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CNN Presents: Battle on the Border

Aired February 4, 2006 - 20:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: More than 25,000 people have gathered in Atlanta to pay tribute to a woman who lived with quiet grace and dignity. Coretta Scott King lying in honor in the rotunda of the state capital in Georgia. She is the first woman and the first black person to do so.
Betty Friedan, the spark who ignited the women's rights movement has died. Friedan is best known for her 1963 book, "The Feminine Mystic." She co-founded a national organization for women back in 1963. Friedan died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C. Today was her 85th birthday.

Time now, for "CNN PRESENTS: Battle on the Border." Drugs, illegal immigrants, sex trafficking. Anderson Cooper takes you inside the most elaborate smuggling tunnel ever found. Find out what else it was used for.

And at 9 p.m. it is "LARRY KING LIVE." Tonight, Dominick Dunne. Don't miss Larry's interview with the best selling author and celebrated Vanity Fair columnist. That's LARRY KING LIVE tonight at 9 only on CNN.

And I'll see you back here at 10 p.m. eastern with the latest up to the minute news on "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT." I'm Randi Kaye.


When you're walking in the tunnel, it's easy to get disoriented. It's hard to get a sense of really just how big it is.

A sophisticated tunnel under our border with Mexico unearths some staggering realities.

MIKE CONSUEDO, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, ICE (ph): From the Department of Homeland Security perspective, I mean, we looking at this as a vulnerability to our nation's security. So whether it was drugs or aliens or who knows what else, tunnels are of paramount importance.

COOPER: And above ground, a border so porous human traffickers buy and sell slaves for sex.

CONSUEDO: People would be promised different jobs or different opportunities to come here to the United States, or they'll be kidnapped and forced to come over here.

COOPER: It's a business that profits on broken lives. SISTER DORIS: It just breaks me up terribly. How horrible.

COOPER: Now, some Americans are taking matters into their own hands.

UNIDENTIFIED WHITE MALE: If they see us here, they've got to go somewhere else. They can't cross while we're here.

UNIDENTIFIED WHITE MALE: My founding fathers did not envision us taking care of the entire world.

COOPER: "CNN PRESENTS: Battle on the Border."

We are coming to you from the U.S.-Mexican border and we begin tonight with striking evidence that our border with Mexico is anything but secure.

In fact, I'm practically standing right on top of that evidence.

We're in the Otay Mesa District of San Diego, on the far south end of town. But more importantly, just north of Tijuana and just a few feet beneath us is a tunnel. It runs some 2400 feet, the length of eight football fields from a warehouse in Otay Mesa, crossing the border and emerging precisely inside another warehouse in Tijuana.

And just so you know, what you're about to see is far from unique. Since the attacks on 9/11, agents have uncovered 20 other tunnels, 20 that we know of. But nothings they say -- nothing -- like this one.

ICE agents will tell you this is one of the most sophisticated tunnels they've ever discovered underneath the U.S.-Mexican border. It likely took years to build.

You can see some of the pick marks used. And this is stone so digging through this would take a long time to do.

It's also got electricity. They've wired the entire tunnel with these cables. They have light bulbs on them. There's even a pipe that brings in fresh oxygen. It was pumped in from Mexico.

CONSUEDO: We came in and removed all the bulbs and took those to the lab for fingerprint evidence.

COOPER: Oh, really? You took the bulbs?

CONSUEDO: And then we replaced them with our own light bulbs.

COOPER: Mike Consuedo (ph) is the special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.

CONSUEDO: And you can see right here there's a junction box for electricity. They probably used these junction boxes in the construction. If they had some sort of electrical tools that were assisting them in the drilling.

COOPER: This tunnel is just one of several that have been discovered by San Diego's tunnel taskforce.

So these are some tools or something?

CONSUEDO: Some tools and some buckets. They may have been scrapping. I'm sure there was probably some repair work to some of the piping that they had to do.

And here's where it really starts getting kind of wet.

COOPER: When you're walking in the tunnel it's easy to get disoriented. It's hard to get a sense of really just how big it is. They say the tunnel's about seven football fields in length underneath the United States and about one football field in Mexico. It's a total, they say, of about 2400 feet.

It's the largest tunnel ICE has ever found under the U.S.-Mexican border.

I mean, it goes -- it's as far as the eye can see. It's just a straight shot all the way down.

CONSUEDO: Exactly. It's as far as you can see.

COOPER: And it looks like there's water all the way through.

CONSUEDO: Yes. And actually this is one of the shallower parts. I was told that on Wednesday night there were parts of the tunnel where people had to wade through up to their chest in water.

COOPER: This basically -- this is like a "T" intersection in the tunnel?


COOPER: What does it tell you? Do you think they made a mistake? Do you think they kept tunneling that way?

CONSUEDO: Well, we don't know if they were headed for some other intended exit or if they made a mistake and got lost in the digging and then had to make a course correction, and then dug this portion that's right behind me.

And then, of course, the straight shot is over into Mexico.

COOPER: When U.S. and Mexican authorities raided the tunnel last week, they discovered more than two tons of marijuana. Officials don't know, however, how many tons of illegal drugs were brought through the tunnel before it was found.

There's no ways to tell how long this tunnel was in operation. Ropes are still all around. These were probably used to actually carry the bales of marijuana by the people who were bringing the drugs into the United States.

And gradually, as the tunnel rises up toward the exit point in San Diego, they've actually poured concrete here to build steps to make it easier for people to walk on.

How would the drug operation work? Do you know?

CONSUEDO: Well, we think it would be kind of like a series of ants. There would be a number of people that would be starting in Mexico, either carrying boxes or bundles across, or maybe backpacks, making their way all the way across the tunnel to this side. Probably depositing them at the entrance and then backtracking again.

COOPER: Does a cartel, or whomever it is that built this tunnel, would they specialize just in marijuana or do most of them -- are they pretty diverse in terms of the drugs they try to move?

CONSUEDO: No. My guess is that they would probably be a poly- narcotic organization. They would be moving cocaine, marijuana. It just so happens, that when we got in here, we found a load of marijuana.

From the Department of Homeland Security prospective, I mean, we're looking at this as a vulnerability to our nation's security. So whether it was drugs or aliens or who knows what else, you know, tunnels are of paramount importance.

COOPER: ICE has put out a warning to anyone who took part in the tunnel construction, informing them that their lives may now be in danger.

CONSUEDO: What we've seen in the past is, with some of these very sophisticated tunnels, we've received information that the people that were actually involved in the construction of the tunnel, or may have worked in the tunnel carrying narcotics, were later killed by cartel members.

So this is really a warning to anybody that was involved in the construction to come in and talk to us.

COOPER: In Mexico, the entrance to the tunnel drops about 90 feet. But here, on the San Diego side, the exit is just below the surface of the ground.

You would emerge from the tunnel and you're in an industrial warehouse in San Diego.

CONSUEDO: This is the exit. It's not really elaborate but it gets the job done. It's certainly more sophisticated down below.

COOPER: For me, what makes it so surreal is then you come out of the tunnel and you're in this industrial warehouse in San Diego.

CONSUEDO: Right. I mean, you're in a warehouse that really you would see in any industrial park anywhere. It's pretty nondescript once you're in it.

COOPER: And there's a sign outside that says V&F Distributors. What -- who are they? CONSUEDO: Well, that's something that we're still looking at. You know, the people that -- we're interviewing the owner of the warehouse. We're talking to people that may have leased the warehouse or have a history with the warehouse. That is a legitimate company. It's registered. And that's one of the things that we're running down right now.

COOPER: Days after the tunnel was found, the investigation swept up its first suspect. His name is Carlos Cardanos Caldillo (ph), a Mexican. He was arrested and arraigned in federal court in San Diego, charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs.

More now on the investigation and the conspiracy and the tunnel itself with Mike Consueda, special agent in charge of ICE, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, we saw just a moment ago.

First of all, congratulations on finding this tunnel. You guys have done an amazing job on this.

CONSUEDO: Thank you.

COOPER: How significant is this arrest?

CONSUEDO: The arrest is significant for us. We're hoping that it has a real snowball effect in terms of other people coming forward, other arrests and investigative leads that we're pursuing right now.

COOPER: It's amazing how many tunnels you have found. We actually standing on another, a little gopher tunnel, that was found about two weeks ago by this taskforce that you guys set up. What's the taskforce?

CONSUEDO: We have a tunnel taskforce here in San Diego that's specifically looking at the issue of tunnels because we've had so many of them. And the taskforce is made up of ICE agents, DEA agents and border patrol agents all working collaboratively, and, of course, with our counterparts in Tijuana as well.

COOPER: There will be some who say, well, can't you just put like ground radar and see if they're digging a tunnel?

CONSUEDO: Well, you know, I don't think the technology is where it needs to be yet. We are using some technology to assist us. But it's still in development. I think it still has a ways to go before it really pinpoints tunnels for us.

COOPER: And do you have any idea how many drugs were brought through that tunnel?

CONSUEDO: That's the million dollar question. Obviously, we seized a couple of hundred pounds of marijuana in the U.S. and two tons in Mexico. What'll be key for us is determining how long that exit point has been in the United States.

COOPER: Well, it's amazing that you guy found this tunnel. And just -- I mean, just the length of it, everything. It's extraordinary going down in there.

CONSUEDO: Yes. Not only is it huge, but it's sophisticated and it's the largest tunnel we've ever seen on the southwest border. And, of course, it's a vulnerability for the security of our nation. So for DHS it's a very important find.

COOPER: From underneath the border to the underworld above it, the sickening sex trade in Tijuana, how American predators enter the city looking for and finding Mexican children.

MARIE SABABA (ph), HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: They have no place to go so they roam the streets. They do survival sex.

COOPER: And later, it's not just drugs that the cartels are smuggling into the U.S. We'll show you the dark and horrifying world of human trafficking when "Battle of the Border" continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to "CNN PRESENTS: Battle on the Border."

The border, where I'm standing right now, serves as a gateway for billions of dollars in trade and commerce, most of it legal. But as you're about to see, it also is a weigh point for illegal drugs into this country...

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