The story sounded plausible: sixty Afghan and Iraqi terrorists smuggled in by a Mexican drug cartel to attack an Army post in Arizona. As quickly as the story spread from a report last month in the Washington Times and reverberated around talk radio and conservative blogs, it died, says the Dallas Morning News: The FBI dismissed the reported plot as not credible. The non-story underscores a reality that haunts law enforcement and homeland security specialists: the fact that one day a terrorist could be among the thousands who cross the border illegally each year.
State and federal officials charged with homeland protection stress that an illegal immigrant from a nation linked to terrorist groups is not necessarily a terrorist. Border Patrol officials defer to the FBI and other agencies questions about whether suspects believed to have direct links to terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda have been apprehended at the border. Only a minuscule number of people picked up at the border are from one of the 35 countries designated by U.S. intelligence agencies as “special interest” for the potential to export terrorism. In fiscal 2007 under 1 percent of the 24,000 non-Mexican citizens apprehended by the Border Patrol came from special-interest countries: seven came from Iran, eight from Iraq and 10 from Pakistan. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell told the El Paso Times last summer that a small number of people with known links to terrorist organizations have been caught crossing the border. The FBI and the National Intelligence Office have not provided details.