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Israeli man detained after photographing Fort McHenry tunnel

AP | September 25 2006

An Israeli man was detained by Maryland State Police for more than four hours after he was seen photographing the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, a state police spokesman said.

The incident began around 6:30 p.m. Friday when authorities received a call from a motorist who reported seeing a man taking pictures as he drove through the tunnel which runs under Baltimore Harbor on Interstate 95.

The Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which passes on information to local, state and federal public safety agencies, connected the caller to the Maryland State Police. Troopers were alerted to watch for a green 1998 Dodge Caravan with Connecticut license plates.

The motorist who made the initial call contacted authorities again as he headed south on Interstate 95 north of Washington, D.C. The driver reported seeing the same van heading north on Interstate 95.

Maryland State Police stopped the van near Laurel just before 7 p.m. Investigators said the driver did not immediately produce his international license. An explosives detection dog team called to the scene did not find any explosives, but a laptop computer and a digital camera were found in the vehicle.

The man was taken to the state police barracks in College Park for questioning. He told authorities that he was in the Baltimore-Washington area visiting friends for the Rosh Hashana holiday which began at sunset on Friday. He also showed them a valid passport indicating that he had been in the United States for about six weeks.

The man told troopers that he took pictures of the tunnel because there are no similar facilities in Israel.

"We questioned him and called all the appropriate agencies about him. There was no lookout and he was allowed to proceed," said Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police.

Before allowing the man to leave around 11:30 p.m., state police contacted the owner of the vehicle in Connecticut who said the driver was authorized to use the van.

Last October, five men of Arab descent were arrested in connection with an FBI investigation of an alleged tunnel plot following a tip from a source held by authorities in the Netherlands. That investigation led to the two-hour closure of the Baltimore Tunnel and reduction of traffic through the Fort McHenry Tunnel to one lane in each direction.

As part of that investigation, an American citizen of Egyptian origin was arrested and his convenience store in Baltimore was raided by federal agents. Four other men, including a Jordanian and three Egyptians were also arrested. The shopkeeper was released after being held briefly on an unrelated gun charge. The four other men were held for deportation.


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