Report: Alleged ISIS Asylum Applicant Plotted to Kill George W. Bush

And DHS released a suspected illegal border-crossing terrorist whom ICE had to wait 13 days to arrest

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 25, 2022

On May 24, Forbes reported that an asylum applicant in the United States is under FBI investigation for allegedly plotting to kill former President George W. Bush in the name of the foreign terrorist group ISIS, with the assistance of “compatriots” he had intended to smuggle into this country across the Southwest border. That piece reveals how the Biden administration’s immigration policies would have facilitated his ability to do so, and it’s not the only recent example of how vulnerable the border is.

ISIS. That article begins:

An alleged ISIS-linked operative in the U.S. was plotting to kill George W. Bush, going so far as to travel to Dallas in November to take video around the former president’s home and recruiting help from a team of compatriots he hoped to smuggle into the country over the Mexican border, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week in the Southern District of Ohio.

In case you are not familiar with ISIS (the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, aka: the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ” or “ISIL”), it’s “a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims”. At one time aligned with al Qaeda, ISIS was later expelled from the group — and not for renouncing terrorism.

ISIS/ISIL was formed in 2004 under the name “al Qaeda in Iraq” by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national whose very presence in Iraq was one of the grounds for the U.S.-led invasion of the country.

The organization’s efforts continued after al-Zarqawi was killed in an American airstrike in Baghdad in June 2006 after targeting U.S.-led coalition forces and their Iraqi allies in an attempt to drive the United States out of the country.

After coalition forces withdrew in 2011, ISIS really got going, extending its influence and reach into Syria (a change in direction that turned off its al Qaeda brethren and set up a rivalry between the groups), and eventually establishing a caliphate over vast swaths of the two countries under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Al Baghdadi killed himself during a U.S. Special Forces attack in northwestern Syria in October 2019. As the New York Times explained in announcing his death, “the cunning and enigmatic” al Baghdadi “commanded an organization that, at its peak, controlled a territory the size of Britain from which it directed and inspired acts of terror in more than three dozen countries”.

The Investigation. The subject of the Forbes article is not named because charges have not been filed against him yet, and it’s unknown whether he has been arrested. As noted, its reporting is taken from an application filed by the FBI for a search warrant, but it certainly has the ring of truth.

It’s common knowledge that ISIS has a presence in the United States. As of March, 238 individuals have been charged in this country for offenses related to ISIS, according to the Project on Extremism at George Washington University, and 189 have been convicted, receiving average jail sentences of more than 13 years.

Two confidential sources and electronic monitoring led the FBI to seek the warrant for the individual who is the subject of the Forbes article.

One “claimed to offer assistance obtaining false immigration and identification documents”, while the other was “a purported customer of the alleged people smuggler, who was willing to pay thousands of dollars to bring his family into the country”. That plainly has the ring of truth, too.

Document fraud is big business in the United States, and worldwide, smuggling is a racket netting upwards of $10 billion-plus per year — much of which is spent by foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.

The Vulnerability of Asylum to Terrorist Exploitation. For what it is worth, the fact that the subject is an asylum applicant sounds familiar as well. Back in 2002, my colleague Steve Camarota looked at the immigration histories of 48 foreign-born militant Islamic terrorists who had been charged, convicted, pleaded guilty, or personally admitted in open court their involvement in terrorism within the United States since 1993.

Of those 48, three major ones had pending asylum applications: Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who requested asylum when he arrived at JFK airport and was paroled into the country for lack of detention space; “The Blind Sheik”, Omar Abdel Rahman, who led a 1993 plot to bomb New York City landmarks; and Mir Aimal Kansi, who murdered two CIA employees in 1993.

I have called Yousef a “Poster Boy for Biden’s Border Policy”, because as an arriving alien, he should have been detained. Release of such aliens (including illegal migrants) is now standard operating procedure under the Biden DHS. Although the department asserts that it detains aliens who pose a national security risk, the unknown threats are the deadliest, and U.S. intelligence is only so good.

In fact, as my colleague Mark Krikorian reported five years ago, 15 percent of the FBI’s terrorism cases were refugees — “far more than their share of the immigrant population”. If the government had known they were terrorists before they arrived and started planning, it would not have let them in.

Terrorists who have operated abroad likely have real claims to have been arrested (and possibly even abused) by their home governments. As Congress has explained: “Plainly, an alien who is a terrorist could more easily fabricate a claim that his home government believes erroneously that he is a terrorist.”

That, coupled with the fact that aliens who have applied for asylum cannot be removed until after those applications have been denied (and after they have had the opportunity to appeal such denials), makes an asylum application the perfect vehicle for a would-be foreign terrorist to live — and work (asylum applicants are eligible for work authorization) — in the United States.

The Biden Administration’s Actions. Despite these facts, the Biden administration regularly refers to illegal migrants as “asylum seekers”, regardless of whether they have valid claims or none at all. In that vein, a recent administrative policy change has set up a complex process for handling illegal migrants who apply for asylum, granting them even more layers of review in a move that all but ensures they will remain here indefinitely (while facilitating their ability to receive work authorization).

Consequently, all that a foreign national who seeks to harm our nation and its institutions need do is enter illegally and request asylum.

Again, it is possible that DHS may uncover derogatory information about such an individual during processing at the border, but intelligence is limited, agents are overworked, and the vetting process is hectic at best.

Vetting will become even more perfunctory once CDC Title 42 expulsion orders are lifted (which was supposed to occur on May 23 before Title 42’s recission was enjoined). At that point, DHS expects upwards of 18,000 aliens to enter illegally each day, a flow that would be unmanageable even if the department had a real plan to deal with it (which my colleague Jon Feere has explained it doesn’t).

Perhaps the Biden administration believes that the terrorist threat to the United States has abated, or that foreign nationals don’t pose a real national-security risk to the United States. Its current border policies certainly seem to point in that direction.

If that’s DHS’s thinking, the case referenced in the Forbes reporting should disabuse them of such illusions. Again, this matter is still in the investigatory stage, but the FBI makes some pretty strong accusations, and agents would not be seeking a warrant unless there was some “there” there.

The Illegal Migrant Terrorist Suspect Who Was Released. One of the findings of the 9/11 Commission was that “the institutions charged with protecting our borders ... did not understand how grave” the threats posed by “an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal” could be. It’s not clear much has changed.

Want proof? Fox News has reported that on April 18, Border Patrol released Isnardo Garcia-Amado — a Colombian national and suspected terrorist who had entered illegally — on an “alternative to detention” (a misnomer, at best), but that he was not flagged by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center until three days later. It gets worse.

ICE did not receive authorization to arrest Garcia-Amado until May 4, 13 days after the FBI realized he was a problem, but even then he wasn’t arrested until two days later.

The world is a dangerous place, and the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan (home to ISIS’s affiliate the Islamic State of Khorasan Province, or “ISIS-K”) hasn’t made it any safer. In fact, ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the bombing outside Kabul Airport on August 26 during that withdrawal that killed 185 people, including 13 U.S. service members. We are plainly ISIS’s target.

If the Biden administration recognizes that its immigration policies have created vulnerabilities that could easily be exploited by terrorist aliens set on attacking the United States and its institutions, DHS’s actions don’t reflect it. I have two national-security wake-up calls for the president, and don’t want to read in the next commission report that he ignored them.