Todd Bensman’s Latest
Here’s a key excerpt from today’s article:
The workload is not insubstantial. More than 1,500 special-interest immigrants have been captured in Texas since 9-11, including nearly 300 between March 2006 and April, among them Boles and his two companions, along with Iranians, Yemenis and Afghans. Diaz and other FBI officials familiar with special-interest immigrant assessments said the vast majority are determined to be economic refugees or people fleeing wars and political persecution.
“It’s not reached a level where we’ve had a threat to national security in the San Antonio district,” said Diaz, who has been on the job about a year.
Other federal counterterrorism authorities, however, say they have connected some border jumpers to terrorism. Among them was a South African woman of Middle Eastern descent whose July 2004 arrest at the McAllen airport with wet clothes, thousands in cash and a mutilated passport made international headlines.
Farida Goolam Ahmed eventually was charged with a simple illegal entry offense and quietly deported, but key documents remain sealed. A Dec. 9, 2004, U.S. Border and Transportation Security intelligence summary, accidentally released on the Internet, states that Ahmed was “linked to specific terrorist activities.”
Government officials familiar with the case now confirm Ahmed was a smuggler based in Johannesburg, South Africa, who specialized in moving special-interest immigrants into the United States along a United Arab Emirates-London-Mexico City-McAllen pipeline.
Houston-based federal prosecutor Abe Martinez, chief of the Southern District of Texas national security section in the U.S. attorney’s office, was asked if Ahmed or anyone she smuggled might have been involved in terrorism.
“Were they linked to any terrorism organizations?” Martinez said. “I would have to say yes.”
Martinez and a number of Texas-based FBI officials declined to elaborate. But an August 2004 report that appeared in the Washington-based Homeland Security Today quoted several unnamed government counterterrorism officials as saying Ahmed also was found to be ferrying “instructions” from a Mexico al-Qaida cell to another cell in New York.
The article reported Ahmed’s arrest led the CIA to capture two al-Qaida members in Mexico and several Pakistani al-Qaida members in Pakistan and in Britain who all were part of the plot to attack targets in New York