Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2006
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Waco-Tribune Herald
Author: Stephen Dinan, Washington Times


WASHINGTON -- A House panel has opened an investigation into Mexican 
military incursions into the United States and its chairman will 
travel to El Paso, Texas, on a fact-finding trip tomorrow.

Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the 
investigations subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, will 
meet with law-enforcement officials in El Paso and will hold a 
hearing Tuesday in Washington.

"It's one of three things -- Mexican military, drug dealers dressed 
as Mexican military or the cartel buying them off," Mr. McCaul said yesterday.

The investigation comes after a high-profile incident Jan. 23 in 
which U.S. law-enforcement authorities in Hudspeth County, Texas, 
confronted several men in Mexican military uniforms who were 
accompanying drug smugglers. The "soldiers" were in a camouflaged 
Humvee with a mounted .50-caliber machine gun.

Incursions have been reported before, and Department of Homeland 
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said earlier this month there are 
about 20 a year, but said the number is declining and called concern 
over the issue "overblown" and "scare tactics."

Both U.S. and Mexican officials have said some incursions are a 
matter of people losing their way in unmarked parts of the border.

Mr. McCaul's trip will involve federal and local authorities, but Mr. 
McCaul will also meet with the Mexican ambassador before Tuesday's hearing.

He said he will also review some of the photographs taken during the 
recent incursion.

The subcommittee is new, and this will be its first meeting. Mr. 
McCaul, a freshman member of Congress, is a former federal prosecutor 
and counterterrorism official. Full committee Chairman Peter T. King, 
New York Republican, said he is perfect for this investigation.

Mr. King said it's important to figure out whether the incursions are 
Mexican military.

"If this is true it's shameful and disgraceful," he said, and it 
would raise questions about the "lack of good faith of the Mexican government."

In last week's incident, Hudspeth sheriff's deputies pursued three 
sport utility vehicles back to Mexico after spotting them driving 
north from the Rio Grande. The pursuit ended on the U.S. side of the 
border when the deputies -- joined by Texas state troopers -- 
encountered at least 10 heavily armed men in what Hudspeth County 
Sheriff Arvin West described as battle-dress uniforms.

Sheriff West said deputies found 1,400 pounds of marijuana in one of 
the vehicles abandoned after it blew a tire early in the pursuit. 
Another made it into Mexico and a third got stuck in the Rio Grande 
and was burned by the "soldiers" after it was unloaded, said Sheriff West.

No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.

Jerry Seper contributed to this article.
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