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Possible Al Qaeda infiltration worries FBI chief

WASHINGTON -- FBI director Robert Mueller told Congress yesterday that people from countries with ties to Al Qaeda have crossed into the United States from Mexico, using false identities.

''We are concerned, homeland security is concerned about special interest aliens entering the United States," Mueller said, using a term for people from countries where Al Qaeda is active.

Under persistent questioning from Representative John Culberson, Republican of Texas, Mueller said he was aware of one route that takes people to Brazil, where they assume false identities, and then to Mexico before crossing the US border.

He also said that in some instances people with Middle Eastern names have adopted Hispanic last names before trying to get into the United States.

Mueller provided no estimate of the number of people who have entered the country in this manner.

Bush administration officials have previously said Al Qaeda could try to infiltrate the United States through the Mexican border.

In recent congressional testimony, Admiral James Loy, deputy Homeland Security secretary, said Al Qaeda operatives believe they can pay to get into the country through Mexico and that entering illegally is ''more advantageous than legal entry."

But Loy said there's no conclusive evidence that Al Qaeda operatives have entered the country via Mexico.

On another topic, Mueller said it will take until 2008 and cost an unknown amount of money to replace a flawed computer system that was supposed to greatly improve management of terrorism and other criminal cases.

The Virtual Case File project was to have been the final piece of the FBI's overhaul of its antiquated computer system.

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