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Fox TV creates 'hysteria'

The Oak Harbor Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Seattle have been inundated with inquiries following a Monday night FOX News report about two suspicious Israeli citizens who were stopped driving a rental truck in Oak Harbor last week.

An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says that FOX News created “hysteria” in reporting misleading information about the case.

“There was nothing explosive,” said Scott McKinna, the supervisor for the AFT’s arson and explosives group. “We have not IDed people as terrorists.”

Oak Harbor Police Capt. Rick Wallace said he just keeps repeating to concerned citizens that “nothing happened.”

As the Whidbey News-Times reported Saturday, an Oak Harbor police truck stopped the Budget truck for speeding. The officer discovered that the men in the truck were both Israeli citizens, but neither had proper identification for being in the country. The men were taken into custody.

FOX News, a nation-wide cable network, reported that the rental truck was taken to a “secure location” to be investigated. In reality, however, the truck was parked in the Whidbey News-Times parking lot, which is next to the police station.

In addition, McKinna said FOX was inaccurate in reporting that “the BATF and FBI had tested the truck and found traces of explosives on the steering wheel and gear shift.” First of all, he said the FBI was not on the scene.

“It may have tested positive, but not for us,” he said. “We got no positive hits.”

Kim Martin, the public affairs officer at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said it was Navy investigators who “did detect certain residues” when they initially tested the truck. They have a “sniffing device” that tests for the presence of nitrates.

Yet Martin said the ATF and the Border Patrol took over the investigation and did the more complete testing, which showed there were no explosives present.

McKinna said initial “false positives” are not uncommon in testing for explosives.

“Bear in mind, many types of tapes and adhesives contain nitrates,” McKinna said. “If these men had been moving and handling boxes with tape ... there’s a good chance they had nitrates on their hands.”

The Israeli men told police they had recently dropped off furniture.

In a May 14 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about the case, an unnamed law enforcement official is paraphrased as saying the traces of explosives may have been nothing more than residue left behind from a cigarette lighter.

The two Israeli men are not facing any terrorist-related charges and they are not being investigated as possible terrorists. In fact, McKinna said the FBI is investigating them for possible “fraud involving the movement of household goods.”

Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the men have been charged with immigration violations, including overstaying a visa and working without documentation.

They are being held at the Seattle INS detention center, pending an immigration trial.

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