The United States border with Mexico remains open to exploitation by Hizballah and other Islamic terror groups that have aligned themselves with Mexican drug cartels, a report released Wednesday by a House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee finds.
The report, "A Line in the Sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border" warns that increasing ties between Middle East terrorist groups and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to enter the United States undetected.
"This is an area that has gone largely ignored and overlooked, and yet it is right in our backyard," subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas., said during the hearing. "We talk about the Middle East a lot and we talk about North Africa and Egypt and Libya, and yet something's happening not too far from here that I think the American people have no idea the threat level that it presents to us."
Intelligence gathered during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden's compound showed that al-Qaida contemplated using operatives with valid Mexican passports to enter the United States to conduct terror operations.
"… [T]he U.S.-Mexican border is an obvious weak link in the chain. Criminal elements could migrate down the path of least resistance and with them the terrorists who continue to seek our destruction," the report says.
Existing weapons and human smuggling networks along the Mexican border give terrorists confidence that they will be able to plan and execute major terror attacks that require a long-term presence in the United States, the report says.
McCaul led a fact-finding mission to the Tri-border region of South America of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina to see the Hizballah threat first-hand, concluding that Iran and Hizballah pose a serious threat to the U.S. southern border.
"What we are seeing here is a marriage between Hizballah, the [Iranian] Quds Force and these drug cartels," McCaul said.
A substantial link between Hizballah and the drug cartels was exposed in the indictment of Ayman "Junior" Joumaa, a Lebanese national who was accused of selling 85,000 kilos of cocaine to Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel from 2005 to 2007.
"This nexus potentially provides Iranian operatives with undetected access into the United States," the report says.
"If there is, God forbid, a strike from Israel into Iran, the retaliation will be certain, and it will be swift, not just against Israel, but in the entire Middle East, and it will also expand into this hemisphere," McCaul said. "It will light up Hizballah operatives I think in Latin America; it will also activate Hizballah cells in the United States."