Re­port: Ter­ror­ists may team with drug car­tels, pose as His­pan­ics

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Sara A. Carter

Is­lamic ex­trem­ists embed­ded in the United States — pos­ing as His­panic na­tion­als — are part­ner­ing with vi­o­lent Mex­i­can drug gangs to fi­nance ter­ror net­works in the Mid­dle East, ac­cord­ing to a Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port.

“Since drug traf­fick­ers and ter- ror­ists op­er­ate in a clan­des­tine en­vi­ron­ment, both groups uti­lize sim­i­lar method­olo­gies to func­tion [. . . ] all lend them­selves to fa­cil­i­ta­tion and are among the es­sen­tial el­e­ments that may con­trib­ute to the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of a cat­a­strophic event by ter­ror­ists,” said the con­fi­den­tial re­port, a copy of which was ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The 2005 re­port out­lines an on- go­ing scheme in which mul­ti­ple Mid­dle East­ern drug-traf­fick­ing and ter­ror­ist cells op­er­at­ing in the U.S. fund ter­ror net­works over­seas, aided by es­tab­lished Mex­i­can car­tels with highly so­phis­ti­cated traf­fick­ing routes.

Th­ese ter­ror­ist groups, or sleeper cells, in­clude peo­ple who speak Ara­bic, Span­ish and He-

brew and, for the most part, arouse no sus­pi­cion in their com­mu­ni­ties.

“It is very likely that any fu­ture ‘Septem­ber 11th’ type of ter­ror­ist event in the United States may be fa­cil­i­tated, wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly, by drug traf­fick­ers op­er­at­ing on both sides of the United States-Mex­ico border,” the DEA re­port says.

Rep. Ed Royce of Cal­i­for­nia, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House For­eign Af­fairs ter­ror­ism and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion sub­com­mit­tee, said the DEA doc­u­ment sub­stan­ti­ates in­for­ma­tion that his com­mit­tee has been given in the past year.

“Hear­ings I held in Laredo [Texas] last year and this DEA re­port show that our south­ern bor- der is a ter­ror­ist risk,” Mr. Royce said. “Law en­force­ment has warned that peo­ple from Arab coun­tries have crossed the border and adopted His­panic sur­names. The drug car­tels have highly so­phis­ti­cated smug­gling and mon­ey­laun­der­ing net­works, which ter­ror­ists could ac­cess.”

Gar­ri­son K. Court­ney, spokesman for the DEA, would not com­ment on the doc­u­ment. How­ever, he said that the DEA, which has only 5,000 ac­tive agents world­wide, is shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with other U.S. intelligence agen­cies and work­ing closely with lo­cal law en­force­ment.

“We fo­cus on drugs, but we keep our eyes open for any con­nec­tion that can aid our other part­ners in law en­force­ment,” Mr. Court­ney said. “Ev­ery­thing we do re­lies on our abil­ity to gather intelligence. We have said for years that there are shades of gray in the or­ga­ni­za­tions we’re deal­ing with. In­telli- gence re­quires us to look at the whole pic­ture. Re­al­is­ti­cally to leave out a cer­tain set of dots could be a huge mis­take.”

In the two years since the re­port was writ­ten, other DEA intelligence of­fi­cials have said they are still strug­gling to co­op­er­ate with and share and gather in­for­ma­tion from other lead U.S. agen­cies charged with fight­ing the war on ter­ror­ism.

Lack of in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween U.S. intelligence agen­cies is cre­at­ing a blind spot in the war on ter­ror and has left the U.S. vul­ner­a­ble to an­other at­tack, the re­port states.

“We are the eyes and ears when it comes to gath­er­ing intelligence on the car­tels and smug­glers,” said the DEA of­fi­cial. “What we know for sure is that per­sons as­so­ci­ated with ter­ror­ist groups have dis­cov­ered what car­tels have known all along — the border is the back­door into the U.S.”

Ac­cord­ing to a De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity intelligence re­port ob­tained by The Times, nearly ev­ery part of the Border Pa­trol’s na­tional strat­egy is fail­ing.

“Al Qaeda has been try­ing to smug­gle ter­ror­ists and ter­ror­ist weapons il­le­gally into the United States,” the 2006 doc­u­ment states. “This or­ga­ni­za­tion has also tried to en­ter the U.S. by tak­ing ad­van­tage of its most vul­ner­a­ble border ar­eas. The seek to smug­gle OTMs [other than Mex­i­cans] from Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries into the U.S.”

Peter Brown, ter­ror­ism and se­cu­rity con­sul­tant, stated that the “big­gest el­e­ment” to the DEA re­port is the ease with which ter­ror­ist cells have taken on new iden­ti­ties.

“The abil­ity for peo­ple to com­pletely trans­form their na­tion­al­i­ties ab­sent of their own iden­ti­ties is a dan­ger­ous step in the evo­lu­tion of this cross-border op­er­a­tion,” he said. “This is a true threat.”

Lend­ing cre­dence to Mr. Brown’s con­cern, an El Paso, Texas, law-en­force­ment re­port doc­u­ments the in­flux of “ap­prox­i­mately 20 Arab per­sons a week uti­liz­ing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver’s li­censes from Ara­bic to His­panic sur­names.”

Un­der the cur­rent drug-intelligence col­lec­tion, anal­y­sis and re­port­ing pos­ture, the DEA runs the risk of fail­ing to de­tect or re­por t the entr y of ter­ror ists, weapons of mass de­struc­tion or por­ta­ble con­ven­tional weapons into the United States, ac­cord­ing to the DEA doc­u­ment.

Many times, smug­glers don’t know what they are trans­port­ing.

“De­spite all the pro­nounce­ments of the ad­min­is­tra­tion that th­ese net­works and their fund­ing is be­ing traced,” Mr. Brown warned, “progress has been lim­ited, and in cer­tain cir­cles of intelligence, they are nonex­is­tent.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Mem­bers of the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Di­vi­sion gath­ered for prayer Aug. 3 be­fore un­der­tak­ing an op­er­a­tion in the Amariyah neigh­bor­hood of west­ern Bagh­dad to search for al Qaeda in­sur­gents.

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