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Greene, GOPers cite ‘bomb’ found at border. Feds say it was bag of sand.

by Aaron Blake, The Washington Post | March 16, 2023 at 2:06 p.m.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks on the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on March 3, 2023, in Fort Washington, Md. (Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has repeatedly held up the purported existence of weapons of mass destruction to justify invading Iraq as a cautionary tale.

"Intelligence briefings with 'reasons' why we have to go to war with Russia are similar to the intelligence community telling lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," she tweeted in May. She told then-Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in November: "Your father lied our country into a war with Iraq."

On Tuesday, Greene, R-Ga., and a GOP colleague floated sending the U.S. military south while citing what U.S. Border Patrol now says was a false claim about a bomb.

At a field hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee near the Texas-Mexico border, multiple Republicans pointed to the alleged explosive device.

"Chief Ortiz, are you aware that there was an explosive device found by border patrol agents on no man, in an area called no man's land?" Greene asked Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. Rep. Morgan Luttrell, R-Texas, cited "this explosive device that was discovered by one of you border patrol agents." Rep. Dale W. Strong, R-Ala., labeled it an "improvised explosive device being used against U.S. law enforcement."

Greene also tweeted a picture of the "explosive," accusing Mexican cartels of "planting bombs."

Ortiz didn't offer much information on the item at the hearing, and he and another witness even seemed unfamiliar with what the Republicans were talking about.

But by Wednesday afternoon, Ortiz tweeted that the item was merely a "duct-taped ball filled with sand."

"During a Jan. briefing, leadership was notified that Agents found a duct-taped ball filled with sand that wasn't deemed a threat to agents/public," Ortiz said.

Greene responded to a reporter who noted a denial from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, insisting, "That's not what the border patrol agents are telling me." Her spokesman, Nick Dyer, told The Washington Post that those agents provided "a firsthand account" and said Greene had provided more sourcing information than Ortiz had.

Dyer cited "many other journalists" with sources refuting Ortiz's denial. When asked who those journalists were, Dyer shared a single tweet from Fox News contributor who merely said border agents were "questioning the conclusion."

But later on, Luttrell seemed to acknowledge the possibility that it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. In a video posted after Ortiz's statement, Luttrell described things he and others were focused on "running to ground."

"One is that there was an IED found - this is what we were told, we're digging into this - an IED found by Border Patrol agents, and it didn't seem that was reported as it should be," Luttrell said.

And a recap of the hearing sent by the committee's Republican staff Thursday morning did not mention the claims about explosive devices.

Little is known about the item beyond what the Republicans said they were told and what Ortiz now says. Strong told the Border Report that it "was brought up in a meeting while we've been here in McAllen, Texas, and not only were we briefed on it, but we saw it." Luttrell's and Strong's offices haven't responded to a request for comment, and Customs and Border Protection haven't shared more information.

But it's worth emphasizing that this wasn't just a matter of sharing potentially bad information: The Republicans suggested that it was a seminal moment and even one that demonstrated the need for mobilizing the military.

Greene said it reinforced the need to pass legislation she has co-sponsored to "declare war on the cartels - because they are definitely declaring war on us, the American people and our Border Patrol agents."

Immediately after raising the idea that an IED was "being used against U.S. law enforcement," Strong added: "America protects other countries' borders. Chief, do you think it's time the United States president sends the military to the southern border to protect the American people?"

Luttrell suggested that it was a scandal that this information wasn't previously shared with Congress and the American people.

"Now, if this is the case, and we're surging money, hundreds of billions of dollars across the seas to secure everybody else, and we're not doing anything here in my state at our southern border, that's a problem," Luttrell said. "Because that means that they're lying to us."

Luttrell said at both the hearing and in his later social media video that the purported bomb "changes the narrative."

Greene, who two weeks ago falsely blamed the Biden administration for two fentanyl deaths that occurred in 2020 during the Trump administration, echoed Luttrell in her tweet.

"This changes everything," Greene said of the "explosive," adding: "Our US military needs to take action against the Mexican Cartels. End this Cartel led war against America!"

One can certainly debate the merits of a more forceful approach to the cartels and the border. But it's probably worth making doubly sure we don't launch wars based upon faulty information about bombs. Again.

Print Headline: Greene, GOPers cite ‘bomb’ found at border. Feds say it was bag of sand.


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