Law enforcement experts warn of 'another 9-11' after bungled release of migrant tied to terrorism

The federal government is more focused on letting illegal immigrants into the country than screening them, said ex-CBP chief Mark Morgan.

Published: July 5, 2023 11:38pm

Former law enforcement officials are warning of potential terrorist attacks and a repeat of 9/11 following a Homeland Security Department watchdog report that exposed government bungling that allowed an illegal immigrant on the terrorist watchlist to be released into the U.S. and roam free for two weeks before he was apprehended.

According to a report released by the DHS's Office of Inspector General, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released an illegal immigrant on the terrorist watchlist last year, and due to a lack of coordination, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took more than two weeks to arrest the individual.

The report, which was completed last week, found that after apprehending the illegal immigrant in Arizona in April 2022, the CBP released them “without providing information requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) that would have confirmed the migrant was a positive match with the Terrorist Screening Data Set (Terrorist Watchlist).”

The illegal immigrant wasn’t arrested by ICE until May 6, 2022 due to “challenges transferring documentation while planning to arrest the migrant and obtaining GPS data while conducting the arrest,” the DHS watchdog wrote.

Former CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told the John Solomon Reports podcast in an episode to be aired Thursday that the OIG report “is a huge black eye” for U.S. counterterrorism officials.

However, he noted that under the Biden administration, the job of Border Patrol agents “is not to secure the border, your job is to process and release illegal aliens as fast as possible.”

Morgan speculated that many possible terrorists already could be in the U.S. among the estimated 1.7 million illegal immigrants who entered the country under the Biden administration without being apprehended by law enforcement.

“[W]e know they've encountered an unprecedented number, hundreds of illegal aliens that are on the terrorist screening database,” Morgan said. "Think about how many potential, would-be illegal aliens that could serve as a potential national security threat are among the 1.7 million. We literally could have the next terrorist sleeper cell in United States planning the next terrorist attack, and we would have no idea. That's fact, it's not hyperbole.”

According to the most recent CBP numbers, the agency has apprehended 464 known or suspected terrorists during fiscal year 2023, which ends on Sept. 30. Last fiscal year, CBP apprehended 478 known or suspected terrorists. During the prior fiscal year, which was partly under the Trump administration, there were 173.

Morgan also explained that after 9/11, the FBI “went from a reactive, law enforcement approach to a proactive, preventative, you know, threat-based, intelligence-driven, operationally-focused mindset.”

As a result, federal agencies have the intelligence to identify terrorists crossing the border, Morgan added.

“[The database is there, the intelligence is there, but if you don't check the databases, if actual sharing intelligence and acting on intelligence is not what you're doing, then all the intelligence database, all the rights to intelligence, means nothing if you're actually not looking at it, following it, and acting on it. That's what happened here.”

Former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Scott Nelson told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Wednesday that the federal government has “gotten soft, and the softness emanates from an American emerging culture that says good guys are bad guys and bad guys are good guys. And the only reason somebody's bad is because they've been oppressed and deprived. That's simply not the case. The terrorist watch list was set up to prevent another 9/11.”

The lack of coordination within and between federal agencies is reminiscent of what happened in the events leading up to 9/11, Nelson noted.

“[O]ne of the main reasons that hit us was the FBI just didn't have the ability to dot the I's and cross the T’s."

As a result, Nelson said that the federal agencies are creating circumstances that would allow another 9/11 to occur.

“What is happening is we are facilitating the cartels, we are facilitating the terrorists, and we are pointing them towards another 9/11. I hope it doesn't happen,” he said.

“[I]t’s very unfortunate that all these things are coming together at a time when we need rules and regulations, but we need them to be enforced fairly and completely, not just politically happenstance,” Nelson added.

Conservative commentator Lou Dobbs told "Just the News, No Noise" TV show on Wednesday that the terrorist “threat is very real.”

“[T]he idea that the DHS would let a terrorist on the watchlist go, period, is remarkable because it means that there's a real failure of communication within DHS,” he said.

Although, Dobbs also noted, ”[T]hese are the same people who have allowed more than 6 million illegal immigrants into the country. And those are just the estimate of the known, if you will, illegal immigrants that have been traversing the non-existent border. To have one terrorist get through and be on the loose for two weeks is troubling.

"But the fact is, we have now in this country, somewhere — estimates range from 10 to 15 million illegal immigrants. And we know nothing about them, we know nothing about their backgrounds, or their present whereabouts in our country. The Department of Homeland Security is nothing more than a shell organization right now, and unfortunately, a shell of its former institution.”

Regarding ICE arresting the illegal immigrant more than two weeks after his release, Dobbs said, “It's remarkable that they did it in that time because they've been eviscerated as an organization — staffs cut, missions change, and priorities definitely changed because they have effectively no interior enforcement authorities left under this Biden regime.”

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