chief, mentioned her company was concerned in placing folks on a watch record, and there was an “absolute danger” that they might attempt to enter the USA throughout the border. However she mentioned that officers on the Counterterrorism Workplace didn’t see any “intentions” on the a part of main terrorist networks to take advantage of this.

“This doesn’t imply that we’re happy with ourselves, and this can be a danger that we’re monitoring,” Ms. Abizaid mentioned.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ray pointed to a case his brokers introduced towards a person accused of making an attempt to smuggle an ISIS hit workforce into the USA to assassinate former President George W. Bush.

Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab pleaded responsible to trying to supply materials help to terrorists. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in February.

In accordance with court docket paperwork, an FBI informant who labored with Shehab mentioned he bragged about smuggling two Hezbollah figures into the USA, for $50,000 every.

Later within the listening to, Mr. Wray mentioned that FBI brokers had been searching for particular individuals who had come throughout the border, however that didn’t essentially imply they’d been placed on a watch record.

“One space we’re concerned about is people who, as soon as they get right here, the data comes later,” he mentioned.

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