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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Is ISIS in Mexico and planning to cross the border?

    "It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)"

    Trent Franks on Friday, September 12th, 2014 in a phone conference

    Is ISIS in Mexico and planning to cross the border?

    By Lauren Carroll on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.

    With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria growing in the Middle East, nearly half of Americans think the country is less safe than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, according to a recent poll.

    Some Republicans have expressed concern that the southern border is so porous, members of the extremist group could slip into the United States from Mexico. And a few have said such a plot is already in the works -- but federal agencies don’t agree.

    Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona, said his state faces an imminent threat in a recent phone conference with conservative nonprofit Staying True to America’s National Destiny. Buzzfeed picked up Franks’ comment, and it made its way around the Internet.

    "It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks," Franks said. "So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real."

    Several other politicians have made similar claims, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. And the claims are spreading around conservative online media, like the Daily Caller,Breitbart News and pundit Sean Hannity at Fox News.

    This clashes with the federal government’s assertion that there is currently no credible threat that ISIS is planning an attack on United States soil.

    With Franks and so many others claiming that the threat is certain and looming, we decided to see whether or not their evidence is credible. Based on our talks with experts and statements from law enforcement officials, the possibility of ISIS attacking the U.S. by crossing the southern border seems unlikely. The certainty that Franks suggests about what we "know" is wrong.

    The origins

    In a statement to PolitiFact, Franks said he got the information from a report circulating around the Internet. Franks has since learned that Homeland Security believes the report was "overstated," and his subsequent comments reflect that -- though he remains concerned about the possibility of terrorists crossing the border.

    The report is from Judicial Watch, a conservative media website, and it claims that "Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices," citing several anonymous "high-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources."

    We couldn’t find any other media outlets that independently verified the story, and no federal officials would corroborate its claims, either.

    Without knowing anything about Judicial Watch’s sources -- such as rank or agency -- it’s hard for us to assess the article’s credibility. In an interview with PolitiFact, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton would not go into any further detail.

    The article says the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to their multiple requests.

    We asked Homeland Security about the threat in Juarez, and they said, "There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by (ISIS) to attempt to cross the southern border."

    The topic came up a few times in recent congressional hearings, and administrators reiterated the lacking evidence of an imminent threat.

    In a Sept. 10 hearing before the House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., said,

    "We know that terrorist networks have been using our porous southern border and a broken immigration system to enter the United States."

    DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Analysis Jennifer Lasley responded.

    "To date, we have not had credible reporting that either Hezbollah or any other terrorist group has been taking advantage of our borders to move individuals in and out," Lasley said. "It's something we are always looking for, but to date, we have not seen credible evidence of that."

    Later in the same hearing, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, discussed his conversations with DHS, when administrators told him that there has never been evidence of terrorists entering the United States via the southern border. He posed the same question to DHS administrators present at the hearing.

    In response, John Wagner, acting assistant commissioner for Custom and Border Patrol’s Office of Field Operations, said it is much more likely that ISIS and other Islamic extremists would come to the United States by commercial plane. Wagner said the number of people suspected in terrorist activity caught on the southern border is in the tens, while those on commercial jets is in the thousands.

    Both Rep. Franks and Fitton of Judicial Watch mentioned to us that the government has intercepted ISIS social media posts that indicated a potential attack carried out by crossing the border.

    This came up in a Sept. 10 Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Francis Taylor about recent reports of Twitter and Facebook exchanges in which ISIS "urged infiltration" across the U.S.-Mexico border.

    "Yes, sir, there have been Twitter, social media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility," Taylor said, adding: "I'm satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity."

    This admission energized the discussions in the conservative media. But social media threats should be taken with a grain of salt, said Colin Clarke, an expert on international security at the Rand Corporation, a think tank.

    "ISIS could say ‘we would never consider (crossing the border),’ and would we take that seriously?" Clarke said. "It’s really just one small sliver of evidence."

    It’s possible, but unlikely

    We talked to several national security experts, and each one said they haven’t seen credible evidence that ISIS is staging a plot that involves crossing the southern border. They also said that scenario is highly unlikely.

    "There is big difference between a theoretical risk or a risk that is worth worrying about," said David Schanzer, director of Duke University’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

    The general sentiment among experts was: It’s possible that ISIS could sneak through the border -- illegal immigrants do it every day.

    But why would they?

    Schanzer noted that ISIS members who have U.S. passports or visas could enter the country legally via plane. (The 9/11 hijackers had U.S. visas.) Whereas if they crossed the border illegally, they would run the risk of getting caught.

    Another possibility is that someone living in the United States could become radicalized over the Internet and then stage an attack, like the men who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings last year, Clarke said, adding that this was his biggest concern.

    Additionally, ISIS is "overwhelmingly focused" on Iraq and Syria, said Daniel Benjamin, former ambassador at large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department. The group likely does not have the wherewithal to stage an attack on American soil at this point.

    In order to cross the border and stage an attack, ISIS would need a broad network in place in the United States that could provide them with intelligence, weapons, money, sanctuary, training and more, Clarke added.

    And this is not a new claim.

    In 2011, then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney (and several other Republican candidates) said the Islamic militant group Hezbollah was working in Mexico, and we rated that claim Mostly False. (We found some evidence of Hezbollah sympathizers working in South and Central America,but little evidence for the group "working" in Mexico.)

    In 2010, Judicial Watch published a story with the headline: "Feds Warn Of Terrorists Sneaking Into U.S. Through Mexico."

    O’Rourke, the Texas representative, has said that he came across an El Paso newspaper story from 1981 about Libyan terrorists in Juarez, though evidence of such a group was never found.

    Despite years of these claims, Schanzer said he is not aware of a "single person arrested for a terrorism-related offense after crossing the border illegally."

    We should note that in 2011, an Iranian plotted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, and his plan involved Mexican drug traffickers, according to the Washington Post.

    The man, who had previously lived in Texas, thought his contact in Mexico was a drug smuggler, when it was actually a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

    The man was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he flew from Mexico.

    Our ruling

    Franks said, "It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez."

    We found that it is highly unlikely that ISIS would operate in Mexico and stage an attack that involves crossing the border. The claims originated in an article with unnamed sources, published by a right-wing outlet. We could not find one law enforcement official or another media outlet that independently verified or corroborated the claims.

    It’s a far stretch to say "we know" with certainty that ISIS is in Juarez, so we rate this claim Mostly False.


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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Rumours, terror and the border, High anxiety

    • Rumours, terror and the border
    • High anxiety

    Sep 13th 2014, 20:07

    AN NBC News/Wall Street Journal opinion poll this week revealed a collapse in American public confidence that the country is safer than before the September 11th attacks. Analysts traced that collapse directly to news reports of the beheading of two American journalists by the murderous fanatics of the Islamic State (IS).

    The shift in sentiment was dramatic enough when viewed as rows of numbers on a pollsters’ table. Unexpectedly, Lexington was then able to see that mood of alarm in the flesh. While in Texas researching a piece about long-term trends on the southern border, your columnist was able to tour Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stations on the bridges between El Paso and its Mexican neighbour, Ciudad Juárez, on September 11th. Travelling to each of the four bridges, it became clear that something was up. Each crossing was all but deserted (pictured above). The cause, it turned out, was an internet-fuelled panic that IS terror cells are hiding in Juárez and planning attacks, possibly to coincide with the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

    Border queues and delays are something of an obsession in El Paso. Home to thousands of bi-national families and commuters, this Texan city relies on Mexican shoppers for about half of its retail sales. Its private schools are filled with Mexican children, who cross the border each morning and afternoon in their neat uniforms. Conversations in downtown stores invariably begin with a report on how long a shopper has just waited on the foot-crossing coming in from Juárez. When Lexington mentioned wait-times to his neighbour in a crowd, a complete stranger pulled out a smartphone and consulted the city internet page, which carries real-time images from webcams on all crossings.

    On September 11th, you did not need a webcam. Great stretches of empty asphalt were visible on ordinarily busy downtown crossings such as the Paso del Norte. Cargo inspection bays were empty.

    “Very, very unusual,” said CBP officials. It was almost as quiet on September 12th, when Lexington headed across the border on foot. On a normal day, between 12,000 and 15,000 pedestrians might head north on the Paso del Norte. Now, people were staying home.

    All panics are confounding for outsiders, but this one was especially odd because a key piece of evidence cited by the rumour-mongers is that border officers are on high alert in El Paso. But this reporter found CBP officers in El Paso as puzzled by the alarm as anyone.

    One burly, armed officer chatted about how his own young son had woken and fearfully protested he could not go to school, as he had heard that terrorists might attack it. The boy was told to get dressed and head to school.

    This is not to say that IS would not like to attack America. Terrorism is taken seriously at America’s southern border crossings. Vehicle lanes bristle with radiation detectors, lorries and buses are driven through X-ray machines, and licence plates and identity documents checked against watch-lists. But the border’s own custodians in El Paso are not panicking.

    El Paso hosted a big border conference on September 12th, drawing members of Congress, government officials from Washington and Mexico, business types and academics. The rumours came up, and were strenuously denied. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic congressman whose district covers El Paso, told reporters that an original source seemed to be a conservative pressure group, Judicial Watch. That group has published blog postings accusing the Obama government of covering up evidence of terrorists plotting in Juárez to cross the “porous” southern border, citing security alerts on the border and at the nearby Fort Bliss army base. These were picked up in the local press and on Fox News, which cited Texas police bulletins about known jihadists expressing interest in a cross-border attack.

    After some scoffing, Judicial Watch, whose founder has called President Barack Obama an “evil” man “bent on furthering an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and around the globe”, claimed vindication when a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security told a Senate hearing that chatter had been detected on social media among global jihadists discussing the possibility of crossing into America from Mexico.

    On September 12th Mr O’Rourke said that he had called the FBI special agent in charge of the El Paso area, as well as the commanding general of Fort Bliss, asking them for all and any information they had on possible terror threats. They told him, categorically, there was “no evidence” for the rumours about the Islamic State.

    Mr O’Rourke draws philosophical lessons from the fuss. “Whatever the threat of the day is, we tend to project it onto the border,” he said.

    He noted that in 1981, the front page of the El Paso Herald Post carried a story about a Libyan hit squad lurking over the frontier in Juárez, though no evidence of such a squad was found.

    Others draw more partisan lessons. The Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, a putative 2016 presidential candidate, has talked of the risks of terrorists crossing a border that he complains has not been secured by the federal government. Other Texas Republicans have called the border a “war zone”. A Democratic congressman at the conference, Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, charged Mr Perry of playing politics, and asked aloud how investors were going to be attracted to border districts of Texas unfairly tagged as war zones.

    Shopkeepers in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio district, where a happily scruffy collection of stores sell clothes, shoes, children’s toys and household goods to Mexican shoppers, were too worried by lost business to waste time pointing fingers. Some questioned whether Islamic terrorists would actually be able to operate in Juárez, a city riddled with violence linked to drug cartels. Even the worst Mexican criminals would hand terrorists in, half-joked one shopkeeper: the cartels’ access to America is too important to let anyone ruin it. With grim levity, the shopkeeper could bat away the idle rumours. But as the half-empty streets around him showed, in a jumpy time, even discredited rumours have real consequences.


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  3. #3
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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