By Gil Potts
Two weeks ago, The Van Horn Advocate published part one of this series, Controversy at the Border, and warned of credible threats of terrorists crossing our border from Mexico.
However, Senator John McCain of Arizona, pursued Taylor with a series of questions about the level of security along the U.S./Mexico border. McCain specifically asked if DHS had heard of conversations on Twitter and Facebook that “would urge infiltration into the United States across our Southwestern border.â€ Upon further questioning, Taylor reluctantly acknowledged such social media exchanges, but said there was no imminent threat.
“Iâ€™m satisfied we have the intelligence and the capability on our border that would prevent that activity,â€ Taylor responded.
Nevertheless, DHS admits to overhearing social media and radio chatter that indicates a terrorist cell is operating in or around the Northern Mexican city of Cuidad JuÃ¡rez, and the topic of those overheard discussions involve crossing the border into the United States to conduct terrorist activities, specifically car bombs.
The threat was serious enough to prompt Ft. Bliss, an Army post located in the El Paso sector of the U.S./Mexico border, and just across the Rio Grande from JuÃ¡rez, to take action and “adjust security measures based on these assessments,â€ according to Ft. Bliss spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Peters. He also said, “Iâ€™m not sure of the validity of the article, but vigilance and preparedness are keys to maintaining a safe and secure installation.â€
To further complicate the issue or possibly add fuel to the controversy, Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, former President of the Sheriffâ€™s Association of Texas, told CNN recently, “I think itâ€™d be naive to say that (ISIS) is not here.â€
Painter, a former deputy of the Culberson County Sheriffâ€™s Office, is a long-time member of Texas law enforcement and was one of the original founders of STAR, (Sheriffâ€™s of Texas Agreed Response ) which was developed into an integral component of many communities plans in their efforts to combat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction incidents.
In a nationally televised interview earlier this week, Painter warned that our southern border is uncontrolled and unsecured. “Thereâ€™s places along the Rio Grande you can walk across, thereâ€™s no water in it. I worked the border for eight years, I walked back and forth across the Rio Grande; I was in Mexico, I was on this side. I never got challenged. Thereâ€™s always a way to get across, thereâ€™s coyotes that bring those people across for thousands of dollarsâ€¦â€
When asked directly if ISIS cells specifically are active at the southern border and gearing up to attack the U.S., Painter replied, “We have found copies, (our people along the border), where the trails of these people have come across, they have found Muslim clothing, they have found Quran books that are laying on the side of theâ€¦ trail. So we know that there are Muslims that have come across and are being or been smuggled in the United States.â€
Arizonaâ€™s Sheriff Paul Babeu also stated last week that he believes ISIS terrorists may have already penetrated the wide open southern U.S. border. Controversially though,
In Culberson County, Sheriff Oscar Carrillo has confirmed the existence of the state-issued law enforcement bulletin warning of a threat emanating from the JuÃ¡rez area. In response, Sheriff Carrillo states that his department is aware and vigilant of the situation. Because of Van Hornâ€™s geographic position, law enforcement, especially Border Patrol officers, are keenly aware of the traffic passing into and through the county, on the highways and backcountry.
“There is no imminent threat for Culberson County or the nearby border counties of West Texas. Itâ€™s highly unlikely that Van Horn would be the target of a terrorist attack,â€ said Carrillo. “A more likely scenario is that terrorists or terrorist devices might pass through the area. For that reason, we are constantly on alert and attentive to the performance of our job and our duty to keep the community safe.â€
Both the Sheriff and Border Patrol officials emphasize that the DHS border checkpoint on I-10 near Sierra Blanca, is tasked with the primary mission of protecting the United States from terrorists and terror activities that could originate from across the border. Rightly so, Border Patrol officials are not willing to openly discuss the methods employed to perform their assignment beyond what is obvious as you pass through the checkpoint.
Sheriff Carrillo was quick to express concern that citizens not over-react to recent news reports on the ISIS border issue.
“We are doing our job, the Border Patrol is doing its job. It is however, appropriate to be aware of your surroundings and stay alert, terror threats or not.â€
Mr. Carrillo suggested that the statement from Ft. Bliss spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Peters, “Iâ€™m not sure of the validity of the article, but vigilance and preparedness are keys to maintaining a safe and secure installation,â€ makes more sense than anything anyone else has said on the subject. Regardless of what you hear in the news, being vigilant and prepared is always the best advice for everyone to live by these days, for a whole host of reasons.