Friday, April 28, 2006

THREE POINTS, Ariz. — The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has canceled plans for an Al Jazeera news crew to interview volunteers patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border today after volunteers threatened to walk off their posts.

MCDC Sector Boss Connie Foust confirmed yesterday that the volunteers, many of them Vietnam, Korean and World War II veterans, refused to stay in camp if the Arab news organization, which some described as “anti-American,” was given access to the site.

“They were very clear that this was something they would and could not condone and if it was going to go ahead anyway, despite their objection, they would pack up and leave,” said Mrs. Foust during an interview at the group’s remote desert campsite 50 miles southwest of Tucson.

More than 500 volunteers have been at the camp since the Minuteman border patrols began April 1 and, according to Mrs. Foust, more than 1,200 illegal aliens have been spotted crossing into the United States and were reported to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Al Jazeera had planned to interview and show the volunteers, many of whom are armed, at their border observation posts, Mrs. Foust said, in what she described as an interview and filming session approved by MCDC founder and president, Chris Simcox.

The decision to pull the plug on the scheduled event, she said, was made by officials here. Mr. Simcox, who had not planned to attend the filming, was later told in an e-mail that the meeting had been scrubbed.

Several of the Minutemen here said they were told Mr. Simcox had asked Arizona organizers to be sure the volunteers showed up with rifles for the filming session to document for Al Jazeera that MCDC was guarding the border against illegal aliens, drug smugglers and terrorists.

They said that in addition to the involvement of Al Jazeera they objected to the filming because rifles are against MCDC operating policies.

“We either have rules or we don’t,” said one Minuteman volunteer who has taken part in three border vigils over the past year. “We either know who our enemies are or we don’t, and then we all lose.”

Mr. Simcox has not been available for comment, but last year he refused a request by Al Jazeera for an interview and filming access to Minuteman patrols on the border. He questioned at the time whether the Arab network was seeking to help terrorists find new routes into the United States.

“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,” he said in a June 2005 interview.

The planned 2005 interview and filming session prompted Rep. Rick Renzi, Arizona Republican and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to question whether it would have had the “capability to seriously undermine the safety and security of our nation, especially because the intended audience could be potential terrorists.”

Al Jazeera, with bureaus in more than 30 countries, caters to an Arab audience, although it has begun English in an effort to “break” the language barrier and “attract readers from continents poles apart.”

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