The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013.
Samantha Sais/Reuters

The border bombshell that’s completely wrong

Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.) is perhaps best known for arguing last year that the United States should withdraw from nuclear talks with Iran because it is “part of the Middle Eastern culture” to lie. Instead, the far-right congressman said, U.S. officials should go after Iran “with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade or two or three.”
 
And as striking as this was last year, Hunter’s remarks on Fox News last night were just as amazing.
 
The California Republican told Greta Van Susteren, almost in passing, that Islamic State militants are “coming across the southern border.” The Fox host, not surprisingly, seemed surprised, and it led to this exchange:
VAN SUSTEREN: You say that they are coming in the southern border, which is – changes all the dynamics. Do you have any information or any evidence that they are coming in through the southern border now?
 
HUNTER: Yes. Yes. I have information that –
 
VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me what you know.
 
HUNTER: I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas. There’s nobody talking about it.
When Van Susteren asked how he knows that, the Republican congressman replied, “Because I’ve asked the Border Patrol.” He added that Border Patrol agents “caught” Islamic State militants “at the border, therefore, we know that ISIS is coming across the border.”
 
That’s quite a claim. Republicans have spent years desperately pushing for an even more aggressive crackdown on the U.S./Mexico border, and recent events – ISIS, Ebola, migrant children, etc. – have given them new rhetorical ammunition.
 
There’s just one problem: Duncan Hunter appears to have made up his claim out of whole cloth.
 
If U.S. Border Patrol officials had actually caught 10 Islamic State militants at our border, it would be an extremely important national development. But the reason “there’s nobody talking about it” is that this never actually happened in reality.
 
Danny Vinik reached out to a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, who said on the record, “The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.”
 
Which raises the question of whether one congressman – and only one congressman – has secret knowledge about bizarre circumstances that no one else can verify, or whether that congressman made stuff up during a Fox News interview.
 
Vice President Biden is forced to apologize when he says things that are true, while Republican members of Congress don’t have to apologize, ever, when they say things are demonstrably ridiculous.
 
The right’s war on empiricism is getting worse, and it’s just not healthy.
 

ISIS and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

The border bombshell that's completely wrong