‘Islamic Refugee Arrested With Gas Pipeline Plans in New Mexico’

The right-wing blog Judical Watch refused to walk back an incendiary story it published in June 2016 about the arrest of an “Islamic refugee” in New Mexico, despite the story being debunked by authorities.

The blog, which claims to be non-partisan despite a history of pushing disinformation — such as its August 2014 claim that there was an “ISIS camp” in Mexico — “reported“:

Police in a U.S. town bordering Mexico have apprehended an undocumented, Middle Eastern woman in possession of the region’s gas pipeline plans, law enforcement sources tell Judicial Watch. Authorities describe the woman as an “Islamic refugee” pulled over during a traffic stop by a deputy sheriff in Luna County, New Mexico which shares a 54-mile border with Mexico. County authorities alerted the U.S. Border Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) has been deployed to the area to investigate, sources with firsthand knowledge of the probe confirm.

The emphasis on alleged “sources” closely resembles the language the blog used in its story about the “training camp”:

High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued. Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.

In the case of the “refugee arrest,” authorities at both the local and federal level debunked the blog’s allegations; KRQE-TV in Albuquerque (an actual news outlet) reported that the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said there was no information to corroborate the claim. The station also reported:

Luna County Sheriff John Mooradian said officials from the U.S. Border Patrol called him Wednesday, asking if a deputy of his had made the arrest, as the article claimed. Mooradian checked with his patrol supervisor and confirmed none of his deputies made such a stop, let alone an arrest.


“Before putting out such an article that could put people in such an uproar, maybe they should confirm their stories,” Mooradian said. “… it’s really unfortunate to our citizens that they have to endure that kind of fear.”

Rather than post a correction, Judicial Watch added a note to its piece saying:

Despite official denials from authorities Judicial Watch stands by its reporting, which was subsequently corroborated by National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers Chairman Zack Taylor.

The story does not explain how Taylor “corroborated” its claims. But that is par for the course with Judicial Watch, which made its reputation on filing frivolous lawsuits.

“Judicial Watch’s strategy is simple: Carpet-bomb the federal courts with Freedom of Information Act lawsuits,” the New York Times explained in October 2016. “A vast majority are dismissed.”

The group’s current head Tom Fitton has also pushed debunked conspiracy theories about “voter fraud” in the 2020 presidential election.

Update 7/28/2023, 3:30 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag