On Feb. 17, the Arizona Capitol Times printed a story disputing my statements concerning Hezbollah terrorists coming across our unsecured, unprotected southern border into the U.S.
Quoting PolitiFact, the article claimed that “there is little evidence that Hezbollah is working in Mexico,” and that there is even “less public support for the idea that (Hezbollah’s) presence poses a ‘very significant threat’ to the U.S.”
The article undermines the need for additional law enforcement support on the Arizona/Mexico border, which is the purpose of my bill, SB1083, which establishes an Arizona Special Missions Unit to organize a state-based, mobile force to assist law enforcement under the direction of the governor.
I would like to emphatically state that there is indeed ample evidence of terrorist activity coming across the border, including activity by Hezbollah. For example, on Feb. 2, former Chief of Operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Michael Braun, testified before Congress about Iran’s growing influence along the southern United States Border.
Braun testified that the terrorist group, Hezbollah, has developed strong, sophisticated relationships with Mexican drug cartels. “And by developing those relations it provides them with the ability to operate far from home in our neighborhood and – as I said earlier – on our doorstep,” he replied.
At the same hearing, “Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, committee member and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, asked about Hezbollah’s relationship to criminal organizations in the Western Hemisphere and what it means for U.S. security. Braun replied with the warning that those relationships allow “these groups to operate freely in our neighborhood” and said the U.S. would regret it if the threats were not taken seriously.”
On Feb. 9, Zachary Taylor, a former Border Patrol Agent who is now Vice Chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, appeared on national television and described the known relationship between cartel tunnels used for smuggling and the Shia militant group Hezbollah.
According to Mr. Taylor, a Muslim cleric, Abdullah al-Nafsi, said that “there is no need for airplanes and planning; one man with the courage to carry a suitcase of anthrax through the tunnels from Mexico to the United States could kill 330,000 Americans in one hour.”
Even Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has recently expressed concern about a potential Hezbollah attack against the U.S.
Documented examples of terrorists slipping across our southern border are not new. Consider the following:
In February 2001, Mahmoud Kourani (the brother of Hezbollah’s security chief in southern Lebanon) came across the border from Tijuana into California in the trunk of a car, after bribing a Mexican embassy official in Beirut to get a visa. He eventually settled in Dearborn, Mich. Kourani had received training in weapons, intelligence, and spy craft in Iran.
In December 2002, Salim Boughader was arrested for smuggling 200 Lebanese, including Hezbollah operatives, across the border from Tiajuana into California. Boughader had previously worked for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV satellite network.
In July 2004, a woman named Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed was arrested at a Texas airport boarding a flight to New York after she either walked or swam across the Mexican border into Texas. According to the Washington Post, she was connected to a Pakistani terrorist group and was believed to be ferrying instructions to U.S.-based al-Qaeda operatives.
In January 2005, two Hamas operatives, Mahmoud Khalil and Ziad Saleh, were arrested as part of a criminal enterprise in Los Angeles. Both had entered the U.S. after paying a smuggler $10,000 each to take them across the border.
In November 2005, Texas Congressman John Culberson described on national TV how an Iraqi al-Qaeda operative on the terror watch list was captured living near the Mexico-Texas border. In addition, Texas border sheriffs reported in the same newscast that there were at that time, in Mexico just across from Brownsville, Texas, at least one — and probably three — narco-terrorist training camps, run by the Zetas, a paramilitary force that is the muscle and the army for the Gulf cartel. The sheriffs told Congressman Culberson about another narco-terrorist training camp operating outside of Del Rio, about 40 miles southwest.
Those are just a few examples of terrorists who were identified or captured. We have no idea how many other terrorists may have slipped across our unprotected border undetected. We do know that U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended 59,017 “Other-Than-Mexican” illegal aliens through October 7, 2010. Of those, more than 800 came from terrorist-watch or Middle Eastern countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Cuba, Somalia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
Terrorism expert Patrick Poole reported to my committee last year that the first al-Qaida cell in the United States was located right here in Tucson. Tucson has been called the “birthplace of al-Qaida in America.”
The 9/11 Commission Report has 59 references to terrorist activity in Arizona and makes reference to a classified CIA/FBI report titled “Arizona’s Long-Range Nexus for Islamic Extremists.” In 2010, two terrorist operatives from Bangladesh were arrested when they attempted to cross the border in Naco.
FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress in March 2005, that “there are individuals from countries with known al-Qaida connections who are changing their Islamic surnames to Hispanic-sounding names and obtaining false Hispanic identities, learning to speak Spanish and pretending to be Hispanic.”
On Jan. 27 of this year, Fox News reported that an Iranian-published book about suicide bombers was found in the Arizona desert near the Mexican border. The book, published in Iran and called ‘In Memory of Our Martyrs,’ was found by a U.S. Border Patrol agent from the Casa Grande substation who was patrolling a route known for smuggling illegal immigrants and drugs. The book contained short biographies of Islamic suicide bombers and other Islamic militants who died carrying out attacks.
A few weeks ago, near Tucson, a body was found that had been beheaded. That is one of several recent instances of beheadings on U.S. soil.
Don’t tell me that there is no evidence of terrorists on our border or that we shouldn’t be concerned about terrorists entering the United States from Mexico. The threat is documented. The threat is real. The threat grows larger every day. The next time reporters want to deny the existence of terrorists on our border, I hope they will investigate more thoroughly and make sure they have all the facts.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, is chair of the Border Security, Federalism and States Sovereignty Committee