What’s with the mixed signals on ISIS terror at the U.S. border?

What’s with the mixed signals on ISIS terror at the U.S. border?

Two high-reputation media outlets, Judicial Watch and Breitbart Texas, have reported today on U.S. federal information that ISIS is operating along the southern U.S. border.

But close inspection of their reporting reveals that government agencies have not issued official reports to the public on this.  And the ABC affiliate in El Paso, ABC 7 KVIA, reported shortly before 3:00 PM in El Paso that a federal official contacted by the station called the Judicial Watch report “unverified and unlikely.”

Judicial Watch’s report was the most specific.  Citing sources in federal law enforcement and intelligence, Judicial Watch outlined the threat of an imminent attack being planned by “ISIS and al Qaeda” from Ciudad Juarez, which lies directly across the border from El Paso, Texas.

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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 born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). …

Intelligence officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the terrorist groups are going to “carry out an attack on the border,” according to one JW source.  “It’s coming very soon,” according to this high-level source… An attack is so imminent that the commanding general at Ft. Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, is being briefed, another source confirms. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to multiple inquiries from Judicial Watch, both telephonic and in writing, about this information.

Andrew McCarthy, picking up on this report, points out that the timing of the unattributed disclosure looks significant, less than two weeks before the anniversary of 9/11.

Brandon Darby at Breitbart TX was able to verify that the Border Patrol and Texas authorities are aware of an ISIS threat along the border.  His post includes the image of a federal document warning about ISIS activity there (copied below), which he obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

ISIS threat document obtained by Breitbart Texas from Texas DPS.
ISIS threat document obtained by Breitbart Texas from Texas DPS.

But the information from his sources was focused more on the other end of the Texas border – around Laredo and Nuevo Laredo – and was more general in nature.  It didn’t address the threat of a specific, imminent attack.  In fact, Darby couldn’t find anyone among his sources who knew of the threat indications cited by Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch first reported on a threat from ISIS being issued to federal agents in El Paso agents earlier in the day. They claimed that their sources warned of an imminent terrorist threat. Breitbart Texas was unable to identify any sources in federal law enforcement agencies to verify that a specific and imminent terror plot was currently under way. Breitbart Texas spoke with the president of Judicial Watch, Tom Sitton. He said, “This is a dire situation and I can’t emphasize enough the seriousness of the threat posed here. If your law enforcement sources do not have the information we have, they are being ill-served by their leadership. We put this out to protect the safety of law enforcement and citizens along the border. This is a public safety announcement.”

What’s going on here?  It seems very unlikely that a source Judicial Watch considers reliable would exaggerate or manufacture such a specific threat narrative.  There is no reason, in turn, to impugn Judicial Watch’s credibility.

Breitbart was able to document the existence of a warning in the federal system about ISIS’s presence at the border.  The discrepancy here is the apparent repudiation, by an unnamed federal official, of the specific threat warning about the Ciudad Juarez area – and the lack of knowledge about that warning among Breitbart’s sources.

One hopes that we are not witnessing the beginning of a slow-motion train wreck.  We are long past the point at which lack of a common narrative from the federal government could be considered a definitive indictment of one source’s information.

A possible explanation is that intelligence agencies don’t want to alert ISIS to what we’ve learned about their activities near the border.  But a policy of trying to squash the story – one that could clearly affect the safety of hundreds of thousands of Americans – doesn’t seem to add up.

Perhaps law enforcement forces here or in Mexico will be able to intercept ISIS operatives beforehand.  We can hope so.  We’re no longer in a position to dismiss the threat based on complacent assumptions about what federal warnings should sound like.  The Obama executive has squandered the federal government’s imputed gravitas in that regard.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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