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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024

Internal memo leak from DHS prompts document demand from House Homeland Security Republicans

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After an internal memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warning that foreign fighters from the Israel-Hamas conflict could be encountered at the southwest border leaked to the press, House Republicans demanded documents and information from Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“It is concerning that the Committee on Homeland Security (Committee) learned about this information through public news sources and not directly from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) despite the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) transmitting near-daily situational reports about the Israel-Hamas conflict to the Committee,” U.S. Reps. Mark Green, MD (R-TN); August Pfluger (R-TX); and Clay Higgins (R-LA) wrote. “We write to request additional information about this matter, to include DHS’s efforts to identify, investigate, and mitigate these national security threats.”

According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 6 million people have been encountered at the southwest border since 2021. Among them, the House Committee on Homeland Security found 169 individuals on the terrorist watchlist apprehended while trying to cross.

Citing an interview with Committee staff earlier this year, the lawmakers also noted that Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens warned of impediments to his agents’ ability to reduce the number of “gotaways.”

“[I]f my men and women are stuck in a humanitarian effort of processing these folks, they cannot be in two places at once,” Owens was quoted as saying. “They cannot be out on patrol. And where I need them out on patrol is to not only account for those gotaways but to reduce them, where possible. Everything revolves, as I said before, around having those men and women on the ground doing the job.”

The center of this request was a document titled “Foreign Fighters of Israel-Hamas Conflict May Potentially be Encountered at Southwest Border.” Mark, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee; Pfluger, chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence; and Higgins, chairman of the Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement, gave Mayorkas until Nov. 1, 2023 to provide items related to that document and the names of all DHS employees involved in drafting, reviewing, approving or disseminating it.

The report detailed possible indicators of individuals potentially encountered at the southwest border, including military age males, single travelers and those with undetermined return plans. It also provided questions of interest to probe individuals of concern. As such, the chairman also wanted to know what intelligence and communications even led that document to be drafted.

“The Committee continues to have serious concerns about the security of our Southwest border and the potential for terrorists to take advantage of the glaring vulnerabilities created by the Biden administration’s open border polices,” the chairman wrote.