Officials play down plan described in secret FBI bulletin from the Dallas Morning News, with thanks to Skeet Street.
Dirt roads trace pale lines across a desolate landscape of bald peaks and plunging canyons near Texas’ Big Bend and bridge the border at dozens of improvised crossings. For decades, these routes have been used to smuggle drugs and humans. Now there is growing concern they could become deadly conduits for terrorism.
The concern is buttressed by a confidential but unclassified FBI intelligence bulletin, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, that contains the vague outlines of a possible terrorist plot.
Officials from both sides of the border played down the possible threat but acknowledged that it is the sort of scenario they have to guard against. The prospect of terrorists crossing the southern border has been a rising concern among officials in Texas and Washington.
The plot, according to uncorroborated information provided by an FBI informant, involves a man, described as an Arab who goes by the nickname “El EspaÃ±ol,” and Ernesto ZatarÃn Beliz, also known as El Traca, suspected of being a Mexican drug trafficker and member of the Zetas, the feared enforcers of the notorious Gulf cartel.
“El EspaÃ±ol is gathering truck drivers with knowledge of truck routes in the United States and explosive experts” in the state of Coahuila, according to the March 11 memo, which originated in the San Diego FBI office and was made available by a U.S. attorney’s office. The informant “believes that the activity in Coahuila, Mexico, is terrorist related.”…
“That’s been the concern all along, that there would be a bargain struck between al-Qaeda or some [other] terrorist organization and these organized crime networks that would allow terrorists to be smuggled into the country,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in an interview. “I think that’s a very real concern.”
At a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said: “Given the threat of international terrorism, there is great concern that our land borders could also serve as a channel for international terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. The threat of terrorist penetration is particularly acute along our southern border.”…