Republicans blast Biden administration's snub of request for info on terror watchlist nationals

Republicans are reacting with outrage to the Biden administration’s refusal to reveal information about details of those on the terror watchlist encountered at the southern border after officials cited privacy interests for turning down a Fox request on the matter.

“What is Joe Biden, this administration and the Democrats, what are they hiding?” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wondered on the “Verdict with Ted Cruz” podcast.

“They have not released what countries they came from. I assume, based on their refusal to do so, that the country list is really damning.”

BIDEN ADMIN REFUSES TO REVEAL TERROR WATCHLIST NATIONALITIES AS ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION EXPLODES ON HIS WATCH 

Fox News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October seeking the nationalities of suspects on the FBI terror watchlist arrested at the southern border entering between ports of entry by Border Patrol.

The Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS) contains sensitive information on terrorist identities. It initially contained only known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) but now also includes additional individuals who represent a “potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM FOREIGN ADVERSARY HIT NEW HIGH AMID NATIONAL SECURITY FEARS 

Over six months later, CBP told Fox it would not provide the information, although it acknowledges the information is maintained in the Terrorist Screening Dataset. 

A letter from CBP says it is applying exemptions to protect the disclosure of files that may create a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and must balance a public’s right to disclosure against an individual’s right to privacy.

“The privacy interests of the individuals in the records you have requested outweigh any minimal public interest in disclosure of the information. Any private interest you may have in that information does not factor into the aforementioned balancing test,” it says.

It also cites exemptions that protect records that would disclose techniques or procedures for law enforcement investigations and those that could be expected to endanger the life or safety of any individual.

There have so far been 80 encounters of people between ports of entry this year by Border Patrol who are on the TSDS, compared to 172 in fiscal year 2023 and 98 in fiscal 2022.

The response immediately brought reaction from Republicans. 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE BORDER SECURITY CRISIS

“Wow: DHS thinks the “privacy” of potential national security threats is more important than the American people’s right to know where these individuals are coming from,” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee said on X, formerly Twitter.

Following the request, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote to DHS and CBP that it is “critical to retain data on the number of and nationalities of gotaways who have entered the United States and remain in the country.” 

Issa made his own request for the nationalities of those on the TSDS and nationalities of those within and surrounding his district.

“I urge you to share this critical information with me, as a Member of Congress, and with American citizens as required by FOIA.”

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, had previously requested a briefing on the matter, and in a follow-up letter this week, obtained by Fox News Digital, renewed that request for a briefing. His office told Fox DHS had only offered a briefing within a sensitive facility.

“There is no reason to reject providing this critical information to the public,” he said, while reiterating his request for a briefing.

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