EXCLUSIVE: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday requested a classified briefing from the FBI and CIA for the leadership of Congress and Vice President Harris on suspected terrorists detained on the southern border of the United States, raising the alarm about “the amount of bad actors” who have escaped arrest and could currently reside in the United States.
This week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that two Yemeni men had been detained and identified on a terror watch list in California’s El Centro sector in the past two months. The first arrest, in January, involved a 33-year-old illegal Yemeni who was on both the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and the No-Fly List.
CBP DELETES PRESS RELEASE ESTABLISHING ARREST OF YEMENI BORDER CROSSERS ON TERROR WATCH LIST
The second occurred last week in the same sector. The 26-year-old also earned both lists. The first was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while the second was in federal custody. “
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director William Burns, obtained exclusively by Fox News, McCarthy, R-California, requested a “classified briefing on certain persons detained by the US Border Patrol” to him, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Vice President Harris, citing their recent appointment to lead the efforts of the Biden’s administration in the border crisis.
“I hope that she, along with the leaders of Congress, can benefit from this briefing,” McCarthy wrote.
“Through conversations with the Border Patrol and media reports, I learned of the apprehension of foreign nationals on the Terrorism Watch List who were attempting to illegally cross our southern border,” McCarthy wrote. “This highlights the national security risk posed by the border crisis.”
Last month, McCarthy and a Republican delegation traveled to El Paso, Texas, to see “first-hand” the “emerging humanitarian and security crisis” along the southern border.
“US Border Patrol agents provided us with an eye-opening tour and briefings on the current crisis in El Paso and the operational challenges they face every day,” McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy added that “during the briefings, the agents told us that they had detained people not only from Mexico and Central America, but also from countries such as China, Iran, Yemen and Turkey.”
McCarthy said officials “conveyed that they had detained people who are on the Terrorism Watch List.”
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“These revelations were shocking and disturbing, and for those reasons, I felt compelled to share them with the nation,” he continued.
McCarthy said that when he shared his concerns, his colleagues in Washington “cast doubt” on them with one “even accusing me of lying.”
“Soon after, however, US Customs and Border Protection staff confirmed the accuracy of my comments and additional reports provided a greater understanding of the situation,” McCarthy said. “In fact, the threat has only grown.”
“Just yesterday, in a now-deleted and published statement, the US Customs and Border Protection announced the arrest of two Yemeni people caught illegally crossing the border in the Border Patrol Center sector, to hundreds of miles from El Paso, “McCarthy wrote. . “Like the cases we were reported on in El Paso, these El Centro suspects were on the Terrorism Watch List.”
CBP issued a press release on the arrests this week, but has since deleted it and the accompanying tweet.
“Part of the Border Patrol’s mission is that we will protect the country from terrorists,” Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino said in the now-deleted press release. “Today, as every day, our agents did that. These arrests at our border illustrate the importance of our mission and how we can never fail to be vigilant in our daily mission to protect this great country.”
CBP and DHS did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News about the removal of the press release, as well as an accompanying tweet.
Meanwhile, McCarthy said that “approximately 1,000 people each day are evading capture by the US Border Patrol,” citing reports from the Washington Post.
“While I am grateful to the Border Patrol for doing everything they can, I am deeply concerned about the number of bad actors who have escaped arrest and are residing in the United States,” McCarthy wrote. “We simply have no way of knowing if other terrorists have crossed the border undetected.”
Fox News reported last month that at least four foreign nationals, including the Yemeni man arrested in January, whose names match those on the terrorist watch list, had been detained by the Border Patrol attempting to enter the country illegally since October.
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A CBP spokesperson told Fox in a statement at the time that border security efforts “are layered and include multiple levels of rigorous control that allow us to detect and prevent individuals who pose risks to national security or the public safety to enter the United States. “
“DHS works with our international partners to share intelligence and other information, including preventing people on the terrorist watch list from entering the United States. CBP adjudicates people found in and between our ports of entry against various bases. of classified and unclassified data to determine whether they pose a threat to national security, in accordance with the law, “the spokesperson said. “While known and suspected terrorist encounters at our borders are very rare, they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents do on a daily basis to investigate everyone at our borders.”
The White House said Tuesday that such apprehensions were “rare” and a sign that officials were doing their job.
“They underscore the importance of the critical work that is done daily to investigate those at the border. DHS works, not only at the border, as you know, but also with international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent people on a certain watch list from entering the United States, “said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “They adjudicate people found at and between ports of entry against various classified and unclassified databases.”
She added, “So while this is weird, this is a reflection of them doing their job.”
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McCarthy’s request and confirmation of the arrests comes as the Biden Administration is dealing with a surge in migrants at the southern US border.
The Biden administration has called the situation a “challenge” and blamed the Trump administration for its immigration policy.
But initial CBP figures from last month indicate the agency is on track to have found more than 171,000 migrants in March, a 15-year high.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.