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Drivers detained as "persons of interest"
Jun 16, 2004 12:00 am
Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe confirmed a team of truck drivers was briefly detained as "persons of interest" to the federal government late Saturday night.
"I can't say a lot about it," Ashe said, noting the men, who had potential terrorist ties, were driving a tractor trailer rig from a western state when they were stopped just before midnight on the Interstate system in Wilson County.
"As far as their activities last night. As far as anything to do with terrorists," he said. "Nothing was – I don't think anything was confirmed, but they were persons of interest to the FBI."
Ashe said he could not divulge why or exactly where the men where stopped, but said the men's names yielded "positive feedback" from a national Homeland Security database.
"But once we stopped them and ran them through the national list we did get a positive feedback," he said. "Once they hit on them in this computer system, we immediately started getting feedback and teletypes and conversations."
He said there were no warrants for the men, but they were detained until his department received authorization from the FBI to release them.
"I'm sure these are people whose trackings and whereabouts is something I'm sure (the FBI) is dealing with," Ashe said. "It was something that was of great interest nationally… They're just people they have an interest in and want know their whereabouts and we're continuing to provide that information for them and then we're cooperating with them."
Ashe said the database the men's names were listed in contains the names of people the federal government has interest in or who have terrorist ties.
"There are several hundreds of people in that data bank," he said. "It's not like just one or two or three or four. There are lots of people in this country that have ties to al-Quaida."
Ashe said Saturday night's incident showed the value of technology regarding Homeland Security.
"It also shows how sophisticated we've gotten with all that stuff," he said. "Because there are certain things going on in the law enforcement community that probably the average citizen is not aware of. When we have something that seems sort of not right to us, we run them through that data bank that's only accessible to law enforcement and these individuals came back as 'persons of interest.'
"My officers did a good job," he said. "They contained the vehicle and they were eventually able to search the vehicle. Outside of that all I can say is they were released on the authorization of the FBI."
"All the coordination we had with the federal government last night is we could not hold them at this time," he said.
The sheriff noted his department received assistance from the state after the vehicle was stopped.