By Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
Calexico, Calif. (AP) -- The federal government began drilling holes
in this border town searching for a tunnel it believes may be used to
smuggle drugs from Mexico.
But after seven hours of work, officials said they had come up empty.
With technology developed by geophysicists, the Department of
Homeland Security identified the possible tunnel -- two feet wide and
about 15 feet below ground _ two weeks ago.
On Tuesday, a giant drill plugged ten holes in a dirt road used by
the Border Patrol. The crew reported a change in soil at about 14
feet and struck water at about 18 feet. They brought along a camera
on a six-foot pole to scope underground.
But Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said the crew
by late Tuesday had found nothing amiss and tentatively concluded
there was no drug tunnel in the area.
The offensive marked a shift in the government's efforts to locate
the clandestine tunnels. Previously, agents have relied on human
intelligence and sheer luck, such as when a Border Patrol agent on
patrol in Calexico, about 120 miles east of San Diego, struck a sink
hole in November.
Officials were mum on what kind of technology they used, saying they
want to avoid tipping off smugglers. Calexico Police Chief Mario
Sanchez said officials told him they used a sonic recording device.
U.S. and Mexican officials have discovered at least 10 cross-border
tunnels since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks prompted heightened
security along the border.
U.S. officials said increased border enforcement may be forcing drug
smugglers to be more creative. Each tunnel is estimated to cost
between $800,000 and $1 million to build, said Misha Piastro, a
spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In Calexico, an arid town of about 30,000 people that abuts the large
industrial Mexican city of Mexicali, city workers discovered an
incomplete tunnel in September that zigzagged about 250 yards into a
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Mexican authorities arrested four people where the tunnel allegedly
originated in Mexicali. The suspected ringleader said he planned to
rent the ventilated tunnel to a large drug smuggling ring, according