Marlowe's Shade

Friday, January 21, 2005

Update on Boston Terror Threat

The Boston Globe reports that a disgruntled smuggler may have tipped off Feds in revenge for a deal gone bad.

Law enforcement officials said yesterday they were investigating whether the tipster who told authorities about four Chinese nationals and two Iraqis plotting an attack on Boston had labeled them terrorists to exact revenge for being cheated in a smuggling or drug operation.

These new details, as well as names of other Chinses nationals, have emerged:

The tipster called the California Highway Patrol from Mexico late Monday night and said he had helped smuggle the four Chinese nationals, along with two unidentified Iraqis, into the United States and that they were expected to arrive in Boston, via New York, in four days, the officials said. The caller said that ''nuclear oxide" or ''nuclear fiber" was going to be smuggled to the group through a tunnel system in Mexico into lower California, they said.

The unidentified caller directed police to a package he had tossed over a border fence into California with three visas that had been issued to three of the Chinese nationals by the Mexican embassy in Beijing and a Chinese identity card for the fourth, the officials said.

According to one official, inside the package were airline ticket stubs indicating that the four had flown from Beijing to Mexico City. Some documents in the package, including baggage claim tickets, contained 10 additional names, but it was unclear what their connection was to the six or whether they are aliases for them.

The Associated Press reported last night that nine of the additional names are Chinese: Yu Xian Weng, a woman either 40 or 41; Quinquan or Quiquan Lin, 21; Liqiang Liang, 28; Min Xiu Xie, 27; Xiang or Xing Wei Liu, 22; Mei Xia Dong, 21; Xiuming Chen; Cheng Yin Liu; and Zao Yun Wang. The 10th name is Jose Ernesto Beltran Quinones, of unknown age or national origin, according to the AP. The FBI said that none of the 10 appeared previously on any kind of watch list, the AP reported

Authorities say it's common for smugglers to seize travel documents from their human cargo and keep them until they are paid for their services.

The threat about nuclear material, along with the tipster saying that the four Chinese are chemists, prompted fear among some law enforcement officials of a so-called dirty bomb: a conventional, or nonnuclear, explosive laced with radioactive components.

It's entirely possible that these are just illegal immigrants caught in a smuggling deal gone sour, and the terrorist angle is part of the revenge. If they had the papers on the Chinese which the smuggler provided, why nothing on the Iraqis. My guess is that they don't exist. But the fact that they are chemists is disturbing. And if they flew out of Beijing, they must have had some official pretext for going to Mexico, like a conference or business. It's too soon to jump to any conclusions but I hope they are caught and this gets cleared up. It would be ironic if they ended up being asylum seekers.

Update - In a report from The Boston Herald, one of their sources also considers the view that the terrorism report is bogus:

``It could be a drug deal gone bad and he's using this threat of a terrorist attack to bring a ton of heat down on someone,'' one source said. ``It could be someone getting dimed out because someone is (angry).''

If nothing else, this case illustrates how difficult and uncertain counter-terrorism efforts are. In the future I will cut the FBI a little more slack.
papijoe 8:17 AM