On Monday, April 5, the press release uploaded by the Department of Homeland Security, detailing two Yemeni illegal immigrants’ detention on the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List, disappeared from the website the following day.
The deleted press announced that the two suspects arrested by agents assigned to the El Centro sector were from Yemen and were on the terror watch list over the last two months.
The first border-crosser was apprehended on January 29, and he was later identified as a 33-year-old Yemeni whose name appeared on both the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and the No-Fly list. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered the second suspect, a 26-year-old, a Yemeni, on March 30, and he was also recorded on the same two lists.
Agents at the border assigned the first man to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whereas the second one was in federal custody waiting for his deportation.
The press release concluded with Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino’s remarks on the CBP’s commitment to stay “vigilant” on screening out terrorists who seek to enter the US by crossing the border illegally.
“Part of the Border Patrol’s mission states we will protect the country from terrorists,” Bovino stated, then reasserting the “importance of our mission and how we can never stop being vigilant in our everyday mission to protect this great country.”
The CBP spokesperson explains the Tuesday news release removal was because its content had not been adequately checked and had elements that could be sensitive to “national security”.
On the same day, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said such “incidents are very uncommon” when Peter Doocy from Fox News mentioned the risk of having terrorists leaked into the country through a border policy loophole and questioned President Biden’s move on it.
“CBP and DHS can speak more to the timeline and the specifics, of course, in these particular cases and encounters. But encounters of known and suspected terrorists are very uncommon,” she said.
Psaki continued that the DHS and CBP’s report on terrorists appearing at the border also means that the departments are fulfilling their responsibility of vetting illegal border crossers thoroughly to prevent individuals on such watchlists from entering the US.
“They adjudicate individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases. So while this is rare, this is a reflection of them doing their jobs,” she said.
However, the DHS’s covered-up information on two terrorist suspects’ arrests alarmed Republicans, who saw it as more proof of the current administration’s low intention on border transparency.
“Transparency in name alone is not transparency.” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee tweeted on the day the news release was taken down. The tweet also demanded DHS and CBP’s answer on muting the news that “exploiting President Biden’s open border policies”.
Watch Jen Psaki’s reply to the terrorist suspect arrest on April 6
Can't make it up.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refers reporters to CBP & DHS about the terror watch list apprehensions at the border.
….hours after CBP deleted their own press release on the issue. pic.twitter.com/xGWjB8CnHl
— Mark Bednar (@MarkBednar) April 6, 2021