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Terrorist Hoax: The damage done

While the media was running with this hoax, before the Pakistani jeweler brought it to their attention that his wherabouts was known, ambitious politicians, notably N.Y. senator Hillary Clinton were raising the level of hysteria about the leaky Canadian border and pointing to a First Nations reserve in Quebec as the possible entry site for the supposed "persons wanted for questioning." Once the hoax was exposed and the FBI removed the page from its website, the hysterical Canada bashing continued . It continues still.

FBI calls off search for five men

WASHINGTON - The FBI has called off a U.S.-wide search for five foreign-born men amid questions about the reliability of the tipster who told authorities the men were smuggled into the United States last month, possibly from Canada.

A law-enforcement official, insisting on anonymity, said Tuesday that the names of the men and their photos will be removed from an FBI Web site. A message to local police agencies telling them the search was off was being transmitted Tuesday, the official said.

The FBI issued the alert, along with photos, on Dec. 29, seeking the public's help in locating the five men who were believed to have entered the U.S. around Christmas Eve. The tip reportedly came from Michael John Hamdani, jailed in Canada since October on charges related to immigrant-smuggling.

At the time, the FBI acknowledged that it was not certain that the names and birth dates released with the photos were correct, or that the men had even entered the country.

That concern was underscored last week when a Pakistani jeweller, Mohammed Asghar, came forward to say his photo had been wrongly included among the wanted group and speculated that it might have been stolen by document forgers.

Despite misgivings, the law-enforcement official said, the FBI decided it was better to alert the public than keep the information secret. The official said the tip in some ways matched up with other intelligence officials had received pertaining to document smuggling.

The FBI decided last week against releasing another batch of 14 names and faces reportedly provided by Mr. Hamdani because they were of dubious quality.

Canadian charges of forging passports and traveller's cheques were dropped against Mr. Hamdani last week, clearing the way for him to be taken to New York to face 1996 forgery charges. He is charged with trafficking in forged travel and identification documents.

Mr. Hamdani was expected to appear in a U.S. court on Tuesday, according to his Canadian lawyer, Deepak Paradkar.

"I expect him to be extradited tonight or tomorrow morning," Mr. Paradkar said Monday night.

He would neither confirm nor deny whether Mr. Hamdani was the informant. But Mr. Paradkar also said he didn't believe Mr. Hamdani would have lied to authorities as was reported Monday by ABC News.

"I don't believe my client would have misled authorities ... knowing he would have to face the full legal might of the U.S. government," Mr. Paradkar said.

Law-enforcement officials say Mr. Hamdani might have fabricated the names in a bid to receive a lighter sentence in the U.S. case.

Having Mr. Hamdani in U.S. custody will enable authorities to question him more thoroughly about an alleged smuggling ring that provided phony passports, fake traveller's cheques and other documents.

The FBI has been extensively questioning people in Pakistan, where a sophisticated document forgery ring has been operating, officials say.