A human trafficker with ties to ISIS helped smuggle migrants across the southern border, prompting an FBI investigation into over a dozen Uzbek nationals who came to the US requesting asylum.
The FBI is now working to “identify and assess” the aliens who entered the country with the help of the smuggler, according to a statement from National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson, which CNN obtained.
CNN reports that two US officials confirmed they are “scrutinizing a number of the migrants as possible criminal threats.”
“Though there is no evidence at this point to justify detaining anyone, the episode was so alarming that an urgent classified intelligence report was circulated to President Joe Biden’s top Cabinet officials in their morning briefing book,” the report explains. “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.”
A surge of migrants from Uzbekistan took place earlier this year. They were screened by the Department of Homeland Security and released into the US, as the intelligence community had no information to raise red flags then.
“It was only later, when the FBI learned about the existence of a human smuggling network helping Uzbek nationals travel to the US – and that this network included at least one individual with connections to ISIS – that national security officials put the pieces together,” the CNN report explains. “FBI agents around the country immediately rushed to try to locate the migrants and investigate their backgrounds. The bureau also worked with Turkish authorities, who arrested the smuggler and other members of his network at the behest of the US, and has subsequently obtained information from him to aid its investigation, US officials said.”
CNN reported that the “ISIS-linked smuggler is not believed to be a member of the terror group, but more like an independent contractor who has personal sympathies with the organization”
“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,” Watson said in a statement to CNN. She added that Homeland Security is now vetting and removing people at the border who “fit the profile associated with individuals who were facilitated by this network.”
“We continually assess our security architecture to ensure that we are best poised to respond to threats to the homeland,” Watson continued. “Moreover, we will continue to constantly recalibrate our screening, vetting, and processing of those encountered entering the United States to ensure that we are taking into account the most up-to-date information at our disposal and with an unyielding commitment to protecting Americans and the homeland from the full range of potential threats.”