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Pfluger Sounds Alarm On Terrorist Threat in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. August Pfluger (TX-11) delivered impassioned remarks in the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism Wednesday hearing titled “Current Status of ISIS and al Qaeda.” Rep. Pfluger spoke to his personal experience fighting ISIS in the U.S. Air Force, and expressed his concern that lax border security measures have allowed terrorists into the interior of the United States.

Watch Pfluger’s remarks here, or read a transcript below:

“Thank you, Chairwoman Slotkin, for holding this most important hearing today, and thank you to our witnesses for joining.

This is a topic that not only the Chairwoman is familiar with, but also myself. As an F-22 pilot and somebody who has served abroad in many different theaters, I spent literally my entire professional career looking at threats that were facing the United States and have spent an enormous amount of time specifically focused on foreign terrorists. You know, as I spent the year 2016 to 2017 deployed to the Middle East fighting directly against ISIS, I have seen and witnessed, with my own eyes, the tragedies and horrific reality that these terrorist organizations bring not only to the region they were in at that time to the Middle East, but also their desire, as the Chairwoman said, the appetite is there. The desire and the intent are absolutely there, and it’s not going away. I think this is an important hearing to underscore that importance and make sure that all Americans know the difference between this foreign terrorist threat and what it poses to our country, and what the in-state is versus the domestic threat that we keep hearing about.

Looking at where we stand today, it has been nearly a year since the incredibly disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan; the Taliban has been able to quickly reassert control over the country for the first time in 20 years, and our presence on the ground ended tragically with 13 U.S. service members killed, and at least 170 Afghans killed in an ISIS-K orchestrated terrorist attack on that fateful day in August. The bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport is just one devastating example of how serious the threat is and that it remains. While the Taliban, ISIS-K, and others operating in Afghanistan currently receive most of the public attention, we must also contend with an international ISIS and al Qaeda presence on multiple fronts – emanating from Somalia to Syria and Pakistan to Libya, and places in-between.

As has repeatedly been the case, we see a direct correlation between the foreign terrorist threat abroad and our security here at home. Just last month, Shihab Ahmed Shihab was charged with aiding and abetting a plot to murder former President George W. Bush. Shihab was linked to ISIS, inspired by ISIS, and was inspired to action by extremist propaganda from the groups that I just previously mentioned. He was able to enter the United States under a visitor’s visa and subsequently claimed asylum, which raises so many questions and the well-placed concern that others have and will infiltrate that he and others could infiltrate our country through similar means and carry out, not just against the homeland, but also people like former President George W. Bush. On top of this, his assassination plot included plans to obtain Mexican visitor visas for foreign ISIS affiliates and, once they had arrived in Mexico, smuggle them across the U.S. border. This is the threat that we are dealing with.

In another case directly affecting my home state of Texas, last December, British citizen Malik Faisal Akram was able to enter the United States using a Visa Waiver Program, despite a criminal history and having been considered a “subject of interest” by British Intelligence Agencies such as MI5, and as recently as 2020. As we now know, Akram would go on to hold members of Congregation Beth Israel hostage in the synagogue for at least ten hours.

And just a couple of months ago, Isnardo Garcia-Amando, an individual present on the terrorist watchlist, was released into the interior [of the United States] by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and remained free to travel the country for two weeks until apprehension happened. Shihab, Akram, and Garcia-Amando highlight the very real threat that faces this country right this second and poses a threat to our homeland security, the reason that this committee exists

In addition to these recent cases, another concern I have repeatedly raised this Congress is the dramatic spike we’ve seen in watch-listed individuals being encountered at the border, specifically at the southern border, and in particular, the number who are being apprehended in-between ports of entry – meaning that they are not presenting themselves to be processed, as is the narrative we repeatedly hear, but instead they are attempting to evade law enforcement. This is especially concerning because we know that there were almost 400,000 got-aways last fiscal year. So my question is this: what don’t we know – how many watch-listed individuals actually got away? The number that was released by the administration, took us a year to get that, and now, how many of the people that were in those 400,000 known got-aways still remain inside the interior of the United States and pose a very significant threat, like the 3 that I have previously mentioned.

I am looking forward to an in-depth conversation today about the current threats that we face and have been sounding the alarm bells since I entered Congress. I am looking forward to a detailed understanding of trends in terrorism  We must stay ahead of the curve. We must prevent that hostile intent from actually entering our country and carrying out attacks. It only took a handful of people on 9/11. Was that so far away in our history that we have forgotten those lessons? I don’t think so, and it’s up to us to have these conversations

Americans are beyond frustrated at this point in time. Specifically with the lack of focus and the lack of attention that comes to our southern border, not knowing who is entering, not knowing what their affiliations and their intents are, and not having an understanding of where they are and what they intend to do.

I fought these terrorists my entire career. I know very well and more than most about the evil they present and the desire that they have to hurt Americans and hurt the United States of America and our allies. This is the Committee on Homeland Security. We must recognize the threats that are capable and willing to hurt the United States. We must recognize and address these threats, and also we must be realistic about what is going on at our southern border. I'm afraid that terrorist groups have taken major strides in their attempt and their willingness to strike the homeland.

“The system is blinking red” as the 9/11 Commission wrote in the days leading up to 9/11. They addressed one of the major concerns after the fact, by saying that the system was blinking red and that all indicators pointed towards an imminent attack, and I hope that I am wrong on this, but we must remain vigilant and get over other narratives that distract us away from the real threats that face this country.

It’s high time that we have this hearing. I am so glad we are going to convene in a classified setting to understand what those threats are. Whether ISIS – which has been proven to be incredibly resistant – or al Qaeda – which has the freedom to move into a country for the first time in 20 years like they haven’t seen maybe ever before – it is a homeland security imperative that we thwart any effort these organizations make to expand their presence overseas and subsequently launch an attack against Americans or against the homeland. From an international perspective, it is as true today as it was in the fall of 2001. We must deny them sanctuary. We must take the fight to them, and from a domestic perspective, we must secure our homeland at all costs

Thank you for holding this hearing, and I yield back Madam Chair.”