Thursday, February 17, 2005

U.S. Aides Cite Worry on Qaeda Infiltration From Mexico

The New York Times > International > Americas > U.S. Aides Cite Worry on Qaeda Infiltration From Mexico: "The warnings from Mr. Goss and other top officials came as part of a stark presentation that described terrorism as the top threat to the United States despite what they described as successes in the last year. Mr. Goss said that the war in Iraq had served as a useful recruiting tool for Islamic extremists, and that both the low Sunni Muslim turnout in elections there and the violence that followed demonstrated that the insurgency remained a serious threat.

He warned that anti-American extremists who survive the war were likely to emerge with a high level of skills and experience, and could move on to build new terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.

Intelligence that 'strongly suggests' that Al Qaeda operatives have considered using the Mexican border as an entry point was cited in written testimony by Adm. James M. Loy, the deputy secretary of homeland security. But he wrote that there was 'currently no conclusive evidence' that this had succeeded.

In the past, law enforcement officials have said Al Qaeda might try to use the Mexican border, but the testimony on Wednesday seemed to suggest increasing concern. In response to questions from the senators, Admiral Loy described it as a 'very serious situation,' while Robert S. Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, listed first among his current concerns what he said might already be 'the threat from covert Al Qaeda operatives inside the United States.'

'Finding them is the top priority for the F.B.I., but it is also one of the most difficult challenges,' Mr. Mueller said. He said covert operatives could include 'a true sleeper operative who has been in place for years,' or someone who entered the country recently.

In his written testimony, Admiral Loy cited recent information from investigations and detentions as the basis for his concern about the Mexican border. He added, 'Several Al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons.'"

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