Monday, August 23, 1999

Star-Bulletin file photo
In June of 1992, federal authorities intercepted the freighter
Lucky No. 1 near Hawaii with 117 illegal immigrants aboard.

FBI tries to stem
tide of illegal Chinese

The problem here is not as
bad as on Guam and Saipan

By Susan Kreifels


While FBI agents are keeping an eye on illegal Chinese immigrants coming into Hawaii, the problem is much bigger on Guam and Saipan because it's more difficult to slip ashore here past authorities, the chief FBI agent on island said yesterday.

Myron Fuller, special agent in charge of FBI operations in the region, also said Honolulu is still an attractive target for terrorists because of military commands based here, its Asia-Pacific transportation links and its isolation.

"We were vulnerable in 1941," Fuller said at a luncheon sponsored by the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. "We're vulnerable now."

Fuller's Honolulu-based staff of 152 covers all FBI investigations in Hawaii, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as international terrorism in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands.

Fuller said investigators don't have "a good handle" on how many illegal Chinese immigrants are coming into the state, but he doesn't believe the numbers are close to those of Guam or Saipan, where more than 800 have come ashore off boats. The Coast Guard accordingly has beefed up its force.

He said the FBI keeps an eye on the Chinese Triad, or mafia, involved in smuggling people.

Regarding terrorist acts, Honolulu was among the earliest U.S. cities to conduct exercise drills and training to prepare for chemical and other kinds of terrorist attacks. Officials have said the military presence, international tourism, its location as an Asia-Pacific crossroads and its isolation from the mainland make it more vulnerable.

Fuller would not talk about how vulnerable, where Honolulu ranks among other U.S. cities, or any special protection or plans here. But he said Hawaii's isolation means it must be more reliant on itself.

He said terrorist acts today have created "a different ball game" and won't necessarily target the military but other infrastructure.

Other areas of concern for the FBI include the Japanese yakuza, although he said its influence in the region has subsided. In the Philippines, it's Islamic groups in the south that could get support from international terrorist Osama bin Laden, one of the FBI's most wanted men, and the communist New People's Army, responsible for killing Americans during U.S. base talks in the late '80s and early '90s. The rebels oppose renewed U.S.-Philippine military relations.

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