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CNN BREAKING NEWS

FBI Asks Public for Help in Finding Five 'Men of Interest'

Aired December 29, 2002 - 17:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the ongoing nationwide search for what the FBI is describing, five men of interest -- five men of Middle Eastern decent who the FBI says may have entered the U.S. illegally somewhere around Christmas eve. We don't have a whole lot more information, but some of it is trickling in. And for that we go to a number of military -- or security analysts, as well as a former FBI agent in charge, to help decipher -- help us try to decipher the information we have. And on the telephone with us now is Don Clark of Houston, once the former FBI special agent in charge there. Don, go to hear from you.
DON CLARK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Good to hear from you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. We know very little. All we know is that there are five men of middle eastern decent, somewhere in their 20s and 30s. Here are some of the photographs of that been released and we are able to put on our screen. There are names of that been associated with them, but authorities caution that the names might be changed or they may be using other name. Eighteen thousand local and state agencies have been informed. These are individuals that were a focus of domestic and overseas investigations. How do you assess this?

CLARK: Well, Fredricka, when you hear this type of thing, it lets you know that somewhere in there, there had to be a bit of a disconnect. I always have a bit of concern about this person of interest, which means that if the person is of interest, and there's some reason that this person should have been in the system, then maybe the system should have picked up when these people came through. Now, I might add, in defense of the government agencies here, is that often time in dealing with middle eastern and other different segments of our world population, names can be changed legally and they configure themselves different ways, which may confuse the immigration authorities. But something has to be done to be able to catch that.

WHITFIELD: And because their names or these faces were already names and faces of interest, you made a very good point, that if they did go through any channel where's they had to show I.D.s, et cetera, then red flags would have been raised, so perhaps that may not have taken place involving these individuals?

CLARK: Absolutely. Somewhere along the line, this may not have taken place. Now, as you recall, that just back in November, the Homeland Security has...

WHITFIELD: OK. It looks like we may have lost Don Clark there. If we can, we will try to reestablish that connection. But the investigation is ongoing. This is something that was brought to our attention about an hour ago.

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