What Were Six Iraqis Doing Just 20 Miles from San Diego?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, February 13, 2003. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  Today, six Iraqi citizens were picked up by Mexican authorities in Tijuana.  Tijuana is 30 minutes from San Diego by car, and authorities suspect the six Iraqis couldn't wait to make that trip.

Distressing news, but not news to my next guest, Fox News' Geraldo Rivera, who has reported on Mexico as an easy way in for terrorists, and he joins us from New York.

Nice to see you, Geraldo.


Yes, it certainly has been, but it stands to reason.  You know, it wasn't very long ago that law-enforcement authorities in the southwestern part of our country along the border with Mexico suggested to me that the people-smuggling business had surpassed the drug-smuggling business as the number one clandestine, illicit activity along that part of the United States-Mexican frontier.

So it stood to reason that people, who had, you know, ill intent, who wanted to come into this country to -- whether to be sleepers or to plan some future terrorist attack, might tap into that pre-existing structure, these Mexican coyotes.  They call them coyotes.  These are the people who actually lead the illegals in.

The vast majority of these people, let me hasten to add, Greta, are law-abiding people who want -- they're seeking the American dream.  They want to -- you know, they're eco -- you know, if anything, economic refugees, who want to send money back home to the folks in Mexico or in Central or South America.

When we did The Pulse [the FOX magazine show produced by FOX News Channel for the network] investigation, it lasted eight months, we spent a lot of time along that part of the border, Greta, and what we discovered is that, on at least, I think it was, eight occasions, people who were of questionable background -- I'm talking in terms of their terrorist connections or possible terrorist connections -- had, indeed, used the coyotes and managed to sneak across the border.

That does not appear to be the case in this instance.  These six Iraqis -- we are being told now five men, one woman, apparently from the same family -- are Iraqi Christians who are claiming -- who were attempting to get into the country, we are being told now, by Mexican authorities to claim asylum, to claim asylum from religious persecution.  The Mexicans, though, are going to prosecute them, it appears, or at least deport them because they got into Mexico under false pretenses.  So this appears to be a false alarm.

But let me hasten to add, the Mexican authorities should be given enormous credit.  Mexico has suffered dearly since September 11.  A lot of the cross-border trade has been cutoff or stifled, as we rightly try to seal our borders.

In this case, they were sharp, they were on the case.  As soon as they found this -- these Iraqis in Tijuana -- incidentally, we found a neighborhood of Iraqis living virtually in the shadow of the American border in Tijuana.  We tracked them.  The Mexican authorities were hip to the cell that we found.  We couldn't nail them, though.  Some Iraqis -- some other Arabs in prison, in Tijuana and elsewhere in Mexico, for attempting to cross.

The headline again, though, this case -- this case this evening of the six apparently benign.  They were coming...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, you know...

RIVERA:  ... seeking the American dream, apparently.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know what, Geraldo?  It says that you -- you said they should get enormous credit, but what they have, quote, "busted" are six people who were simply trying to seek asylum for religious reasons in the United States, not the most incredible feat, as far as I'm concerned, for the Mexican authorities.

What surprises me in your report is you found eight of questionable background that didn't seem to have any problem getting in.  So, I mean, it's hard for me to be persuaded that -- oh, great, you know, the Mexicans are really on top of this one.

RIVERA:  Well, everyone's so hyper.  Everyone's so panicked.  You know, I just came from a very prominent New York restaurant, Le Circe.  Everyone is staying home putting duct tape and plastic sheets on their windows.  Everybody is under this heightened state of alert.  I think a lot of it is obviously necessary.  We want the Coast Guard, we want the Navy, we want the Border Patrol, we want law enforcement to watch out for people infiltrating our boarders.

But, on the other hand, I think some of these warnings are doing nothing more than sowing panic and terror and causing perhaps overreaction.  But in the Mexican -- the case of the Mexican authorities, this instant case with the half-dozen Iraqis, how were they to know until they grabbed them, until interviewed them?  They were illegal.  They were in Mexico illegally under false pretenses, false documents...

VAN SUSTEREN:  How many are they missing?

RIVERA:  ... carrying German passports.

Well, that's a great question, but that's really -- that's the headline.  How many are we missing?

Now I am confident there are sleepers here in the country, and, because our borders are better sealed now than they were prior to 9/11, I think there's more chance of someone who has been here for a while, like that fruitcake at the LAX -- you know, Los Angeles Airport, who went off on the Israeli passengers at El Al Airport there -- he had been in the country for many years and then suddenly, you know, took it upon himself -- or perhaps had orders from some central authority...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Yes, you're right.

RIVERA:  ... to go and cause this terror.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You're right.

RIVERA:  So you just -- they're there.  We've got to watch for them.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And you never know.  Geraldo, as always, thank you.  Nice to see you.

RIVERA:  Thank you, Greta.  You too.

Click here to order the entire transcript of the February 13 edition of On the Record.

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