Federal Buildings Could Be In Jeopardy - In Houston and Nationally
Government guards have found so-called students trying to get into secure buildings
By Anna Werner / 11 News Investigative Reporter
KHOU 11 News (web archive)
HOUSTON (KHOU) - Could federal buildings in Houston and other cities be under surveillance by foreign groups? That's what some experts are asking after federal law enforcement and security officials - nationally and in Houston - described for the 11 News Defenders a curious pattern of behavior by a group of people claiming to be Israeli art students.
They've shown up at the Houston headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration, at the Leland federal building downtown, and even the federal prosecutor's office.
Who are they? They're described as Middle Eastern men and women who claim to be Israeli art students, carrying portfolios filled with artwork they say they want to sell. But government guards have found those so-called students trying to get into these secure buildings in ways they're not supposed to – through backdoors and parking garages. And that they appear to be monitoring the buildings. Even stranger, sources say, the "students" have even shown up at the homes of federal employees.
And the federal government appears concerned. The 11 News Defenders obtained an e-mail sent by an official with the Federal Protective Services, the agency that guards federal buildings. The e-mail says federal sites have "experienced an inundation of art solicitations at office buildings by students claiming to be selling Israeli art," that it turned out to be nationwide, and that it had happened again a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, Georgia.
No one in the federal government would talk with us on camera, so we asked our own expert, 11 News military and terrorism analyst Ron Hatchett, for his take on the scenario described above. "What comes to my mind right away is that this is an obvious surveillance," says Hatchett. "This is not a bunch of kids selling artwork."
Hatchett says they could be doing what he would be doing if he were a terrorist – sizing up the situation: "We need to know what are the entrances to this particular building. We need to know what are the surveillance cameras that are operating. We need to know how many guards are at this operation, when do they take breaks?"
A former Defense Department analyst, Hatchett believes groups may be gathering intelligence for possible future attacks. "Some organization, thinking in terms of a potential retaliation against the U.S. government [could be] scouting out potential targets and … looking for targets that would be vulnerable."
And a source tells the Defenders of another federal memo, stating that besides Houston and Dallas, the same thing has happened at sites in New York, Florida, and six other states, and even more worrisome, at 36 sensitive Department of Defense sites.
"One defense site you can explain," says Hatchett, "well that was just a serendipitous, they went to that building. Thirty-six? That's a pattern."
That memo also reportedly tells of 25 to 30 arrests, usually made on immigration fraud charges. Why? Because many of these so-called Israelis have phony passports and visas. The memo concludes these students "may have ties" to an "Islamic fundamentalist group."
How long has this been going on? The Defenders discovered this report from the International Association for Counter-terrorism and Security Professionals, written in May 2000j. It, too, says U.S. law enforcement reports "numerous encounters" with Middle Eastern "art students" with "fraudulent documents" who attempted to "gain unauthorized access" to federal buildings.
A spokesman at the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, D.C., told 11 News that these cases have been the subject of INS investigations and resulted in "activity," but could not confirm what the results of those investigations were.
So far, no one has said if these "students" or groups are connected to any terrorist groups.
If you have any information on this story, call our 11 News Defenders Investigative hotline.
It's toll-free: 1-877-367-KHOU. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Note the article states that these Israeli spies "HAVE TIES TO AN ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST GROUP." What, like al-CIA-duh? Again, these were Israeli/Mossad agents impersonating muslims in order to frame muslims for terrorist attacks.