Exclusive: Drug Smugglers Dig Record Number of Tunnels in 2007

Nineteen tunnels were discovered beneath the United States southwest border in 2007, surpassing a record of 17 set in 2006, federal authorities reported today.

Seventy-three tunnels -- ranging from crude to sophisticated -- have been discovered since 1990, half of those since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security reported in an intelligence assessment released today.

None of the tunneling discovered was attributed to terrorists, but the enhanced security of overland routes since the 2001 attacks was cited as a reason drug smugglers burrowed for alternatives.

A tunnel discovered in Tecate, Calif., in December 2007 stunned the quiet border community known for its namesake brewery and probably led to the retaliatory death of a Mexican police commander, the report stated.

Fourteen of the tunnels were discovered criss-crossing the Nogales, Ariz. to Nogales, Mexico. border. DHS assessed that the massive storm drainage system beneath those cities provided easy access for tunnel builders, resulting in 37 tunnels built and discovered since 1995.

The majority of the tunnels appeared to have been built to smuggle drugs, notably large shipments of marijuana. In one such tunnel, 3,000 pounds of marijuana was found by Nogales police and a Customs Border Patrol canine unit.

Some tunnels were crudely eked out by hand; others contained lighting. One ran for about 85 feet from beneath a home in Mexico to one in Nogales.

The tunnel in Tecate that appears to have led to the police death was 1,300 feet long, according to DHS.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

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