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U.S. intel center wary of terrorist attack

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fort Huachuca, the nations largest intelligence training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high powered weapons to attack the post, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.

"A portion of the operatives were in the United States, with the remainder not yet in the United States," according to one of the documents, an FBI advisory that was disbursed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice, among numerous other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. "The Afghanis and Iraqis shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners."

According to the FBI advisory, each Middle Easterner paid Mexican drug lords $20,000 "or the equivalent in weapons" for the cartel's assistance in smuggling them and their weapons through tunnels along the border into the U.S. The weapons would be sent through tunnels that supposedly ended in Arizona and New Mexico, but the Islamist terrorists would be smuggled through Laredo, Texas, and join the weapons later.

A number of the Afghans and Iraqis already are in a safe house in Texas, the FBI advisory said.

Fort Huachuca, which lies about 20 miles from the Mexican border, has members of all four service branches training in intelligence and secret operations. About 12,000 persons work at the fort and many have their families on base.

Lt. Col. Matthew Garner, spokesman for Fort Huachuca, said details regarding the current phase of the investigation or security changes on the post "will not be disclosed."

"We are always taking precautions to ensure that soldiers, family members and civilians that work and live on Fort Huachuca are safe," Mr. Garner said. "With this specific threat we did change some aspects of our security that we did have in place."

According to the FBI report, some of the weapons associated with the plot already have been smuggled through a tunnel from Mexico to the U.S.

The FBI report is based on Drug Enforcement Agency sources, including Mexican nationals with access to "sub-sources" in the drug cartels. The report's assessment is that the DEA's Mexican contacts have proven reliable in the past but the "sub-source" is of uncertain reliability.

According to the source who spoke with DEA intelligence agents, the weapons included two Milan anti-tank missiles, Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, long guns and handguns.

"FBI Comment: The surface-to-air missiles may in fact be RPGs," the advisory stated, adding that the weapons stash in Mexico could include two or three more Milan missiles.

The Milan, a French-German portable anti-tank weapon, was developed in the 1970s and widely sold to militaries around the world, including Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Insurgents in Iraq have reportedly used a Milan missile in an attack on a British tank. Iraqi guerrillas have also shot down U.S. helicopters using RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not elaborate on the current investigation regarding the threat, but said that many times the initial reports are based on "raw, uncorroborated information that has not been completely vetted." But he added that this report shows the extent to which all law enforcement and intelligence agencies cooperate in terror investigations.

"If nothing else it provides a good look at the inner working of the law enforcement and intelligence community and how they work together on a daily basis to share and deal with threat information," Mr. Bresson said. "It also demonstrates the cross-pollination that frequently exists between criminal and terrorist groups."

The connections between criminal enterprises, such as powerful drug cartels, and terrorist organizations have become a serious concern for intelligence agencies monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Based upon the information provided by the DEA handling agent, the DEA has classified the source as credible," stated a Department of Homeland Security document, regarding the attack on Fort Huachuca. "The identity of the sub-source has been established, however none of the information provided by the sub-source in the past has been corroborated."

The FBI advisory stated that the "sub-source" for the information "is a member of the Zetas," the military strong-arm of one of Mexicos most dangerous drug trafficking organizations — the Gulf Cartel. The Gulf Cartel controls the movement of narcotics from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into the U.S. along the Laredo corridor.

However, the sub-source "for this information is of unknown reliability," the FBI advisory stated.

According the DEA, the sub-source identified Mexico's Sinaloa cartel as the drug lords who would assist the terrorists in their plot.

This led to DEA to caution the FBI that its information may be a Gulf cartel plant to bring the U.S. military in against its main rival. The Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have fought bloody battles along the border for control of shipping routes into the U.S.

"It doesnt mean that there isnt truth to some of what this source delivered to U.S. agents," said one law enforcement intelligence agent, under condition of anonymity. "The cartels have no loyalty to any nation or person. It isnt surprising that for the right price they would assist terrorists, knowingly or unknowingly."

In May, after more than a year of being under surveillance by the FBI, six foreign-born Muslim men were arrested and charged with plotting an attack on Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey. They were planning on killing as many soldiers as possible in an armed assault with high-powered weapons, according to the FBI.