Federal authorities are investigating a group of foreign nationals from Uzbekistan who crossed into the U.S. through the border with Mexico earlier this year.
The FBI launched a probe after U.S. intelligence officials discovered the migrants relied on a human smuggler with connections to the militant jihadist group ISIS, multiple U.S. officials told CNN.
Upon public disclosure of the matter, Biden administration officials immediately sought to downplay the incident. Though no specific ISIS plot has been identified, agents are working to “identify and assess” all of the individuals who crossed into the U.S., according to a statement provided to the news outlet from National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson.
“Intelligence reporting alerted us to a human smuggling network working to facilitate the travel of Uzbek nationals to the United States,” Watson said in a statement to Fox News. “As with all identified human smuggling networks – which seek to prey on the vulnerable and evade nations’ legal systems – the U.S. government immediately took steps to successfully disrupt it.”
Watson also told Fox:
Reporting by the U.S. Intelligence Community revealed that one overseas member of the smuggling network had a connection to a foreign terrorist organization. However, there was no indication – and remains no indication – that any of the individuals facilitated by this network have a connection to a foreign terrorist organization or are engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in the United States.
CNN said that though sufficient evidence justifying arrests has not yet surfaced, “For some counterterrorism officials, it shows that the US is deeply vulnerable to the possibility that terrorists could sneak across the southern border by hiding amid the surge of migrants entering the country in search of asylum.”
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) blasted the network, stating the acknowledgement by CNN is “especially surprising given that the network loudly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the border infiltration threat as fabricated fear-mongering when President Donald Trump warned aloud about it.”
Todd Bensman, writing for CIS, accuses the Biden administration of spinning out political narrative that can confuse Americans. “‘It’s not that big a deal,’ they’re saying. The smuggler wasn’t an ISIS ‘member’ as though that’s a thing. ‘Yes, Uzbeks and lots of Central Asians are crossing the border, but they just want a better life,’” he wrote, interpreting the administrations stance on messaging.
Bensman notes that Uzbek nationals are classified as special interest aliens by U.S. authorities because Uzbekistan is a Muslim-majority nation where terrorist organizations are known to operate, and has fallen on a list used by U.S. intelligence professionals that identifies nations of terrorism concern.
“Americans should understand that chasing down Uzbeks to interview them is not a sign of success, but of a failure that endangers the nation because bad ones have that precious time and freedom to plot and attack,” Bensman wrote. “Uzbeks are classified as special interest aliens and tagged for in-depth border interviews for good reason, too. Here in America and in Europe, Uzbek immigrants turned out to be terrorists who were free to actually attack and shed blood.”
Last year, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York sentenced Dilkhayot Kasimov, un Uzbek national and Brooklyn resident, to 15 years in prison for conspiring to and attempting to provide material support to ISIS.
“Kasimov is an ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) supporter who collected and gave money to another individual to fund his travel to join the terrorist group. With this sentence, Kasimov is being held accountable for his crimes,” Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.