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Biden officials scramble to close loophole that let migrant on terror watchlist go free

The Biden administration is working to close a major loophole that allowed a migrant on the terror watchlist to be released twice after being arrested in the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this month issued a new memo that overrides a 2004 directive that made it more difficult to share classified information among officials prosecuting immigration cases.

The change comes after it emerged last month that a 48-year-old Afghan migrant on the terror watchlist had been released twice on bond because information about his status was not widely available.

The FBI’s terror watchlist classified Afghan national Mohammad Kharwin as a member of Hezb-e-Islami, which the United States designated as a terrorist organisation.

Kharwin was first arrested in 2023 after he was found to have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally but was released shortly after as Border Patrol lacked biometric information linking him to the terror watchlist.

The 48-year-old was able to reside freely in the United States for over a year before he was arrested once again by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year.

However, Kharwin was released again after ICE prosecutors refused to release information relating to the man’s terror watchlist placement because it was classified.

He was due to appear in court for an asylum hearing in 2025 but he was arrested once again near San Antonio shortly after Mayorkas issued his memo.

Under the 2004 policy, prosecutors could use classified information “as a last resort” only after receiving the Department of Homeland Security approval.

Instead, federal employees will now have to request permission from the individual agency head to secure permission to share classified information.

A DHS employee told NBC News: “Over the last five years, we have seen a significant shift in the way transnational criminal organisations are becoming increasingly involved in the movement of people in our hemisphere, most concerningly people from the Eastern hemisphere.

“We have seen the terrorist threat landscape become much more complex over the last few years than it was right after 9/11.”

The change comes after a series of incidents that have raised concerns about security lapses around the border.

Last month, a man with alleged links to the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah was caught illegally crossing the United States. He allegedly confessed to Border Patrol agents he had planned to travel to New York to “make a bomb.”

In another instance, a member of the Mexican Tango Blast gang was arrested for the 25th time after illegally entering the US using a series of pseudonyms and fake names.


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