Interview topic: threat posed by our failure to secure the southern border enabling terrorists especially from Iran to easily enter our country.
Archive for the ‘Tri-Border Area’ Category
Most readers probably consider this an abstraction of sorts, things happening far away that have no bearing in their lives.
In fact, this is a matter of national security important to the USA. Mitchell Silber, director of intelligence analysis for the New York City Police Department, explains why in today’s Wall Street Journal,
The Iranian Threat to New York City
As the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear program heats up, New York City—with its large Jewish population—becomes an increasingly attractive target.
Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community—whether wittingly or not—as facilitators. Most notable are the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina, which killed 29 and 85 people, respectively. The New York City Police Department, where I work as director of Intelligence Analysis, sent a team to Argentina to study the modus operandi of those attacks and to meet with Argentine security officials who worked the investigations. Coupled with open source information, this is what the NYPD learned:
Iranian agents were sent to Argentina years before the attacks, where they integrated into society and became Argentine nationals. Mohsen Rabbani is believed to have been in charge of coordinating the 1994 attack and is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement. He first came to Argentina in 1983, where he subsequently became the main imam at At-Tauhid, an Iranian-funded mosque in Buenos Aires.
After traveling to Iran in August 1993 to participate in a meeting that allegedly gave the planned attack the green light, Mr. Rabbani returned to Argentina as a cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy, conveniently providing him diplomatic immunity. Then, Hezbollah agents from abroad received logistical support from members of the local Lebanese-Shiite community and the Iranian Embassy to carry out the attack.
The Argentine attacks were by no means isolated incidents. Hezbollah has been tied to failed attacks in 2009 against Israeli and Jewish interests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey. Last month, Thai officials arrested a suspected Hezbollah militant for possibly planning attacks there or perhaps facilitating the movement of weapons through Bangkok.
In the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area,
Hezbollah and its supporters have a presence in New York and the surrounding area as well. In 2008, two Staten Island men pleaded guilty to providing material support to Hezbollah. Just down the road in Philadelphia, 26 people—including a former Brooklyn resident—were indicted in federal court in 2009 for conspiring to provide material support to the terrorist group.
Lebanese-linked businesses in the tri-state area and elsewhere have been implicated in a massive money-laundering scheme benefiting Hezbollah. This scheme was revealed in a civil suit filed against several Lebanese financial institutions last December by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, at least 18 other Hezbollah-related cases have been brought in federal courts across the United States since 2000.
Among them, Moussa Ali Hamdan, a naturalized US citizen who lived in Brooklyn, worked in New Jersey, and is wanted in Philadelphia for exporting stolen cars to Lebanon to finance terror organizations there.
Cross-posted in the Green Room.
Linked by The Other McCain. Thanks!
News from the tri-border area:
US asks Paraguay to extradite suspected Hezbollah financier
The United States has asked Paraguay to extradite a Lebanese national suspected of funneling money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah from the South American nation, court sources said Wednesday.
Mussa Ali Hamdan, 38, was arrested Tuesday in Ciudad del Este, part of the Triple Frontier, a region the United States has repeatedly cited as being exploited by militant groups that “finance terrorist activities.”
Hamdan is accused of 31 crimes, according to Interpol. The US extradition request cites his alleged material support for Hezbollah “including falsified documents.”
The suspect is also accused of counterfeiting US currency and conspiracy to commit passport fraud, according to the request.
Hamdan appeared Wednesday before judge Hugo Sosa Pasmor to confirm his identity as part of an extradition request, and then was transferred to Asuncion’s Tacumbu penitentiary.
Local media, citing local security officials, have said Hamdan was financing Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel and is blacklisted as a terror group by Washington.
A cosmopolitan area and significant tourist spot, the Triple Frontier is also considered a major spot for smuggling and other organized crime. Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina however deny their shared region is a hotbed for terror financing.
Hat tip Dan Collins.
Hamdan is wanted in Philadelphia,
Commissioner Antonio Chena, who runs the local Interpol office, says Moussa Ali Hamdan is accused in Philadelphia of 30 crimes, from counterfeiting money and documents to trading stolen cellphones and videogames. The most serious accusation in his arrest warrant is that he exported stolen cars to Lebanon to finance terror organizations there.
Hamdan is a former resident of West Collingswood, New Jersey,
authorities last year over his alleged role in what officials called a U.S.-based Hezbollah terror cell was arrested in Paraguay on Tuesday and faces extradition to the United States, authorities said.
Moussa Ali Hamdan, 38, a native of Lebanon who for a time lived in a $600-a-month efficiency apartment in West Collingswood, was a central figure in a four-year probe led by the FBI’s Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Investigators were digging into the terrorist organization’s fund-raising and weapons procurement in the United States.
Hamdan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, worked as a carpet installer in Cinnaminson in 2007 and 2008, and operated a low-end car dealership along Route 130. During that period, he bought more than $154,000 worth of what he thought were stolen electronics and cars from undercover agents, authorities said.
Many of the meetings took place in the Deptford Mall parking lot.
Hamdan resold some of the merchandise for personal profit, according to authorities. But he smuggled a portion of the merchandise to be sold overseas to benefit Hezbollah, they allege.
Hamdan proved to be a pivotal figure in the investigation. He led undercover agents and informants working with the investigation to high-level Hezbollah operatives who sold counterfeit cash and sought to purchase assault weapons to be shipped overseas, according to the indictment.
The investigation resulted in the November indictments of 26 suspected Hezbollah operatives and sympathizers in federal court in Philadelphia. Among them was Dani Tarraf, an alleged Hezbollah weapons procurement officer who authorities say gave undercover agents a $20,000 down payment on Stinger antiaircraft missiles.
Patricia Hartman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, said Wednesday that her office was seeking Hamdan’s extradition. She could not give a timetable on how long that process could take.
Hamdan fled the country before he could be arrested in the United States last year, authorities said.
Working with Paraguayan police and Interpol officials, task force investigators tracked Hamdan to Ciudad del Este, a crime-ridden city in the loosely policed “tri-border” region of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. The area is a hotbed of Hezbollah activity and fund-raising, said Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“His arrest there underscores the global nature and reach of Hezbollah’s financial and logistic support,” he said.
Hamdan was arrested after somebody tried to obtain a Paraguayan national identification card for him, law enforcement sources said.
According to the Associated Press, Commissioner Antonio Chena, who runs the Interpol office in Paraguay, said Hamdan would be jailed in Asunción, the country’s capital, pending a formal extradition request. Under Paraguayan law, he can be held there for six months.
And get a hold of this:
With the help of Hamdan, a deal was brokered for Harb to sell the informant $1 million in counterfeit money. The first installment of the fake cash, about $10,000, was mailed to Philadelphia hidden in photo albums, the indictment said.
Harb led investigators farther up the Hezbollah chain of command. Last June, he arranged a meeting between an FBI informant and Hassan Hodroj, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, in Beirut.
Hezbollah wanted 1,200 Colt M4 machine guns, a model used by U.S. special forces, and would pay $1,800 per gun, Hodroj said, according to the indictment. They were to be shipped to a port in Syria.
By November, law enforcement sources said, undercover agents had persuaded Harb to travel from Lebanon to Philadelphia, where he was to inspect the guns and provide a down payment.
Investigators planned to wait in Philadelphia and arrest Harb just as they had Tarraf, the sources said.
But high-level infighting between U.S. intelligence agencies prevented Harb from acquiring a visa, said the sources, who said Harb’s apprehension could have led to another major arrest and invaluable intelligence.
According to this article, he’s originally from Brooklyn,
A New York man was arrested in Paraguay and ordered held Wednesday pending extradition to the United States on charges of conspiring to finance the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization.
Moussa Ali Hamdan, 38, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is accused of trafficking in stolen cell phones, video games, computers and cars with the aim of financing and supporting Hezbollah with counterfeit money and documents. He faces 25 years in prison if convicted of 31 crimes detailed in an indictment filed in November in Philadelphia.
Prosecutors say Hamdan began buying what he thought were stolen goods from a U.S. government informant in late 2007, and the alleged conspiracy grew from there.
Hamdan and nine other suspects allegedly agreed to sell the informant counterfeit currency and buy and sell stolen goods to raise money for Hezbollah, which forms part of Lebanon’s coalition government as a political movement.
Specifically, Hamdan is accused of fencing and exporting more than 1,700 cell phones, 400 Sony PlayStation 2 systems, and three used cars. He also allegedly met with the informant to discuss the sale of counterfeit U.S. currency to support Hezbollah.
His Paraguayan lawyer Elizabeth Amarrila says the accusations are false.
Hamdan, who has dual U.S.-Lebanese citizenship and carried his U.S. passport, spoke briefly to a Paraguayan television station after his arrest, saying he came to Ciudad del Este with several friends in search of work. He said he has been falsely accused by U.S. police only because he’s Muslim — and that if he were Christian, they would not have charged him.
Patty Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, confirmed Hamdan’s arrest and said U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition. She declined further comment.
I’ll be talking about this in today’s podcast at 11AM Eastern.
Paxety Pages and Former Spook have been posting on Todd Bensman report at the San Antonio Express-News, Part one – Breaching America: War refugees or threats? (emphasis added)
Because all but a tiny fraction of those arrested crossing the southern border are Mexican or Central American, issues of border security get framed accordingly and cast in the image of America’s neighbors to the south. Right or wrong, in this country the public face of illegal immigration has Latino features.
But there are others coming across the Rio Grande, and many are in Boles’ image.
People from 43 so-called “countries of interest” in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa are sneaking into the United States, many by way of Texas, forming a human pipeline that exists largely outside the public consciousness but that has worried counterterrorism authorities since 9-11.
These immigrants are known as “special-interest aliens.” When caught, they can be subjected to FBI interrogation, detention holds that can last for months and, in rare instances, federal prison terms.
The perceived danger is that they can evade being screened through terror-watch lists.
The 43 countries of interest are singled out because terrorist groups operate there. Special-interest immigrants are coming all the time, from countries where U.S. military personnel are battling radical Islamist movements, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Philippines. They come from countries where organized Islamic extremists have bombed U.S. interests, such as Kenya, Tanzania and Lebanon. They come from U.S.-designated state sponsors of terror, such as Iran, Syria and Sudan.
And they come from Saudi Arabia, the nation that spawned most of the 9-11 hijackers.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers, agents along both borders have caught more than 5,700 special-interest immigrants since 2001. But as many as 20,000 to 60,000 others are presumed to have slipped through, based on rule-of-thumb estimates typically used by homeland security agencies.
And here’s the Latin American connection:
The U.S. Justice Department has prosecuted nearly a dozen major smuggling rings that specialized in moving Middle Eastern clients since 9-11.
The majority of the smugglers planned to bring their clientele into South American countries, such as Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, and Guatemala, to prepare them for the final trip north.
Smugglers could simply buy visas outright from corrupt consular or embassy officials, according to these court records. For example, before U.S. and Mexican authorities shut his organization down, Salim Boughader-Mucharrafille, a Mexican national of Lebanese descent, smuggled hundreds of fellow countrymen from Tijuana into California. The scheme involved bribing Mexican consular officials.
Venezuela is another jumping-off point to the American border, according to court records of smuggling cases.
Because of its antagonistic relationship with the United States, Venezuela does not cooperate on counterterrorism measures, according to the U.S. government, and shows no concerns about issuing visas to special-interest migrants.
One day recently, the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, its walls bedecked with large portraits of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, was packed with Syrians seeking one of nine types of visas offered.
The U.S. State Department has complained in recent years about Venezuela’s cozy relationship with Syria and Iran. Earlier this year, the first nonstop flights began from Tehran, Iran, to Caracas, Venezuela — a development that some U.S. counterterrorism specialists say opens a new avenue for potential terrorists to the American border.
Some of the government’s most senior Homeland Security officials have spoken of yet another source of terrorist infiltrators: the area where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, known as the “Tri-Border” region.
Tens of thousands of Arab immigrants there have been under scrutiny by American intelligence services since 9-11. The U.S. Treasury Department in December named people and organizations that “provided financial and logistical support to the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”
And then there’s Cuba,
Cuba’s consul in Damascus said in an interview that his country happily grants visas to any Middle Easterner who asks “because America doesn’t give anyone the opportunity to take refuge, especially after 9-11.”
“But we work another way,” said Armando Perez Suarez. “We put conditions on American people who are making war with everyone. The Arab people are the peaceful ones. We give visas to anybody who wants to visit our country.”
Suarez said he is well aware that Cuba, with its economic problems and poverty, is not anyone’s idea of a final destination.
“After that, if he wants to travel to any other country, the U.S., or Central America, this is not our problem,” Suarez said. “It’s not our burden.”
Michelle Malkin, who interviewed Todd Bensman, points out that there will be no border fence in Texas until 2008.
Here’s the transcript of Hugh Hewitt‘s interview of Todd Bensman.
Rob Bluey sent links to The Heritage Foundation’s 6 essntial requirements for immigration reform. The first priority: national security. Item:
Target federal support at the border. To secure the border, immigration reform legislation should allocate about $400 million per year over the next three years out of the projected spending on homeland security grants. Congress must resist the temptation to turn these grants into earmarked pork-barrel programs and instead insist that federal support for border security policing be strategically employed as a short-term bridging program to secure the border immediately.
Rob also sent this article on the 10 worst provisions in the amnesty title of the bill Rewarding Illegal Aliens: Senate Bill Undermines The Rule of Law
The first priority should be to secure the borders. The rest is talk.
Last week I posted that the US Treasury Dept. had
designated nine individuals and two entities that have provided financial and logistical support to the Hizballah terrorist organization. The designees are located in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay and have provided financial and other services for Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Assad Ahmad Barakat, who was previously designated in June 2004 for his support to Hizballah leadership.
I just found out that The Office of Foreign Assets Control has released the names, addresses, and passport numbers of those individuals. Click on the link for the full information.