Homeland Security said Tuesday that it removed a press release announcing the arrest of two terrorism suspects along the southwest border because it wasn’t approved by higher-ups, and revealed sensitive information.
The release, posted Monday, had revealed that two Yemeni men on the terrorism watch list have been caught in California in the weeks since President Biden took office.
That confirmed claims by Republican lawmakers during a trip to the border last month.
The release quoted Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino of the Border Patrol’s El Centro Sector, but Customs and Border Protection, which oversees agents, said it went out without proper authorization.
“The news release in question was not properly reviewed and contained certain disclosure and policy information related to national security that required CBP to remove it from our website,” CBP said.
A copy of the release is still available on the Internet Archive web page.
The deletion sparked questions on Capitol Hill.
“Why did you take down your previously public tweet & press release announcing that two people on the terror watch list were apprehended exploiting President Biden’s open border policies?” demanded the Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Transparency in name alone is not transparency,” said the Republicans, who are led by ranking member Rep. John Katko.
According to the release, one Yemeni man was arrested last week near Calexico, California. The 26-year-old was found to be on both the FBI’s terrorism watch list and the No-Fly list.
The other man was arrested near Calexico early in the morning on Jan. 29, just days after President Biden was inaugurated. That 33-year-old was also on both the watch list and the No-Fly list.
Agents also said they found a cellular phone sim card concealed under the man’s shoe insole.
The revelations confirmed claims by Mr. Katko and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a border trip last month, when they told reporters agents had said they were arresting terrorism suspects amid the migrant surge.
Democrats and immigrant-rights activists had mocked that suggestion.
At the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged terrorism suspects do jump the border, but she said “these types of incidents are very uncommon.”
She also said the fact that the ones in question were caught is testament that Border Patrol agents are “doing their jobs.”
Mr. McCarthy on Tuesday asked the FBI and CIA to provide a classified briefing on Yemeni suspects and the broader border terrorism situation, calling it an “ongoing national security risk posed by the border crisis.”
He said he would invite Vice President Kamala Harris to sit in on the briefing, too. She has been tapped to lead diplomatic efforts to try to solve the border surge. Mr. McCarthy said she “could benefit from this briefing.”
He also said the Yemeni men confirmed his claims from his border trip, and undercut some congressional Democrats who doubted him — “one even accusing me of lying,” he said.
“While I am grateful to the Border Patrol for doing all they can, I have great concern about the number of bad actors that have escaped arrest and are residing in the United States,” Mr. McCarthy said in his letter asking for the briefing. “We simply have no way of knowing if other terrorists have crossed the border undetected.”