Beto O'Rourke (Official photo)

"Stories like these are good at scaring people": Congressman shoots down right-wing ISIS myth in pitch-perfect Facebook post

Republicans make same false claim about all terrorists -- be they Libyan, Russian, or al Qaeda


Scott Eric Kaufman
April 16, 2015 12:01AM (UTC)

Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) took to Facebook today to dispute reports that Islamic State terrorists are attempting to enter the United States via the Mexican border by demonstrating how this same line of argument has been used for decades.

"Stories like these are good at scaring people and getting attention for those who spread them," O'Rourke wrote, "but they are terrible for the country's image of the border, for El Paso's ability to recruit talent, and for our region's opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of being the largest bi-national community in the world."

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He pointed out that similar stories were written about Libyan "hit squads" in 1981, Russian spies in 1982, and al Qaeda operatives in the weeks and months after 9/11.

Such scare tactics have a long history -- and some of them are even based in fact. In the infamous Zimmerman telegram, the German government tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Mexico to declare war on the United States to prevent America from entering the First World War, or at the very least delay its entry. Mexico also had trade relations with Nazi Germany, but those ended when the United States declared war on the Axis powers, and the Mexican government actively helped American forces ferret out and eliminate Axis spy cells.

That said, there is no reason to believe that the Mexican government would ally itself with the Islamic State, or that it would ignore the active presence of ISIS operatives within its sovereign borders. In fact, O'Rourke contacted both the Mexican government and the Department of Homeland Security to ask them if there was any evidence that ISIS is operating along the border.

"They answered that there was not, nor had there ever been, any terrorist, terrorist plot, or terrorist organization that was able to exploit our border with Mexico," he wrote.

Read his entire Facebook post below:

Is Isis in Juárez?

Some have shared stories on social media suggesting that is the case. Others have contacted my office to see if it's true.

Today I reached out to the Mexican government, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Northern Command.

None of them have found any evidence, credible or otherwise, that Isis is in Juárez.

Stories like these are good at scaring people and getting attention for those who spread them. But they are terrible for the country's image of the border, for El Paso's ability to recruit talent, and for our region's opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of being the largest bi-national community in the world.

Stories like these have come up before. 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.

As a member of the House Homeland Security committee in the 113th Congress, I asked the director of the FBI, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Secretary of Homeland Security if there was currently any terrorist threat on the Southern border. They answered that there was not, nor had there ever been, any terrorist, terrorist plot, or terrorist organization that was able to exploit our border with Mexico.

Beyond hurting our image nationally, these kinds of false stories could lead us to take our eye off real threats to the homeland. While we should always remain vigilant at our borders -- and we currently spend $18 billion a year to do so -- the greatest proven homeland threats have been at our airports and with homegrown terrorists radicalized over the internet. Not in El Paso, the country's safest city 4 years in a row.

El Paso -- let's fight back with the facts. Share this post or this link to statements from the national intelligence community: https://medium.com/…/truth-about-the-border-no-evidence-of-…


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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