- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Arabic news channel Al Jazeera yesterday scrapped plans to broadcast an hourlong special on the state of security along the Arizona-Mexico border after Minuteman Civil Defense Corps officials publicly questioned whether its intent was to help terrorists find new routes into the United States.

An Al Jazeera spokeswoman at the network’s Washington office, who asked not to be identified, said the news channel had planned to cover a Minuteman rally over the Fourth of July weekend in Phoenix and then do stories along the border, but that network officials had canceled the project.

“Actually, it was no big deal, just a three-minute segment, but for editorial reasons we have decided not to do it,” the spokeswoman said. “Beyond that, we have no comment.”

Chris Simcox, founder and president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which protested lax-enforcement efforts by the U.S. government during a 30-day border vigil in Arizona in April, said he refused a request last week by the network for an interview and filming access to ongoing Minuteman patrols along the border.

Mr. Simcox told The Washington Times yesterday he was surprised by Al Jazeera’s decision not to do the story, but questioned whether the Qatar-based network that has been criticized by the U.S. government as politically inflammatory and often factually inaccurate should have been allowed to report on border security in the first place.

“Does our government really consider Al Jazeera to be a legitimate and independent news agency that should have free run to report on the issue of border security at a time that this country is at war?” he asked. “We treasure the First Amendment in America, but Al Jazeera has provided aid and comfort to the terrorist enemies of America.”

Mr. Simcox said Al Jazeera reporter Naisser Hssaini told him the network was doing an hourlong special over the Fourth of July weekend to highlight the state of security along the U.S. southern border, which would include information on the recent rise in the number of foreign nationals being detained by the U.S. Border Patrol who were identified as “other than Mexican,” or OTMs.

He said Mr. Hssaini also was aware that many of the OTMs were being released back onto the streets of America immediately after their arrest pending future immigration hearings because of a lack of detention space, and that Border Patrol agents referred to the policy as “catch and release.”

“I felt that allowing Al Jazeera to come along on our patrols or to assist them in their report was aiding and abetting the enemy, so we declined,” Mr. Simcox said. “Obviously, whatever they would have filmed would have been shown to viewers that would include terrorists and their report would only highlight holes in our homeland security.”

Mr. Simcox, founder of the Civil Homeland Defense Corps in Arizona, which has been conducting border patrols for more than three years, said “it should be obvious” to U.S. government officials that the Southwest border “is the greatest threat to our national security.”

He said a rising number of foreign nationals from countries other than Mexico are being brought into the United States by a growing number of alien smugglers, with routes through Arizona being a key focus.

In February, former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy told a Senate committee that the violent international street gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, was an emerging national security threat, adding that global terrorists, including al Qaeda, may have targeted the gang’s illegal-alien smuggling operations along the U.S.-Mexico border to gain entry to the United States.

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