A noted Washington watchdog organization on Wednesday said four “Islamic terrorists” have been caught in Texas after coming into the U.S. across the Mexican border in just the last 36 hours.
Judicial Watch announced its sources within the Department of Homeland Security say the arrests were made by federal authorities and the Texas Department of Public Safety in McAllen and Pharr.
The announcement came only hours after a member of Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., disclosed in a TV interview that jihadists with the Middle Eastern group ISIS have been caught coming into the U.S. from Mexico.
He said his information came from the Border Patrol.
“They were caught at the border … therefore, we know that ISIS is coming across the border,” he said. “If they catch five or 10 of them, we know there are dozens more that did not get caught.”
Judicial Watch said it confirmed its information after Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was interviewed by the Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren.
Hunter said that if the administration really wants to protect Americans from ISIS, it needs to secure the southern border.
“It’s that simple. ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons,” he said. “The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming in through the southern border – which they already have.
“They aren’t flying B-1 bombers, bombing American cities, but they are going to be bombing American cities coming across from Mexico,” he said.
By Wednesday evening, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson denied the reports, telling CNN, “Let’s not unduly create fear and anxiety in the public by passing on speculation and rumor.”
Johnson said Hunter’s claims are not supported by “credible, specific intelligence to that effect” and that public officials should “be responsible in what we decide to share with the American public, so that the public is informed.”
Spokesman Joe Kasper told CNN Hunter stands by his statements.
WND reported the Department of Homeland Security, which has claimed there is not an imminent danger of ISIS breaching the nation’s southern border, has nevertheless confirmed ISIS may be thinking about making such a move.
Francis Taylor, the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, provided that assessment to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at a congressional hearing, Bloomberg News reported.
“There have been Twitter and social media exchanges among ISIL (ISIS) adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility,” Taylor said.
Taylor said ISIS “doesn’t pose an immediate threat” to the homeland, but the jihadist organization, which claims to have established a caliphate ruled by Islamic law, can attack American targets overseas without warning, the Associated Press reported.
Taylor explained during the hearing that ISIS has “capabilities” that most jihadist groups lack.
Taylor’s warning was echoed by Nicholas Rasmussen, the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who said there already have been attacks in France and Belgium by former ISIS fighters.
WND reported earlier that Judicial Watch warned there was an ISIS presence in Mexico, just across the border from Texas.
The warning was followed by an increase in security imposed at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“It’s a significant issue when this is done,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said of the higher security measures at Fort Bliss, which is just across the border from Juarez, Mexico
“That means they’re getting a threat stream. Fort Bliss had to have a clear and present threat,” said the former Delta Force commander, who also was deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence for four years.
Fort Bliss spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Peters said that based on Department of Defense “guidance from recent nationwide incidents, and our own internal assessments coupled with recent media reporting, we decided to implement increased security measures on Bliss.”
“These changes are not as a result of a specific threat but rather to simply get prudent security measures in place to protect our military, employees and visitors,” the statement said.
The move was made shortly after Judicial Watch said 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.”
The report said high-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued.
“Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.”
The organization said the sources “reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas. Violent crimes are so rampant in Juarez that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of travel warnings for anyone planning to go there. The last one was issued just a few days ago.”
The report said commanders at Fort Bliss were briefed.
The online news source Policy.Mic said: “Forget immigration: The Islamic State may be the best reason yet to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.”
The report noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had warned a Heritage Foundation audience weeks ago that ISIS militants “may have already slipped across the Mexican border.”
While he said there was no clear evidence then of terrorists being in the U.S., Perry said, “I think there is the obvious, great concern that – because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across – that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be.”
One Texas sheriff said he wasn’t really worried about it.
“If there are ISIS fighters that may already be in the United States, or in your area who’ve crossed the border, what’s your message to them?” CNN’s Don Lemon asked Midland County Sheriff, Gary Painter.
“If they rear their ugly heads, we’ll send them to hell,” Painter said