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Terrorism suspect released by overwhelmed Border Patrol: Federal audit

The Border Patrol caught a terrorism suspect at the southern border but was too overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigrants to properly flag the person and instead released the person into the country, according to a new government audit.

Once Homeland Security realized the bungle and sent agents to arrest the suspect, it took them more than two weeks to mount the operation because officers were waiting for paperwork to reach them and then had trouble getting access to the GPS tracking device the migrant was wearing, the department’s inspector general said.

Investigators said Customs and Border Protection must fix the errors or else it “risks releasing individuals into the United States who potentially threaten national security and public safety.”

The issue is of particular importance given the surging number of terrorism suspects being nabbed as they jump the southern border.

Some 125 have been caught between Oct. 1 and May 31, shattering last year’s previous record of 96, with a few months still to go in the fiscal year.

During the period from 2017 to 2020, under President Trump, there were a combined 11 Border Patrol arrests along the southern border of migrants whose identities are listed in the government’s terrorist screening data set, known colloquially as the terrorist watchlist.

In the case audited by the inspector general, a migrant was nabbed along with family members on April 17, 2022, in Yuma, Arizona.

The identity was run through the watchlist but the FBI said it was “inconclusive.” Authorities asked for more information to be gleaned. but that request was sent to the wrong email address and the necessary interview never took place.

One Border Patrol division did have the information needed, but it was too overwhelmed by the Biden border migrant surge to respond, the audit found. And with the surge causing its facilities to be overloaded with migrants, the Border Patrol released the terrorism suspect on April 19, 2022, without ever running the potential terrorism watchlist match to ground.

Two days later the family checked in for a flight from Palm Springs, California, to Tampa, Florida, and the Transportation Security Administration ran the name and confirmed the migrant was in fact on the watchlist.

On April 22, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was directed to track down and arrest the migrant, but it took two additional weeks to make the arrest, the audit said.

ICE first had to wait eight days for paperwork from Yuma to arrive, and then officers struggled to get the GPS tracking data for the ankle bracelet the migrant was assigned.

Homeland Security, in its official response, insisted it didn’t knowingly release a terrorism suspect because the Border Patrol never figured out that the person was, in fact, on the watchlist.

“It was only after the individual was released that the migrant was later determined to be” on the watchlist, said Jim H. Crumpacker, the department’s liaison to the inspector general.

He said the fact that the person was put on an ankle bracelet and monitored shows the department took the case seriously.

He also defended ICE’s delay in picking the subject up, saying officers needed to get a hold of the file so they could evaluate the risks and plan for any contingencies in nabbing a terrorism suspect.

Mr. Crumpacker also blamed the iffy information in the watchlist, saying it can be hard to figure out conclusively whether an identity is a match.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
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