U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is the latest official to throw cold water on a report of ISIS camps near the United States-Mexico border.
Pearce wrote on his Facebook to address the “media reports.”
Many continue to ask for updates about the media reports highlighting the existence of ISIS terrorist camps near Juarez, Mexico. The same day that Judicial Watch released their report, we received a classified briefing on the subject and have continued to monitor the situation. To date, no information has surfaced supporting or confirming the camps. However, my staff and I will continue to engage with the military, the intelligence community, and the media outlets first reporting this story for updates and any new information.
The embedded version of the Facebook post is available at the bottom of this story.
New Mexico Political Report had asked Pearce’s office about the report last Tuesday but the office declined to comment at the time. A spokesman for Pearce’s office highlighted the social media post in an email to New Mexico Political Report on Wednesday evening.
The conservative news site that made the claims of the terrorist camp near Juarez, Mexico was Judicial Watch.
Judicial Watch cited “a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector” in saying that a cartel helped “move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico.”
The report was denied by both Mexican and United States law enforcement.
Pearce is not even the first member of Congress to deny the report. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said that the report was false in a Facebook post late last week.
“Stories like these have come up before,” O’Rourke wrote. “The 1981 story about Libyan hit squads in Juárez. The fears that Al-Qaeda was going to invade after 9/11. The claims about Isis crossing the border last year.”
Congressman Will Hurd, R-Texas, also said there was no camp.
“I’ve talked to the U.S. ambassador in Mexico, I’ve talked to the Department of Homeland Security, I’ve talked to the military north command, I’ve talked to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. I was at the NCTC, the National Counter Terrorism Center, (and) nobody’s been able to corroborate this kind of information,” Hurd said to TV station KSAT 12.
Pearce has said in the past that “three or four people” were detained at the border, speaking about terrorists.
He made the statements to the Albuquerque Journal in October of 2014.
The Department of Homeland Security denied that claim. Four people who claimed to be members of the Kurdish Worker’s Party were detained, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said. That organization fights against ISIS.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Cali., made unsubstantiated claims that ten terrorists were arrested crossing the border. DHS denied the claim that anyone with ties to ISIL (another acronym for the group known as ISIS) has tried to cross the border.
Pearce critical of Obama response to ISIS
In Pearce’s Facebook statement, he was critical of the overall response to ISIS by the United States.
“From the beheading of Christians, to burning alive a Jordanian Air Force pilot, the group has shown a complete disregard for human life,” Pearce said. “The United States cannot continue to sit on the sidelines and pretend ISIS does not want to hurt the West and disrupt our way of life. We must have a plan to fight, and defeat these terrorists once and for all.”
Pearce was also critical of a statement by Army General Martin E. Dempsey where the general said that Ramadi was not as important as other areas in Iraq.
From Stars and Stripes:
“The city itself it’s not symbolic in any way,” [Dempsey] told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. “It’s not been declared part of [Islamic State’s] ‘caliphate’ on one hand or central to the future of Iraq… I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of a campaign” if it does.
Pearce blasted these remarks.
“Simply put, Dempsey comments are naïve, reckless, and shortsighted,” Pearce wrote. “They show a complete disregard and disrespect for the tremendous cost in both lives and emotional grit our military endured to secure Ramadi in the first place.”
Dempsey had already apologized for the remarks after a mother of a Navy SEAL who died in Ramadi in 2006.
More denials of Juarez camp claim
Politifact Texas, a fact-checking website, called the claim false.
Homeland Security’s Catron referred us to the National Security Council whose spokesman, Alistair Baskey, said by email: “There is no indication that this claim has any validity to it.” Meantime, an FBI spokesman left a voice message with us responding to our inquiry. El Paso-based Michael Martinez said: “As far as we’re concerned, there is no credible information to support that.”
We also called Mexico’s embassy in Washington, D.C. By email, the embassy’s press office provided a denial evidently prepared the day Judicial Watch made its post: “The government of Mexico dismisses and categorically denies each of the statements made today by the organization Judicial Watch on the alleged presence of ISIS’s operating cells throughout the border region, particularly at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua – El Paso, Texas.” The embassy said “relevant authorities operating in the region have also confirmed the nonexistence of these activities with their U.S. counterparts, with whom they will continue to work closely and to exchange information at our common border.”
For their part, Judicial Watch has continued to stand by its reporting despite no verification.
KVUE-TV, an Austin, TX station, found no evidence after going into the area described by Judicial Watch.
The photo on the embedded post is via NASA, according to Pearce’s office.