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Al Qaeda at the Border

John on November 10, 2005 at 3:09 pm

Wenesday the 9th, Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina gave a press conference for one of her legislative initiatives and off-handedly remarked:

I mean, they just arrested down on the border, what, a couple of weeks ago, three al Qaeda members who came across from Mexico into the United States. I mean, that’s a given fact. They were holding them in the jail down there.

Hugh Hewitt caught it on Free Republic and there has been a lot of speculation about it in the blogosphere since. I decided to try and find out where this alleged event took place.

I contacted the border patrol’s El Paso sector (El Paso sector covers the N.M. and west Texas border), specifically their public affairs office to ask if they knew what Rep. Myrick was talking about. The response was “Nothing like that here.” I then called the McAllen sector , which handles border patrol in East Texas. When I asked about Rep. Myrick’s comments I was greeted with a sigh and then asked if I would hold. I was then given the number of a supervisor in the public affairs office.

I called the number I’d been given and repeated my question (I identified myself as a blogger at the beginning of each call). The supervisor asked me a few questions about where I had gotten this information and then cordially said that he could not comment. I indicated to him that the El Paso sector PA office had simply said they knew of no such thing, thinking that he would issue a similar denial. Instead, he repeated that he could not comment and then added that if I wanted to pursue it he would have to refer me to his superior. I didn’t press the point as I wasn’t interested in having the Department of Homeland Security start a file with my name on it, however I’d call this a very significant “No Comment.” So whatever it is that Rep. Myrick was talking about, there seems to be some knowledge of it at the McAllen sector public affairs office, but they aren’t telling.

In what may be a related story, the same border patrol sector arrested a woman named Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed at McAllen airport in July 2004. The airport is not far from the Mexico border. At the time of her arrest, she had a South African passport with several missing pages, $8000 in cash and was apparently on her way to New York. Texas Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.) was quoted as saying that her name was on a watchlist for suspected terrorists. This was apparently later confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Homeland Security Today magazine reported the following about Farida on Aug. 7, 2004:

Senior US counterterrorist and intelligence officials in Washington told Homeland Security Today Magazine in recent days intelligence gleaned as a consequence of the arrest in Texas of alleged Al Qaeda courier Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, and the subsequent unreported capture by the CIA of two operatives of an Al Qaeda cell operating in Mexico for which she was ferrying “instructions” to suspected Al Qaeda members in New York, contributed significantly to the nation”s capital, New York City and New Jersey being put on high alert Sunday.

Here is a picture of Farida. Was she a courier for Al Qaeda? She was never charged with anything related to terrorism. She pled guilty to crossing the US-Mexico border illegally and was deported to South Africa. This USA today story dating from the time of her deportation (just seven months after the HST story) notes that:

Officials have declined to say why she sneaked into the country and whether she had any ties to terrorist organizations…Nancy Herrera, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said she could not comment.

So was the HST magazine information bogus? I have no way of knowing. However if Rep. Myrick is right about the recent arrests of three more Al Qaeda crossing the border, and if I am correct that it took place in the McAllen sector of Texas, it would appear to be part of a pattern.

Update: I received a response from Rep. Myrcik’s office. Her communications director sent out what appears to be a bulk e-mail stating:

Rep. Myrick’s statement was based several old reports from last year she had read in the past several weeks. Apparently, a staff member had given her old information dealing with border threats and she read the reports thinking that they were current. I discovered this after sorting through her piles of reading material.

To which I say…highly doubtful. There are no old reports which have any resemblence to the story Rep. Myrick told at the press conference. Unless she was referring to the arrest of Farida Goolam and the subsequent unpublicized arrest of two other Al Qaeda by the CIA (see the HST quote above). Even then, her statement would represent a slip since it relied on unpublished information. I am responding to her office with more questions.

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