Smuggling networks pose terrorist risk, official says

| 10/8/2004

Existing smuggling networks along the border pose a risk from terrorists whomight try to use them to slip operatives into the United States, but so far there is no evidence any have tried to do so, the assistant secretary of Homeland Security told The Associated Press.

“I personally don’t know ... (of an) al-Qaida known terrorist trying to come through Mexico into the United States,” Michael Garcia said. “What I do know is that obviously there are smuggling organizations very active along the border, and they present a risk.”

The comments by Garcia, assistant secretary of Homeland Security, come amid concerns international terrorists might be trying to infiltrate organized crime in Mexico and Central America.

Garcia spoke during a convention of the global police agency Interpol. In addition to serving as Interpol’s vice president for the Americas, he is assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“If a terrorist shows up, has enough money, finds the right organization ... (he) could get across the border,” he said. “That's a risk.”

On Oct. 6, Interpol's chief for Central America, Saul Hernandez, knocked down reports that al-Qaida terrorists had been spotted in Central America.

He also said investigators had been unable to confirm the presence in Central America of a suspected al-Qaida member, Adnan Gushair El Shukrijumah of Saudi Arabia, despite earlier Honduran government reports he had been spotted in that country.